Which qualities do you think are most important for a person to possess? Our answers will likely differ depending on who we are, where we live, who we spend our time with, and how we were raised.
Perhaps the values springing to mind are success, decisiveness, commitment, courage, and rationality. Others might think of kindness, trustworthiness, understanding, wisdom, and service. Still others might name creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, presence, and independence.
There is no one right answer. Certain values aren’t necessarily better or worse than others. The most important thing is not what your specific values are, but knowing which values are really yours.
We can’t help but be influenced by the world around us. We each live our lives by a set of values, but our own personal values can easily be buried under expectations about who we are supposed to be and what is supposed to matter to us. Unless we take the time to explore our values, we might find ourselves living our lives guided by values that actually belong to someone else.
Our values are the qualities or concepts most important to us or describing our best, truest selves. The values we live by shape the way we show up in every part of our lives. They guide how we relate to others, how we express ourselves, what work we choose to do and what is a better fit for others.
Trying to live according to values that aren’t really ours can leave us feeling unseen and disconnected from those who matter most to us. We may end up feeling frustrated, discouraged, or apathetic. When we don’t know our values we often make decisions that just aren’t right for us.
For most of my life it hadn’t occurred to me to figure out what my own personal values were. Looking back I can see so many times when I chose things because I thought they were supposed to matter to me and not because they actually did.
I thought my dissatisfaction in my first job out of college was because there was something wrong with me that I didn’t want the things I should. I thought I was unhappy because I wasn’t achieving enough, but that didn’t motivate me to try to achieve more. At times I clung to the excuse that work is just inherently unenjoyable and unfulfilling to explain my discontent.
Looking back I can see that while the highly repetitive and precise nature of my work appealed to the parts of me clinging to perfectionism and control, my values of growth and creativity were being stunted. My values of connection and making a difference weren’t being satisfied as I daily struggled to convince myself that my work was helping people in a meaningful way. It’s frustrating to pour so much time and energy into something that doesn’t really matter to us.
It’s hard to give our all day after day when deep down we believe something else is actually more important.
Identifying our values isn’t something we’re often encouraged to do, but how can we possibly decide how we’re going to spend our lives if we don’t even know what is most important to us? Discovering who we are is a lifelong journey.
I’ll keep sharing what is helping me along the way. In the meantime, click here , to get access to the Discover Your Values work book and the rest of the Self-Trust Library.
I’d love to hear…what are your values? How do you you use them to guide your decisions? When have you lived according to values that weren’t really yours? How are you going to start bringing more of your own values into your life?