What You Need To Know About Personal Values

Have you ever felt lost?  Confused about what decision to make or what action to take?  I know I have and when this happens I know I'm not in tune with my personal values.

Values – a small word can create such a punch.  We all have them.  They influence our behaviour, and we make judgements based on them.  But what are values exactly?

Read on ...

What Are Personal Values?

I like to think of  values as a personal code of conduct, or blueprint, of how you live your life.  They represent your:

  • Beliefs and opinions
  • Qualities and traits
  • Attitudes

They’re intrinsic in your life.  Values are an extension of yourself.  It’s your manifesto of who you are or who you aspire to be and provides a roadmap for your actions.

Ultimately, your values will determine your behaviour.

And, as a result, your values are something you care about … a lot!

Where Values Come From  

Your personal values are a cocktail of different influences you encounter throughout life.  Such as:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • School
  • Work
  • Significant life events such as physical or emotional trauma, divorce, losing a job
  • Religion
  • Music
  • Culture

We’re all influenced by our environment and with who we choose to spend our time.  Sometimes the values we hold dear may be at odds with what’s going on around us.  Not always a bad thing.  And it’s times like these we feel like a square peg in a round hole.

Why Reassessment Is Necessary

Another aspect is how we choose to reject specific values.  Not necessarily because we disagree with them, but we want to rebel and become independent—all part of growing up and getting older.

Taking time to re-evaluate your personal values regularly is essential.  Not just for your growth but as a reflection of the person you are now.

Why You Should Determine Your Personal Values

I first did an exercise on values about 10-years ago.  I’m a bit of a late developer!  In my musings, I wondered whether I was lazy in how I adopted my beliefs about the world. 

Had I adopted standards based on influencers just because I wanted to ‘fit in’?

We’re all social animals, and the need to feel a sense of belonging is strong in all of us.

The danger in adopting the standards of other people is you're not in control of your own life, but living by what is right for others. Incredibly tricky if you are a people pleaser.

Understanding your values is a part of growing your self-awareness about yourself.  Ultimately they impact your well-being.

Woman and child the learning ground for personal values

Our personal values can be found all around us. Many values are picked up from a very early age

Why Personal Values Are Important

Knowing your values helps you to understand what drives and motivates you, it's a way of increasing your self-awareness.  Values clarify what you want from life.  Or what you don’t want from life!

Personal values provide the answer to questions such as:

  • What’s important to you in life?
  • What is your life’s purpose?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • When do you feel satisfied and fulfilled?

The Benefit From Knowing Your Personal Values

So, knowing your values helps you understand who you are, your purpose and when you are satisfied.  All good stuff.  But values help you with the daily challenges you face every day.

  • Authenticity - When you’re clear about your values, you’re true to the person you are or want to be, which means you’re more authentic.  
  • Confidence - You have a rock solid foundation.  You care less about what others think or do. You stick to what you know is right for you.  Authors Barbara Markway and Celia Ampel say in their fab book 'The Self-Confidence Workbook' that confidence rises when you courageously make "a choice to take steps to act in line with your values." 
  • Decision Making - With so many decisions to make every day, we can often be swayed by emotional responses which we later regret.  If you stick to your values, you'll make better decisions for you.
  • Happier - if you're in alignment with your values, life and your behaviour becomes easier to manage.  You'll be happier as you'll no longer have to battle inner conflict about the right thing to do.
  • Inner Doubt - if you question everything that you say and do, having a set of values means that you can dispense with doubts about whether or not you are doing or saying the right thing.

A Test Of Values

Let's have a look at values in a real-life situation. Okay, not actually real, I've made it up, but use your imagination.

You're enjoying a walk in the park with your dog.  The wind ruffles your hair, your dog is jumping around delirious with happiness when all of a sudden you come across some money on the path.  Cue dramatic music.  You look up and there's nobody around.

What do you do?

  • Pick it up and put it in your pocket and say to yourself, that will come in handy?
  • Leave it where it is, the owner is bound to be looking for it
  • Pick it up and take it to the police?
  • Pick it up and ring the police to alert them, but keep it in your possession?

If the first question you ask is how much money is there?  You're already looking at ways to justify your next action.  

Think about the mood you are in.  In this situation it's a pretty good day.  The dog's happy, you're happy, would this affect your actions?

The point I'm making here is values need to be objective and not emotionally based.  It's a standard where you've drawn a line in the sand and nothing will make you cross it.  You will live and die by the value that you have determined.  And nobody, and I mean nobody is able to shift your stance.

How Many Values?

There’s a lot of debate on how many personal values to adopt.  The suggestions range from 3 to 12.  My view is we should have 3 core values.  The danger of having a large number is they get confused with a list of aspirational qualities.

Think of it like your weekly shopping list.  Each week you have your staples:

  • Milk
  • Bread
  • Gin

Then you have the add-ons such as biscuits, cakes and fancy fruit.  They’re not essential, but nice to have.

Having 3 core values gets to the heart of who you are and what you stand for.

Final Thoughts

Your personal values are an important part of who you are.  They enable you to live a happier and more fulfilled life.  You'll be more confident and authentic.

Don't let life go by without taking the time to assess your personal values.  They save you time!  Think about how many decisions you'll be able to make without constant rumination.

Your behaviour will be more in line with who you want to be and less influenced by emotional outbursts.  When you know you've done something wrong, it's easier to apologise and move on.

Don't you deserve to feel more secure in who you are, to feel more confident about what you do?  That by the way is a rhetorical question, and the answer is a resounding YES!

To find out more about how to identify your personal values, read my article on How To Find Your Unique Personal Values

About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

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