Do you know your life values? Do you know if you’re moving towards the compass of your life? Where do yo want to go? Where should you really go?
I encountered the question of defining values in a podcast I listened to, by chance, some weekends ago. The doctor of psychology asked, “what’s your values?” I paused—not to think, but to suddenly wonder, why I couldn’t answer the question. What are my values, really?
She discussed that goals, while they’re easier listed down, as we have always been taught in school or in time management or seminars, are items that we want to do. Those that we want to achieve. They are, in quick definition, something we want but do not have yet. Agree?
But values, are different. They are you. They are in you. These define you. Values are usually one word, or one phrase, that you strongly resonate with. Something that you feel are of core importance in your life. Values are the compass of your self to which you align (or should align) your goals with.
When I was listening to this doctor describe the problem of her patient (identity not disclosed), the patient enumerated so many goals, and mentioned so many of her successes, to which it was admirable that she’s achieved so much. However, the question of her happiness and contentment and definition of success was amiss. The reason being, was that, her goals were not within the lines of her values. In fact, she didn’t know what her values were (too)!
Stress is such a giant word that, even though we are able to define it in many ways, it still escapes us what it truly is, and what it means to our physiology and our psychology.
Stress could mean, waking up early even when you had only less than 5 hours of sleep because you have to get to work. On some cases, it’s the pressure from someone who wants to coerce you to do something you don’t agree to. And for others, it is the burden of handling finances beyond their current capability. Some of these might look like external sources that influence the presence of stress in our lives, but the real reason may be behind not working with your core values.
What are the core values?
According to the said doctor who was doing the podcast, she asked her clients to work on defining her values before her next session with her. So, I eagerly listened to her. She mentioned the Values Card Exercise which was an exercise that has been adapted from Miller and C’de Baca (2001) and is the source of this version of the Values Card Exercise.
I went ahead and checked this out and the Values Card Exercise had 70 cards that were different values that a person could live with in different variance of importance. (Note that there are many variations of this exercise). Now, these values, are all elements of positivity. They all influence and enrich the lives of people who are aware of their core values in life. While some might read: “Beauty”, “Wealth”, “Fame”, they aren’t the worldliness that come to mind when these words are encountered.
Each value, is an essence within a person that enriches their lives and therefore result in immense feeling of success, completeness and may imbibe similar effect to other people. A value realized, is one that improves the life of the person him/herself and all those around him. It brings into fruition the goals that are very much aligned to these values.
Still not convinced?
You think that anything is possible if you set your mind into something, yes. Maybe something that you never thought you could do, but now you’re able to—even if this is something not aligned with your goals. I salute every individual fighting for their goals. However, have you not seen a person, who seems to sleep like a baby every night, spends less time thinking, spends more time laughing, but everything seems to be falling into the right place at the right time for him/her? Have you asked yourself why? How?
Let me tell you what I realised: Values. It’s everything.
Knowing your values is like setting your compass to your wonderland. And then you’ll notice, why the wind is blowing in the right direction.. why your sails look so happy and not fighting against the wind. Your speed is propelled by at least twice the expected speed. You’re moving easier, and faster. This is the secret.
All your other goals, whatever they are, if you align them to the right values will be realised faster and better, and results are always far greater than that of which you have anticipated.
Successful people are successful only if they feel like they are. Those who seem to have “everything” but still commit suicide has seriously lost track of their values. You don’t need to work very hard all the time in order to be successful and be happy. If this interests you, read on.
Because I’m my own patient 0, I went ahead and downloaded the Values Card Exercise. After my day was done, I printed out the cards and cut them to size. Doing this before bedtime, ensures I don’t have anything else in mind that I need to get to. I like to have everything sorted before sitting down to contemplate on this.
So, this is Scenario 1. I just put down all the cards in front of me. All 70 of them and I just read each of them. Each one with the value in the middle and beneath it was a brief explanation / meaning. Reading through it, I was overwhelmed. How was I supposed to discard 60 and only pick 10 in the end?! It was madness. It seemed like telling myself all the other cards were not important. However, that’s not the case.
I recommend that you start to pick out the cards that show something that you feel is "Not Very Important" to you right now. It doesn’t mean it’s entirely nonsense, but think of it as something that you can definitely live without, at the moment. Thinking about it this way, made it easier for me to sort my pile.
One of the few cards that were easy to discard as “Not Very Important” was the Fame card. The reason being, is that I’m an introvert. It’s not very important for me to be well-known. As fame, is, in a multitude of degrees very different from being recognized, or from being accepted.
This first wave of exercise, opened my eyes. There are so many values to live by, that we can pick from; and that there are so many, that you are able to granularize what they mean to you (as described, fame is different from recognition and acceptance).
This next phase, I was so pleased that I was able to say to myself that I have only the cards that are “Important” laid out in front of me. That was the beginning of difficulty. No, really. It was difficult!
Now, the next pile to fill is the “Somewhat Important”. To me, it was a little bit triggering. It is important that, to complete this second scenario, you must be able to cite examples of cases and feelings and ideologies that come to mind to describe how a certain value is for you.
For example, I find it so difficult to discern how Logic and Simplicity could be separated from each other. How was I supposed to pick between the two? I had to really identify what each value meant for me. Logic for me, meant that I put sense in everything I do for my life. My life could be simple with minimal needs, but I may not be living in the right logic. Furthermore, if I live as a minimalist, would not buying a comb be logical? Would owning only one big swimming pool be simple? Would it also be logical?
Within me, the debate for several other cards was a difficult feat. With each card that seems to be related with each other, I had to further differentiate what they meant to me. The goal is to leave only 10 cards behind.
This is my pile at the end of scenario 2.
And finally, sorted values
Once you are now left with only 10 cards, you need to arrange them from most important to least important. As if you haven’t dealt so much with discarding seemingly “all important” cards, you still have to rank these most important ones according to weight! 🙈
It was a no brainer for me, what put at the top most priority: "Purpose". I have always sought Purpose in everything. This is all connected with what I do for work, why I do it, and why I work for a certain company. Why it’s easy for me to become a minimalist, and why some things just really is a deal breaker for me. Purpose defines me. At the beginning of Scenario 1, I have already put Purpose as my #1 for this final scenario.
I remember telling myself, then, in fact, I knew my top value all along! 😅 I just didn’t know how to define it before I discovered this Values Card Exercise.
After a grueling hour and a half, I have completed this Values Card Exercise. Here are my top 10 values.
So what’s next?
“Here I come, happiness! Here I come success!”, yes that’s literally what I told myself after. Why? I’m excited because, all the other goals that I have set for myself before, which seemingly doesn’t bring me much content and gratification can now be transformed to something that will bring my values to front and center.
Let me explain how these values can now shape your goals. Let’s say one of your core values is Leisure; and you have a previous goal to travel to Vatican. You had your itineraries set for tour of several churches and museum to fulfill your spiritual needs, etc. To make your goal work for you and bring you more happiness, you might need to cut down on the tour and allot time to relax and recover. Maybe a half day for the tour and a quiet time to read a book by your hotel room or out under the sun (if that’s your thing). The result would be immensely beneficial for your soul, and your heart’s contentment.
Now, I must leave you here. I can’t say how excited I am to revamp my goals and align them with my values. I’ll give it half this year and I’ll let you know how this works for me and my happiness.
I’ll let the sails take me now to where I want to go (figuratively and literally) ⛵️
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to get in touch! I wish you well in figuring out your own set of values! and hope that it takes you to a place of happiness and contentment ☺️