If I were to ask you right now “What are your values?”, would you be able to answer the question? If you asked me six years ago what my values were, I wouldn’t have been able to answer you. Comparing my six-years-ago self to myself today, I see what a major difference identifying my values has made. Understanding my values has been one of the keys to my growth and self development. In fact, knowing my values has helped me to align my actions with them and has resolved the mental toll I was going through when I didn’t know them.
What Are Values?
Your values, in a way, are the guiding principles you live by. If you want to truly understand yourself, you need to understand what your values are. Moreover, if you want to really understand the people around you, you should understand their values. By truly understanding your values, you can begin to align your goals with them and therefore live a life that is more fulfilling to you. Your values are not your goals, e.g. “to save enough money for a house”. Your values are why you would want to do that. The values that you identify will tell you about who you are, and who you want to be. By clearly identifying what your values are, you can make decisions in life that will consistently get you closer to your “higher self”.
Where Do They Come From?
Understanding what your true aspirations are, who you want to be as a person, and what you value will lead you to a more fulfilled life. It’s likely that a lot of your values so far have come from social conditioning, your parents, friends, and other external factors. It’s incredibly important that you evaluate the values you have taken on and decide, are these the values I truly want to live by?
Our values might change over time, and it’s completely natural for them to. Because they can change, it’s important to re-evaluate them. Understand what they are, are there values in there you have been living by but you don’t want to? Set new values when you see your current values are not aligning with the person that you want to be.
Aligning With Your Values
One of my values is learning. For me, it’s important to keep learning, I believe gathering knowledge is one of the greatest things in life. I enjoy reading books, and I am especially fascinated by older psychology books. The passing on of knowledge from older generations, gaining a different perspective on life, and overall growing as a person are things I love about learning. I practice this by reading, taking on new skills; piano, new coding projects, leadership skills, etc.
In order to align with these values, I make sacrifices in areas that aren’t high priority in my values. For instance, I don’t go out drinking very often (which where I live is pretty ingrained in the culture of how people spend time together). For me, the impact that drinking has on my body (not aligning with my health values) and what it does to my mind in the long term (alcohol is not good for your mental health) makes it something I do much less often. Take the actions that align with your values, and reduce (not necessarily cut-out) the actions that don’t.
Surround Yourself With People Who Share Your Values
Have you heard the saying that you become most like the three people you spend the most time with? When you spend time with people that you share values with, they will lift you up. They will inspire you, and help you to fulfil your goals. Do you know what cognitive dissonance is? It’s a state you experience when you have conflicting beliefs, or your actions don’t align with your values. You mentally take a toll when your actions or behaviours are not aligned with your true values. Truly, if you feel unhappy and are unsure why, I would urge you to evaluate your values and see if your actions are aligned with them.
Check if you are spending too much time with people who do not share your values, and hold you back from pursuing yours. It may be difficult, but in the long-term, you need space for people in your life that help you be the person you want to be.
What Steps Can You Take?
Hopefully you now have an understanding for what values are, why they are important, and how aligning them can help with not only your goals but also your mental health.
If you found this interesting, and want to understand values better, I would recommend reading (or listening to the audio book) The Values Factor By John F. Demartini. It’s not the shortest read, and it may seem repetitive in it’s questions – but you will finish this book with a new understanding about yourself.
Once you’ve read the book, or if you choose not to, here are some suggested steps you can take:
- Evaluate what values you currently have or live by.
- Understand what values you want to live by, who do you want to be, what is important to you?
- Determine what changes you need to make in your life to move towards your real values.
- Align the goals in your life with your values.
- Find people who share your ideal values.
- Get inspired & consistently work towards these values.
- Repeat as necessary.