Having a clear understanding of your core values is tremendously important, as I have briefly discussed in the first newsletter. They can help you make difficult decisions, to avoid potential life pitfalls, and to be happier with your external life circumstances, among other things.
The issue is that if you google the topic of finding your values, then you will get a lot of advice that basically boils down to:
look at lists of example values, and pick the ones you like.
recall some stuff from your life, and see how you feel.
Now, both methods can and do work. However, they only do so - if you know what you are looking for. Therefore, before we jump into the practical exercise, let’s briefly talk about what values are.
What Are Values
To do that, I will first tell you what they are not. They are not simply nice words, such as “Family” (a favorite of many). A family is a unit of people, and they organize themselves according to values. It is not a value in itself.
For example, in one family - trust might be the core value, in another - freedom. If you ask ten people what family means to them - you will get ten different answers coming from different personal values.
Actionable. You can be “trusting” and “free” but you can’t be “family”.
Judgemental. You can judge if you are “trustworthy” but you can’t say if someone is “family”.
Emotional. If a value is broken - you feel emotional. Even if someone else does it.
In addition - values tend to stay with you for a long time.
Let’s Uncover Some Values
On the topic of finding your values, I have to be honest with you. Most articles and videos out there are simply SEO friendly texts that want to get your attention and to give you a quick fix.
Real values take time to find, and the exercise below is just a starting point. The key is to be on the lookout for your values and to constantly work on them.
The first time I did a variation of the below exercise was ten years ago. Then, I have identified five values. Only one of them remains today, and it is named differently. The other two, I have uncovered in a book and a workshop.
Now that you have been forewarned - let’s get going.
The below process, if done right should take at least two uninterrupted hours.
Set aside the required amount of time.
Make sure you are in a good mood and state of mind, as your mood at the time can influence your answers.
Open a notebook (preferably not an online word document, but an actual physical journal), and start jotting down anything that comes to mind to the question:
"What is important to me?" (Simple words or short phrases)
Aim for 50+.
[ DO NOT READ FURTHER BEFORE YOU ARE DONE WITH STEP 1 ]
Once you have run out of ideas, change the question: "What makes me motivated and active to pursue my goals?". Add all of those to the same list.
[ DO NOT READ FURTHER BEFORE YOU ARE DONE WITH STEP 2 ]
Search your memory for the most meaningful touching and positively emotional moments. Write down what was happening to you at that moment.
Then - write down which values you see yourself acting out in those moments. Add them to the list.
[ DO NOT READ FURTHER BEFORE YOU ARE DONE WITH STEP 3 ]
Reverse the previous exercise. Think of the most infuriating moments of your life. Frustrations with other people are also good.
Which values were HURT at that moment? Which values were you or other people breaking at that time? Write them all down to our master list.
You should now have 50 - 300 values on the list.
The next step is to assign them into groups. See which of the values are somewhat related to one another - and group them together.
Once you have the groups - it is time to screen some of the values out. Pick and choose the most important groups using your intuition.
Ideally, you will end up with 3-10 value groups, each representing one core value. Less is more in this case.
Rank the values from most important to least important.
Try to give each group a label. The name should be rich and powerful and should resonate with you personally. My values are Radical Responsibility, Action, Prescient Presence.
Remember, that doing the exercise is just a starting point so that you can start searching for your true values, and to put the ones you have come up with - to the test.
Do they help you when you are in a difficult situation? Do they inspire you to take action? Do they provide you with comfort and enable you to get out of emotional difficulties?
Finally, keep on the lookout for your values all the time. You never know when you will be enlightened with one.