Your personal values: why they matter and how to honor them

“Personal values” refer to what you consider most important in life. They’re the foundation of how you distinguish between right or wrong, and how you react to the World around you. They also affect how you use your money, energy, and mind.

At first, you pick up your set of core values from your parent’s behavior. Then these core values stay the same unless you go through a significant emotional experience, or make an effort to change them.

Living in alignment with your values gives you peace and joy. Living in the opposite way results in dissatisfaction.

When you live with ignorance of your core values, it’s easy to be misled by harmful emotions or desires. You may also live according to someone else’s values (to fit in); or lose yourself into the values that dominate society like money, power, and sex. It’s an unconscious and unskillful way of living life that can make you unreasonable.

This ignorance is why sometimes you react, behave, and make decisions that you later regret. It’s why you continue to practice bad habits that you can’t seem to quit. It’s what makes relationships difficult. It’s why you rely on others, material things or circumstances to feel happy. It’s why you feel dissatisfied—even though you may be successful in the eyes of others.

In contrast, knowing your values can help you decide what kind of career to pursue or whether to start a business or not, what kind of relationships you should seek, or how to best resolve conflicts with others. When your values are clear, making the right decisions gets easier.

So take the time to acknowledge your values to gain clarity about who you’re before you go after what you want.

You want to grow, so you work hard pursuing goal after goal. But fulfillment doesn’t come from achieving goals. It comes from fulfilling values. So take the time to slow and reflect what’s important to you in life first.

To discover your values, visualize the worst and best moments in your life. The worst times will show you your values based on the value or values that were violated at the time and which had a negative impact on you. The best times will show you your values based on the values you honored and made you feel great.

Another way to discover your values is to think about the attributes of the people you most admire. These attributes will show you your values based on values that you aspire to make part of your character (who you’re). Finally, get an outside perspective from people who love you and know you well. Ask them why they appreciate you. Their answers will show you your values based on the values you’re already living today.

Using these tactics, put a list of 10-20 values. Then rank the importance of your values as if it was a tournament. Put them into a bracket, and start making your picks. Prioritizing matters because it will assist you with difficult decisions. As sometimes you’ll have to pick between choices that may meet different values. This is when you must know which value is more important to you.

Don’t stop at discovering your values. That’s only the first step.

After you narrow down on your core values, don’t just let them get stuck in a sheet of paper or your computer. Set up a time to check-in with your values monthly or quarterly. During this time, score each value from 1-10 based on how well you’re honoring each. Then plan steps you can take where there is room for improvement.

By working on narrowing the gap between your values and how you behave, you’ll feel more satisfied about your life.