In everyone’s life there are those things that are important and those that are not. There are things that one finds fun and things that are simply tedious. Some of the things we like are frivolous and some are the deepest desires of our hearts.
Among his various possible beings each man always finds one which is his genuine and authentic being. The voice which calls him to that authentic being is what we call “vocation.” But the majority of men devote themselves to silencing that voice of the vocation and refusing to hear it. They manage to make a noise within themselves . . . to distract their own attention in order not to hear it; and they defraud themselves by substituting for their genuine selves a false course of life.
—José Ortega y Gassett
As Mr. Gassett points out, most of us defraud ourselves, whittling away our time on things that are just not all that important to us. That’s because we have never taken the time to look deep into ourselves and discover what it is that will bring us real joy.
And as we continue to waste our time on activities that other people tell us we should enjoy, we wonder why we are always a little down and always a more like an initiate than a master.
What you’re missing are those things that are really important to you. Then you discover how you want to relate to the world, what it is that you want to contribute, what do you want to stand for?
The other day I was watching a TV Commercial about a $100.000 mobile home that will travel any highway and even has four wheel drive for off road. It occurred to me that for the last couple of years, I would rather be traveling around the country in that RV than sitting in my three bedroom house watching Television.
Now it may be that I just don’t like my house because it’s always a mess and it getting more and more run down.
If the house was all cute and I had friends over all the time, it might be a different story altogether.
The things that seem to make us happy, truly happy can be a puzzle to figure out.
I used to think, what if I was on the road and I got really sick.
Well this summer I got really sick. I got cancer, had major surgery, and radiation. I could have done it in a motor home. A few days in bed and then start with little short trips to local sights.
My house is full of crafts and hobbies that used to bring me great joy. They just don’t interest me anymore. Perhaps I am holding on to things that don’t enhance my life.
So how do I decide which future will bring me the most joy?
What exactly are values?
Your values are the standards of behaviors and ways of doing things that you think are right and correct.
If you are adhering to your values, you will find that your life is filled with happiness and integrity. Your will be a good role model and find peace of mind through your confidence. Your values determine your priorities, and, deep down, they're probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to.
When the things that you do and the way you behave match your values, life is usually good – you're satisfied and content. But when these don't align with your personal values, that's when things feel... wrong. This can be a real source of unhappiness. You could find yourself very unhappy and lack in self-esteem.
This is why making a conscious effort to identify your values is so important.
Determining Your Values
Values are what you want to do and how you want to do it.
Values are how you want to connect to your friends, your family, and your neighbors.
Values are what kind of personal traits and qualities you want to develop.
There are no right or wrong when it comes to your values, there is no good or bad. They are just the things that make you happy deep down inside. They are the things over which you will want to develop mastery.
As you do them they will make you feel loved and secure, or respected and admired. Think about what it was you were doing the last time you felt that way. That should give you a clue.
Once you find what you value and begin to work on these things a little each day, you will develop confidence and self-respect.
Take some time and think about your values in the following four areas: Your job or education; your leisure time; your personal growth/health; and relationships. Take notes on your ideas.
I have included a list of values to get you started, you will see that there are many to choose from. A printable PDF version of this table and other Values worksheets are available on our Members' PDFs page.
Values exist, whether you recognize them or not. Life can be much easier when you acknowledge your values – and when you make plans and decisions that honor them.
If you value your home and off work time, you don’t want a job that takes up a lot of overtime and doesn’t offer vacation. If you value being alone, you might not want to get married or have several children.
In situations that require an important decision, understanding your values can really help. When you know your most important values, you can use them to make decisions about how to live your life, and you can answer questions like these:
- What do I want to do for a living?
- Who do I want my friends to be?
- What do I want to do with my spare time?
- What do I want said at my eulogy?
What domains of life seem most important to you - e.g. work, study, health, parenting, intimate relationship, friends, family, spirituality, community, and environment? Can you number them in the order that you prefer each one? Now think about what things in each of these categories are important to you? At work is it important for you to get promotions or do you just want to do your job well and go home? In parenting, do you value a strict environment or do you want to allow your children to choose their own path? After you have written down several values that you think apply to you, take a look at the questions below and try to whittle your list down to eight to ten.
- Do these values make you feel good about yourself?
- Are you proud of your top three values?
- Would you be comfortable and proud to tell your values to people you respect and admire?
- Do these values represent things you would support, even if your choice isn't popular, and it puts you in the minority?
- Is this truly your value or just one you feel you should have?
- Is it a means or an end?
If one value is simply to accomplish another, then look to the value you want to accomplish. If you want economic security because you think it leads to freedom, then freedom is the one you value most. This is important because there’s multiple ways to accomplish a goal and flexibility is key. Know what you want, but be flexible in your approach. When were you happiest or most excited? What was your proudest moment? These highlights are a potential showcase of your values. What do you regret the most?
Again, this is a way to figure out what’s most important to you.
Ask yourself about your values in each of these areas. Remember, values are about ongoing action. They are not goals you set and get done with – that you cross off of a list. They are things you want to do for the rest of your life. For example, if you want to get married, that is a goal. When it is done you cross it off of the list and it is over. If, however, you want to be a good husband, that is ongoing. That is a value. You can work on mastering that for the rest of your life.
If you really want these values to build your confidence, self-esteem, and respect from others – in other words, if you really want this exercise to work for you, you need to write down your answers.
Instructions for Finding Your Top Five Values
Step 1: Select about 25 values that you feel are appropriate.
Step 2: Pare your list to 10 or fewer by asking the above questions to weed out the less important values.
Sample Pairwise Comparison Chart
My Top Five Values
1. Kindness 2. Justice 3. Honor 4. Acceptance 5. Truthfulness
Instructions for use of the Pairwise Comparison Chart
This Sample Chart has spaces for five values. The blank chart you print out has spaces for ten.
Step 1: List your values in any order down the left "Values" column. (Shown in blue)
Step 2: List your values across the top of the table in the same order as you did in the "Values" column. (Shown in Blue)
Step 3: Where the column and row cells meet, enter the name of the value that is most important to you. (Shown in Red)
Step 4: Score each value by counting the number of times you entered it. (Red entries) Enter your count in the "Score" column next to the value. (Shown in Red)
Step 5: Copy the values with the highest scores into the "My Top Five Values" blanks. You can break any ties by looking back to the chart.