Values underpin how we live our life. They assist us in answering, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What do I stand for? They are unspoken rules and regulations, terms and conditions by which you live. Values are what you believe as the truth. Some serve us well; others will hinder us. Some are fixed; others more fluid. Some we inherited from our family, others we learned along the way. And when they are challenged by others, we’ll defend them.
Our values can be conscious or unconscious. When unconscious and unquestioned, they can control our behavior and can make our lives more difficult. When we choose to become consciously aware of our values, we become able to accept beliefs that serve us and improve our lives. When deliberately chosen, our values can become a map that helps us make decisions and plan a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.
Those values that were handed down by our families and our culture are things that we think we “should” do. It is when we take the time to examine the things that matter to us and define our purpose, that we can align ourselves with the things that are truly important to us – the things that we want to do, the things we care about, the things that bring us joy. It is of these things that we create a life that matters.
When you are guided by your values as you experience life moment by moment, you can make plans and decisions that reflect your values and give you direction for your path. When you consciously choose your purpose and your values, you are in a position to examine choices about the things that matter to you. You empower yourself to create a life that you want to live and one that you feel good living.
One of the most direct ways of looking at the things that matter to us is to look at what we do. It is easy to say something is important, but where we spend our time is quite telling. Many of the things we do are out of habit or obligation. And we may feel that we have little control over what we do. A good way to begin to examine our values is to consider how we spend our time. The more alignment we achieve in doing what is important to us, the more we will find meaning in our lives.
For example, might be a person who hates spreadsheets but spent her day working with spreadsheets. You did this because the job pays well and you enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate the quality of your work. There are numerous reasons that we may choose to spend our day doing things that we don’t particularly enjoy. By acknowledging the reasons why we make the choices we do, we begin to obtain insight into our values.
Here is an exercise to give you started learning more about what you value:
1. List three important things you did today.
2. Why are these things were the most important things you could have done? Understanding the reasons, you chose to do these things will tell you a lot about your values – these are the things that matter to you.
3. Are there things that you value more highly than the choices you made today? If so, examine why you did not find time to do these. What does this tell you about living in alignment with your values and purpose?
4. What changes do you plan to make tomorrow to bring any misalignments between your values and your actions? This is a process of integration – of aligning integrity with your values and your actions. People who live in alignment with their integrity are influential leaders and are capable of having a huge impact.
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