I often talk to clients about values. Most of us don’t think much about values on a personal level but when we make our value system explicit instead of implicit, it becomes so much easier to make decisions – good decisions that we can feel good about after we make them.
The thing with values is most of the time we agree with most of the values that there are and don’t really question them or choose them for ourselves. After all, who wouldn’t agree with IntegrityHonestyKindnessCuriosityGratitudeTransparencyTrust…etc. However agreeing with something as a general concept doesn’t make it a personal guiding principle for our life.
What values are NOT are norms and traditions that we grew up with. They are NOT what our parents or friends or society believe is the “right thing to do”. Values are not morals. While we obviously have to live within the laws of our context and respect the cultural norms around us, we need to find our own true values, the ones that deep down we believe are true for us and that we want to be the overarching guides to our lives. For example: One person might choose veganism as a personal value. Another might choose financial independence. Another might choose new experiences. Think about how each of those values (or all of them, these 3 are not mutually exclusive!) might influence a person’s choices about how and where to live, what to buy, what to eat and wear, and how to bring up their children.
As a rule of thumb, our list of personal values shouldn’t be less than 3 or more than 10. They should be deeply and personally meaningful to us. They should be guiding lights and overarching principles by which we can live our lives. Defining our values defines our lives – by making our value system explicit, we can use it to clarify what is important to us, to simplify our decision-making and to guide our behaviour.