Recognising your values means you can invest in them
There are many wonderful values out there, but we don't necessarily share the same ones with others around us, or put the same level of importance on each one.
A lot of people may know what matters to them, but don't consciously think about it. Clearly identifying these things can be significant in building them into our life.
If you read a list of values (I'll put one at the bottom), I'm sure there will be some that jump out at you, some that you find important, and others that don't mean so much to you.
Identifying which ones really matter to you means you can invest in those, and the ones that mean nothing you can stop wasting your time with.
They can help guide you in decisions and can increase your confidence and satisfaction because you're living a life that's in line with what you value.
Where did they come from?
If we don't know what it is that we particularly value it's easy to get caught up in living out values and expectations from society, culture and other people. This can lead to feeling unfulfilled, frustrated, dull, energy-less and unhappy.
We might also get swept along into a lifestyle that doesn't really suit us.
Do you know where each value came from? Was it a value your parents felt strongly about and so you've taken it on as your own? Have you consciously considered whether you actually want to or not?
It can be difficult to know whether something is really important to us, or whether it's important because we've been told it is or should be, because that's the culture we've been brought up in and the expectation that has been placed on us. It can be very hard to distinguish between the two. What is really us? What do I really believe? What really matters to me? Who am I?
Noticing what stirs a reaction in you can be helpful with this.
What stirs a reaction in you?
What triggers you?
What inspires you?
Who do you want to be like?
What makes your heart swell or moves you?
What gives you energy?
What makes you angry?
What upsets you or makes you cry?
What plays on your mind?
What bores you?
What gets you excited?
When do you feel most yourself?
What does your head in?
When you unpack these things there'll very likely be one of your values at the root.
Let's look at some of these in more detail. I've picked a few things that most of us will encounter in day-to-day life, which we can use to help identify our values.
What social media posts that you've seen have really affected you?
A strong feeling when seeing or hearing about someone gain a qualification or get a promotion may mean that you value success, or achievement, or self-development, or may be linked to money: the prospect of a higher wage, more comfortable living, opportunities that come with more money.
A feeling of jealousy when seeing someone's post about an amazing adventure they've been on may mean fun, adventure, or trying new things is a strong value to you, and a good indication that you may need to get planning your next adventure.
Are there recurring themes of things that make you angry or upset in the news? Maybe it highlights a value of justice and fairness, or it could be truth and a fair representation of the story.
It could be that stories of kindness, generosity or openness move you.
Who are your heroes? Why are they an inspiration to you? What about them do you like? What do they do/have they done that you think is important?
I heard someone on the radio speaking about The Spice Girls and what an important role they had for women; this never stood out to me. However, Mother Teressa, as someone who helped the poor by serving them in a very sacrificial way, did. Feminism was never a big thing for me; helping those who are suffering and less fortunate was, and still is. Both are worthy values, but one meant far more to me than the other.
Why are they your friends? What do you like about them? What type of things do you do together? How real are you with each other? Which friends can you be most yourself with and why? What need do they meet in you? What do you do for them? What do you have in common?
I think my friends either tend to be good at some of the things I value: being kind, thoughtful, fun, etc. or we have something in common, sharing something that means a lot to both of us, for example our parenting journey.
People you don't like
Can you think of someone you don't like? Do you know what it is you don't like about them?
Maybe you find them boring. This may be an indication you value adventure, or self-development, or a particular interest which they don't share.
If it's because they are judgmental maybe you value acceptance, compassion or seeing the bigger picture.
In a relationship
What attracted you to them? What brought you together? What keeps you together?
What was your last argument over? What are some of your ongoing tensions? The things that upset us are key to finding out what matters to us.
What do you spend your money on, other than essentials? What do you prioritise your spending on?
What would you pick if you could chose between spending money on:
- a holiday or something nice for your home?
- something to do with exercise or a social expreience?
- investment in something or enjoying the moment?
- saving or spending?
- quantity or quality?
- material things or experiences?
Do you spend more on others than you do on yourself?
Considering all these type of questions give insight into noticing what is important to us.
Maybe you love your job or maybe you hate it. Why? Start to break it down.
Is it a job that just pays the bills, or does it mean something to you?
Is there anything around the people you work with that matters to you or bothers you?
Do you find your job fulfilling?
Do you feel you chose your job, or were you forced into it - perhaps by parents expectations; by not knowing what else to do; by lack of opportunity; by necessity?
How do you function in your job? Are you punctual; loyal; hard-working; a team-player; controlling; diligent; reliable; organised?
Is there something in it that you care about, and value?
What makes you angry or frustrates you?
Noticing these things are all valuable clues to identifying what you value and what you don't.
How do you spend your free time, and does that frustrate you or bring you joy?
Sometimes our own values can clash with others.
Two of my values are purpose and fun. I've sometimes thought they seem quite opposite. Having fun hasn't felt like it has a massive purpose to it, it's almost felt like a waste of time. I've come to realise they actually balance each other out very well. If I break 'purpose' down for me it is probably about helping others in some way, which can be tiring and draining. Add a bit of fun to that, which has an element of self-care to it, and it becomes much more sustainable.
How are you doing?
Working out what is the root of that feeling means you can identify what you value. When you know what you value you can make choices that fit in with that, you can invest in it. You can steer away from things that aren't in line with your values. And it all adds up to living a more fulfilled and happy life.
Having considered these things some of your values may be clearer. You can also look through the list below to get some more ideas.
Do any of these jump out at you as things that are important and really mean a lot to you? Or are there some that don't particularly mean much to you?
Reliability. Quality Time. Trust. Gifts. Experimentation. Touch. Responsibility. Helpfulness. Diversity. Encouragement. Bravery. Family. Autonomy. Confidence. Loyalty. Relationships. Connection. Sensitivity. Creativity. Justice. Equality. Humility. Openness. Listening. Simplicity. Belonging. Intelligence. Success. Accuracy. Respect. Fitness. Efficiency. Love. Caring. Faith. Generosity. Order. Accountability. Joy/Play. Challenge. Forgiveness. Beauty. Giving People a Chance. Adventure. Change. Willingness. Personal Development. Patience. Contentment. Knowledge. Professionalism. Compassion. Teamwork. Courage. Autonomy. Leadership. Communication. Community. Excellence. Fun-Loving. Co-operation. Quality. Flexibility. Innovation. Commonality. Humour. Strength. Speed. Affection.
You could try writing down the ones that stood out to you.
Do any of them go together? For example, justice, fairness and equality are all quite similar. Kindness, thoughtfulness and compassion are along similar lines.
Put them into groups and then see if you can think of a word that summaries each group.
Could you narrow these down some more, and then narrow it down again. If you could pick 10 main ones what would they be? What if it was only 5, what would they be?
Understanding breeds acceptance
It's very tempting to assume others should share our values. Why should they? Because they don't share ours it doesn't mean they don't have any. They just have different ones. And that's okay.
Narrowing down what our values are, and noticing how different they can be from other people's, can hopefully breed acceptance.
Acknowledging that there are so many great values out there, but certain ones mean more to us than others, but it doesn't mean they are better or worse than anyone else's. This means we can understand and accept each other better.
I think that's a great note to end on!
If you'd like to think about this more, with someone alongside you on your journey, this is exactly the sort of thing counselling can be great for. Please feel free to contact me for support if you'd like it.
Ruth Gorrie (Coventry, CV2)
firstname.lastname@example.org 07561 047 349