Why You Should Find Your Values (And How To Do It)

Have you ever woken up on Tuesday morning and wished it was Friday?

I did that the other day. I had a shitty start to the morning, you know – when nothing goes right and even the coffee is bitter? I wished with my whole being that the weekend was closer. And then I felt guilty.

There is something sad about willing to shorten your life this way – because this is what we are essentially saying, right? “I wish it was Friday today instead of Tuesday.” = “It is okay to fast-forward the next 3 days and don’t actually live through them as long as I am closer to the weekend.” In efforts to battle this feeling, I suggest we find ways to bring more life and happiness into every day of the week. But how?

Spend more time on things that matter

I wonder if adding new hobbies, activities and things necessarily makes us happier. I am not saying that removing them is the way to go – this is not an ad for minimalism. I think that we should first find what truly makes us happy and then look for new hobbies and exciting things to do. The best way to understand what can bring us happiness is to find our values.

Knowing your values can help you understand what is important in your life so you can spend time, energy and resources purposefully, and get the most return on investment possible.

I can’t believe I just used a term I learned during microeconomics classes at University. Oh, well. Here is the idea that I propose: if you are not clear on what your values are, you can have the wrong idea about what makes you happy. Say you value connection and security. And yet, you somehow sign up for bouldering. It is a rather individual sport, and it is also extreme. Where did connection and security go? Find what is important to you and then look for activities that support those things.

Make changes that improve your life

Being clear on your values can also help improve your everyday life. No more wishing it was Friday… Or at least not very often. Knowing your values is empowering and can bring you a sense of direction, especially, if you find out that some areas of your life are not aligned to the things that you consider important.

Finding your values is similar to finding a magic compass that points north without a fail, and if you go in that direction, positive changes will follow.

Let take a look at an example: you put the effort to find your top three values and realise that freedom (or autonomy) is one of them. You examine your career: you work a corporate job with a strict schedule; you are being micromanaged; you are accountable for every minute of your workday. Well, no wonder you are miserable at your job! Now, knowing that freedom is non-negotiable for your happiness, you are resolved to find a job that lets you breathe. Knowing your values allows you to make changes that really improve your life.

Make the right decisions faster and easier

So far we see that values can help us choose how to spend our time and what to change in our lives. There is one more immensely beneficial reason to know that is important to you.

Knowing your values allows you to make better everyday decisions and help you say “no” to things that do not contribute to your happiness.

Are you a people pleaser? Do you find it hard to say “no” when your friends invite you somewhere, even if you really do not want to go? Have you ever considered how much valuable time and energy you waste this way?

The good news is that knowing your values can help you stop this unhealthy habit. You see, when you know what is important to you, you will not want to engage in activities that go against your values. You have clarity on what bring you happiness and if a potential brunch with colleagues on Saturday takes away from your top values – spending time with your family, you will not want to do it. You feel more empowered to say “no”. A “no” coming from your values is not an answer that rejects an invitation, it is an answer that defends what is important to you.

Find your values in 4 simple steps

It can be challenging to find what your values are, especially if you have never stopped to take a look at what your motives and driving forces are. If you are curious to begin exploring or perhaps to work on narrowing them down, here are the steps that helped me and I believe they will work for you, too.

1. Ask the magic question

Ask yourself, what contributes most to me feeling emotionally healthy and content with my life?. Try to answer that question without looking at any prompts. Sit with this question, write down potential answers and try to narrow the answers down to five. Repeat this exercise 2-3 times on different days until you make sure your top 5 answers resonate with you at all times.

2. Get more ideas

Check this list of potential values provided by the famous Brene Brown. Try to pick 5-7 values that correspond to you. Cross-reference with the list you already have and see if you can combine and come up with a new unified list of maximum 5 values.

3. Take this online test

Check out the Barrett Values Center which offers a free values test and provides you with exercises to further explore your results. You can input your already identified values and do the provided journaling prompts to deepen your understanding. A friend of mine recommended it to me and also told me it is a good idea to send the assessment to other people to evaluate you. This way you can see how your friends or family perceive you and thus, you can understand if you live your values every day.

4. Take action

Understanding your values does not benefit you much if you do not take any action on this knowledge. Ask yourself, how can I live this value every day?. For each of your top 5 values, write down 3 possible answers. When you have the full list, look for the actions or activities you can easily bring into your life. Start with those and keep on adding more with time. Next thing you know, you are living with your compass pointing north all of the time and Tuesdays are not that dreadful anymore!

I really hope these steps help you! If you wish to share your findings with us, leave a comment below with your top three values! ⭐️

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