What’s most important to you?
Knowing what our values are helps us to create a blueprint for the kinds of relationships and experiences we choose to have, and ultimately, how we live our lives.
When we think about what’s most important to us, many of us will pretty quickly rhyme off such things as love, family, honesty and so on. Beyond these, we may need to do a bit more soul-searching and reflection.
Here’s one exercise that may help you gain some insight:
1. Make a list of some key, memorable experiences you’ve had.
You will want to choose experiences from your life that really stick out – events and interactions that had a real impact and roused emotion. For the purposes of this exercise, pick five to 10 experiences.
2. For each experience, reflect on what was positive or negative about the experience.
You may want to ask yourself such things as:
- What worked for me in this experience?
- What didn’t I like about it?
- What excited me?
- What frustrated me about what happened?
The purpose here is to understand the impact the experience had on you.
3. Identify patterns.
This is where you’ll begin to see your values come into focus. Take a look at your responses and circle any similarities that you see. For example, you may notice that in many of your experiences the theme of “helping others” emerged and so “contribution” could be one of your values. If you’re having difficulty identifying patterns, jot down a few more experiences and go through the reflection questions again. Sometimes finding the right word to define a value can also be challenging. Here’s a list of 400 Value Words from blogger and leadership coach Barrie Davenport that may help.
4. Make a list of your values.
Now you have a clearer idea of what’s most important to you. Prioritize your list, and make it visible and accessible to you as a reminder in all that you do. If you find yourself in a situation with alarm bells going off, don’t be surprised that you may be, based on our values, off course. Use your list to make decisions to get back on track.
With our values now defined, we can make decisions more confidently and with clarity, and we’ll have better insight into what situations to stay away from, while saving ourselves from needless suffering. Instead, we can live our lives knowing what we stand for and create fulfilling experiences. That’s a powerful thing!