Our values are our guiding principles and they measure the meaning that life holds for us. They are like a compass ensuring we stay on purpose, the purpose that we have detected as we move through the various paths of life.
Our goals, dreams and desires are merely the vehicle for fulfilling our values.” What we do depends on what we feel about what we know” . So to come back to our life destination, values are the compass by which you direct your life. Identifying and clarifying them helps us make decisions and ensure that we don’t drift through life but live on purpose. Thomas Mennard said: “ Needs drive us, values guide us”.
So what is important to you? With my clients we start basically brainstorming, letting all ideas out before making sense and categorizing. I prefer not providing a shopping list as we then tend to choose ones we think we should have or that others think we should have, but prefer detecting our values from our life. There are various questions you can ask yourself:
– Peak moment in time: when was a time you felt particularly happy? A time when just everything seemed right? Who was there? What was happening?
– Suppressed values: what makes you really angry? Then flip it over and find the values which are being suppressed.
– Must haves: sometimes some values are particularly clear to us and we know if we dont have them in our lives, a part of us just withers away.
– Obsessive expression: what do your friends make fun of you about? Often these things reflect a value which is particularly important to you
– What do you do really well? We often do really well at the things which come naturally to us.
– What do you enjoy sharing? Same thing really, the things we enjoy sharing are often the things closer to our heart.
Once you have a list, a pattern will start to emerge, hence the importance of writing them down. Do not worry too much about the precise wording. You can start by stringing a few words which represent to you more or less the same value together and group them under headings.
You need however to keep drilling to make sure they are actually values and not what we call ” means values”. What does X bring me? Money for example is not a value but a means value, when asked: what does money bring you, the question will deliver the value: security, recognition…
Group, compare, prioritise, until you get to 8 core values: the names or categories only need to make sense to you.
By now you should start to feel parts of you coming together and a mounting excitement at the clarity it brings.
This is usually not a 5 minute process. It can take days and months to fully feel you have the essence of what is important to you. The important thing is to launch the process and be ready to capture what emerges over the days, just let it come and flow.
It is a wonderfully grounding experience to be able to crystallise your personal happiness into eight or so words.
Good luck! Just let them come and next week I will explain another exercise to help you detect your personal recipe for happiness: beginning with the end in mind.