How to find your values and why it matters

Why is finding your values important?

In short, if you know your values, it’s easier to be authentically you and live congruently, by making decisions and behaving in alignment with your values.

Knowing and living by your values gives you anchors. So if ‘discovery’ is one of your values, but you’re not spending enough time experiencing new people, places, ideas, Netflix series, whatever, then you’re going to get out of alignment with that value, so you need to prioritise those things in order to stay true to the value and to yourself.

If you can’t OR aren’t allowing yourself to live consistently with your values, it will nag, irritate and bother you at first, however, in the end, can even make you unwell. As the human brain HATES incongruence, it really likes things to align and be in harmony.

If you know your values, tell others about them (even better if you’ve got examples or stories to bring that to life) this helps others understand why you behave as you do.

Almost every person I have ever worked with assumes that everyone knows their values and will behave in accordance with them, because to them ‘it’s obvious isn’t it?’ Well, let me tell you, what feels as natural as breathing to you.

It is not obvious to others because your values are based on your experience of the whole of your life, including what you heard and learned from your parents, from early life, school, significant events that happen to you etc etc.

And all of that shapes your values often without you realising so HOW ON EARTH WOULD ANYONE ELSE KNOW WHAT YOUR VALUES ARE?

So whether you’re telling colleagues, your boss, your team or your family, it’s going to be worthwhile because people will GET you much more quickly, with more understanding and compassion than they did before.

Speaking of family in particular, knowing your values helps in understanding your relationships better, particularly close relationships – I always think it’s most important for you and your partner to understand and respect each other’s values as far as possible, and also hopefully align on many or most of those values – it can be one of the greatest sources of friction in a relationship when that doesn’t happen.

And finally, as your values are your life anchors, your guiding principles, then these form the basis of your personal brand, how others see you and value you.

OK, so I hope you’re convinced that values are important.

Time to find your values.

This isn’t going to be quick or something you can do necessarily in one go, but I have some tips on how to get there.

1. You do need to be in an environment with a bit of time to reflect and think about stuff, so maybe try this at the weekend or to and from work, wherever and whenever you have some headspace.

2. Once you’re in that right frame of mind, there are some great questions that will help you find your core values.

Number 1: Times that were really important to you personally, things that you have been most proud of in your life and where you have felt at your absolute best…so where you were experiencing positive emotions.

Think about the life principle you were fulfilling then, that may find a value.

Example, when me and the family go on holiday to a new place, I LOVE LOVE LOVE going on an early morning run to get a feel for where we are and to find places that I can drag the family back to later in the day (whether they like it or not). “Do we have to keep walking?” “It’s way further than you said”.

So my values there are Discovery and Sharing, as well as probably a bit of Individuality and Love Life, which are two more.

Number 2: My favourite tip for values discovery is to think about points in life or even this week where you got angry or upset– as yourself were your values being challenged, attacked or ignored, what were they?

Example, if I find out that something is being kept from me or someone not being totally honest with someone else, while I can probably understand and empathise with that in the end, this does challenge my values of Truth and Openness so I might initially get upset, annoyed or frustrated by it.

Number 3: What do other people value you for? What marks you out and what might that tell you about your values?

Example, people telling me that I am positive and motivating (on a good day lolz) – well that’s because I have a value of Others’ happiness and also Responsibility, both of which play out in that example.

You may ask “But how do I find the right words that work as values for me?”

If you need inspiration there are LOADS of lists of values online but I find them a bit overwhelming, so my recommendation would be to pick values words that MEAN something to you.

For some of mine, I can’t say them without smiling because they mean that much to me. Like the hairs go up on the back of my neck when I say them. They won’t all do that, but if they can invoke emotion or memory, so much the better.

Unconditional positive regard has that emotional impact for me.

Plus build out the values statements, make them yours, don’t reduce them to a single word and in doing so, lose the meaning…instead, tell your story.

You could also think about ordering them so that you’re clear on the absolute must-haves in your life and those things that you can maybe live without if you need to for a while. I haven’t done that personally but many people do.

OK, so now you have your list of values

You’ve developed it over time,

You’ve done work on the wording

You’ve reviewed them and worked on them more.

What now to do with them? How will you use them?


Four thoughts on this…

Point 1, be understood:

Talk to people about your values, discuss them, this helps the process of internalisation and reinforcement by getting affirming feedback and curious questions from others.

This then helps enormously with people understanding your behaviour and choices later on, because you can talk about why you’ve done what you’ve done and why it was important to you to do that.

Point 2, decision-making and authenticity:

Refer to your values to make decisions and review how well you’re living congruently. I’ve seen people recommend scoring how much they get to use each value at the moment and then action lists on how to use them more.

That’s quite involved and maybe a bit heavy but why not, if you want to be a more you version of you.

Point 3, keep working on them:

New phrases or values or experiences will pop up that will lead you to look back at your values statements and update them – if they stop meaning as much to you, change them, keep them current and relevant for you.

Final point, just knowing that they’re there can be reassuring when you’re under pressure or feeling a bit lost. Even without referring to them, it feels more possible that you’ll be ok because you have your values, your life principles to guide you.