How To Identify and Implement Your Personal Values

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( — December 28, 2022) — Values is one of those words that people often throw around without really thinking about what it means. Often, it’s used vaguely, asserting that someone has no values, which is extremely unlikely. Someone may have values that differ from your own, but just because you think theirs are worthless doesn’t mean they don’t exist. 

Similarly, talking about teaching values doesn’t tell you much. What kind will be taught? The process of figuring out what yours are should actually be conducted without judgment because once you know, you can set about accomplishing the things that will satisfy you in life. Whether you want to make a lot of money, help save the world or do both, knowing your values is one of the most important and fundamental steps you can take in life.

Knowing What Matters

We might use abstract words to talk about what we want, such as happiness or meaning, but it’s necessary to get concrete in order to really achieve those things. Naming your specific values are the bedrock of this. You can’t say you want to live a good life if you don’t know what good means. A corollary to this is that the identification you’ll do has to come from you and you alone. 

It’s so easy to be influenced by your family and friends, but you’ll never be truly driven by what other people think is valuable. If you’re struggling to figure out what matters, it can help to think back to a time you acted in a way you are particularly proud of. What about that experience made you feel so proud? What word would you use to describe the quality you displayed at that time?

Words into Action

A list of words describing the characteristics that are important to you is a necessary first step toward a life that is as close to ideal as is achievable. Maybe you have identified frugality as an important value. The next thing you need to do is consider what actions will create frugality in your life. You may decide to create a budget and clip coupons. You could also look at ways to reduce other regular expenses in your life, such as home and auto insurance. You can look for personalized rates on costs such as these as well as on personal loans and refinancing student loans by visiting an online marketplace. You may be surprised at the lower rates that are available to you there.

Remember that there are degrees as well. Perhaps courage is important to you, but for some people, courage means speaking in public or asking for a raise at work while for others it might mean running into a burning building to save a child or climbing Mt. Everest. If a more extreme expression of what’s important to you seems unattainable or undesirable, go easy on yourself. You don’t have to choose that option in order to prove a point.

Accept Imperfection

Relatedly, not only are you unlikely to be someone who lives the most extreme version of their values, but you may also sometimes still do things that directly contravene them. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t aim for consistency, but humans are fallible, and you will sometimes find yourself doing something you don’t necessarily approve of. Sometimes that’s because you don’t have any other choice, but at other times, it could be because you’re consciously or unconsciously deviating from what you’ve identified as your value. This could be a sign that it was something that wasn’t really that important to you after all, or it could mean what matters to you is changing. It could also simply mean that you didn’t honor your own value system. Additionally, this can help you be more tolerant in relationships because you now understand the potential for human error. Whatever it turns out to be, it’s important to understand and accept that knowing what matters and making a plan to live in a way that is consistent with that is never going to have a 100% rate of consistency.