Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What do you Value?

Recently I was confronted with this question about values. Actually, it was me confronting myself. It's a question I ask myself quite often - especially when I'm faced with a decision, or when I'm trying to make sense of a situation. I find myself asking, "What in all of this is important to me?" "What do I value?"

What I've learned about myself is that what I value is not always what other people value. Sounds simple enough, but what surprised me recently is discovering that even some values I assume are pretty much standard in society, are not necessarily values I personally hold.

It's funny - I was raised in a religious environment (brought on by myself) and as a result, was pretty much told what my values were. After leaving religion, I've had to figure out what my values really are. Of course my religious experiences have contributed to who I am today, but it has been a long process in figuring out who I am apart from that life.

Why are knowing your values important?

Your values act as your guide. They are the things from your very core you believe to be true. They are the things that feel right. When I'm struggling over a situation, my values help me understand my response to the struggle. When I'm agonizing over a decision, they help me reach the best answer for me, as I ask myself, "Is what I want to do in line with my values?" I have heard it said that our values never change - they are formed very early and stay the same throughout our life. I'm not sure about that at this point - I think they may stay close to the same, but possibly change slightly as we grow older and experience new things.

How do you identify your values?

If you're not sure what you value, it's okay. It takes time, and hey, I'm still uncovering mine! A life coach can assist you in discovering your unique values, however, here are a couple of exercises you can do on your own to start you on the road to discovery:

Recall a time in your life when things were fabulous. Where were you? Who was there? How did you feel? What were you doing? What was going on around you? Thinking back to a fabulous life experience can help you mine for values by uncovering themes. For example, the first time I did this exercise I remembered being eight years old and spending summer vacation rollerskating outside, on my own. What I identified from recalling the experience was that that I value independence, summer, travel, activity, freedom. These are values I still hold dear today.

Another exercise is to think of three things that make you angry. What are the values associated with the opposite of those things? One thing I detest is cruelty to children and animals. The values I associate with the opposite of this are fairness, goodness, kindness, protection, freedom.

How about you - are you living in harmony with your values? What small steps can you take today that would bring you closer to living in line with what is important? I know, a lot of questions, but I think knowing your values is something worth thinking about. What do you value? I would love to hear your input in the comments below.


Sonicberg said...

For me it was almost more enlightening to understand that the things I want to avoid can be just an extreme of the same thing that I enjoy.

In other words, if someone doesn't spend a lot of time teaching or dictating to their children it could be because they have an idea that they want those children to be able to have a freedom of choice that they never did.

Wendy Greene said...

Denise, that's a great way to identify values. There are many tools we can use that will highlight the things that matter most to us.. Thanks for sharing yours!