Do You Know What Values You Are Operating Under? Does It Matter?

How Do You Know Which Values Make You Tick?

Do you care?  Does it matter to your life?

Have you ever thought about it very carefully?

Personally, I never paid much attention to my values.  People talked about values in passing.  In the many programs I took, values were mentioned but not much time was spent on them and certainly no one explained why knowing my values was so important.  The exercise was repeated so often without direction, it became meaningless.

Why?  That’s the question – Why Does Someone Need to Know and Understand Their Values?

Recently, I’ve been involved in a program and the issue of  identifying values came up again.  Yes, yet again.  The difference this time?  The facilitator gave us the reasons why understanding our values is mandatory in conducting our lives to cohesively achieve our dreams.

Helen Dewar  made it abundantly clear the reason for taking the time and the energy to define our values.  She took the time to explain “the value” of values.  How do we use our values to live our lives, to make the choices we need to make and to be true to ourselves.  Are we living in alignment with what we value?

Never before has someone explained it so clearly and so emphatically how values affect everything we say and do in our worlds.  She also explained how we are led to believe things about ourselves which are untrue all because we reacted in defense of those values.  Not everyone shares our set of values – in fact, it’s rare that any two people have exactly the same values or live out their values the same way.  Hitler had values and so did Mother Teresa – what do you think they were?

What Are Your Values?  Do You Really, Really Know What They Are?

You can find a lot of lists on the internet and you can likely come up with about 50 values you “think are a good idea for you”.  Can you really serve all those masters?  Of course not – what are your core values?  Here are a couple of places to begin?

Please note:  often values are mixed in with skills.  Values are far bigger than skills.  Think of values of overall compasses of your life – North, South, West and East, Center

Helen has us boiling it down to five.  5 – try it – you’ll be amazed how difficult this exercise is.

How do you know what your values are?

Watch yourself.  How do you spend your time?

Let’s say that most of your time is spent on family.  You have a job which pays the bills with a little left over for savings but the bulk of your time is spent with family.  You spend a lot of time with your kids, you organize family events all year round and people gather at your house every Sunday for Sunday dinner.  Your home is filled with relatives and friends all the time and you’re talking on the phone with a large collection of family and friends.  Your Facebook account is buzzing with the latest pictures, stories, meetups, etc.

If you value a success in your career,  you spend the majority of your time thinking about your career. You’re constantly thinking how to enhance your career – what can you do next to build that career?  A job is not a job to you but a very important way for you to achieve fulfillment.  You have a coach and a mentor.  You ask questions about getting ahead and you mingle with people you admire.  Jobs are not jobs to you but a stepping stone to greater success in the scope of work.  You spend a lot of time working, thinking about strategies to get ahead and continuously networking.  You’re constantly upgrading your skills and your education to give you the edge.

If you have a value of health, you watch every single bite you take, you exercise almost daily and you do and learn everything possible to stay healthy.  Health seems like an obvious value for all of us, however, that’s not the case.  Most people don’t value their healthy until they lose it.

Where do you spend your time?

What Ticks You Off?

Another way to tell, is what ticks you off at work or when your around other people in your personal life?  Do you react strongly to unfairness or bullying or pet abuse?  The stronger your reaction, the higher your value.

It takes time to decide what your values really are.  It takes a lot of digging.  The first two might not be so difficult but the others will likely cause you to ponder the realities of your being. 

Define what each value means to you.

Why Are Values So Important?

Values are the foundation of who you are, the reality of knowing yourself and the building block for everything else in your life – your career, your relationships, your decision-making, choices you make about everything in your life and the knowing what is right for you in the seemingly complex and confusing parts of your life.  If you know your values intimately, your life will be a lot easier to navigate.

What’s the Alternative?

Chaos.  Lost opportunities.  Working for the wrong organizations.  Putting your trust in people who don’t value what you value.  Hurt.  Anxiety.  Stress.  Disaster.  Dissatisfaction.  Lack of self-esteem.  Name it for yourself –

How Do You Know What I’m Saying is Right?

Because you’ve experienced the results of going against your values.  All humans have.  If your value is family, have you ever fought with someone in your family to the point that you destroy that relationship, you are no longer welcomed in the family unit?  How does it feel?  Feels quite awful because you’d like to keep the family unit whole and happy.  What happened?  You let something get out of hand and went against your family value.  Was it worth it?  What will you do about it?  If you truly value family, you’ll resolve the issue.  If not, then family is not truly a priority, not truly a value but likely someone else’s value or a value that is not all that important to you.

What Good Will It Do To Know These Values?

You’ll be able to plan accordingly.

If you are applying for a job, you’ll take the time to research the companies to which you are applying.  You’ll talk to current employees, you’ll talk to clients and you’ll explore the internet to find everything you can about how they match your values not only in value statements they make but how they honor those values.

You’ll stop yourself before you behave in ways which will contravene your values.  If you value friendships, you’ll forgive transgressions more easily or take the time to resolve any angst or you’ll drop relationships which don’t work for you without regret.  You’ll spend the time building your positive  friendships.

Are Values Critical?

You bet.  Without knowing what they are, you’re a sailboat without a rudder – you’ll wonder all over the place not understanding why your life is not working so well.  The wind and tides of life will send you adrift in a maze of confusion and dissatisfaction.

Is It Too Late?

NEVER.  It’s never, ever too late – that’s a myth perpetuated by society  – nothing is too late as long as you’re alive and functioning.

There are hundreds and hundreds of values – by the time you have selected your top 5 and defined them for yourself, you’ll truly understand the very core of your being.


1.  Look over the lists.  Pick out the ones that resonate with you strongy.  Write them down.

2.  Run down the written list, eliminating some.  Then do it again and again and again until you arrive at 5.

3.  Go through each one and ask yourself why you believe it is one of your values.  Write it down.  Then, ask, “Is that true?”.  Give yourself an example how you exhibit that value in your life.

4.  Leave the list alone for a day or so.  Observe yourself.  Hear yourself. Does what you say and do align with your values?  If not, you’ll have to go back to the list and eliminate what you “thought” was a value and, through self-observation, you now realize is not such a strong value after all.  Give yourself no longer than a week to get to complete your list of 5 values.

5.  Write your 5 values on a card and put the card in your wallet.  Put the list up on your computer.  Keep a list by your bedside.

6.  Test the list.  Are the values you have listed truly your values?  How you behave, especially in crisis, will definitely show you whether you are kidding yourself or not.  It won’t take long.  A crisis doesn’t have to be life or death.  It can be any discomfort we experience.  Notice how differently you make choices now.  Notice the clarity with which you conduct your life and how constructively you face disagreements.

Will the values change?  Yes.  As you test the list, you’ll likely amend it.  As your life changes, your values may change.  For instance, if your top value is money, it could very well be that at a stage in your life, you’ll begin to replace that top value with another value which has become paramount such as community.  Community may have been fifth on your list but now it rises to the top and since one of your values is money, you’ll focus on making the best use of the money in your community towards achieving the most impact.

Values do work together though it may not always be obvious.

What are your values?  Have you wondered why you felt like a boat without a rudder?  Think values first.  Decide.

When will you begin to change your life?  Today would be good, right?

Lorraine Arams




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