Understanding our Values


Personal Values – What is important to us?

If we want to live a meaningful life, one thing we need to understand is our values.

“Carefully watch your thoughts for they become your words. Manage and watch your words for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi

So what are values?

Values are lifelong journeys, directions, values must be lived out. They have no end point like goals. Goals are destinations and not directions and once we reach them, the work is done. Values have no end point, they direct us throughout life. Values are ideals you constantly keep working towards and there is always room for improvement.

Values and goals are closely related as your goals can reflect your values. Depending on what is important for you in life, you pursue goals that will help you move in the direction of your values. To help you discover your values underlying your goals, you can ask yourself why you are pursuing a goal. For example, if friendship is important for you, you will try to make friends. If being a loving partner is important for you, you try to behave in a way that is consistent with that ideal. So, basically values are chosen life directions. If your value is the compass point guiding your life’s journey, your goals are the road map that can lead you in that direction.

So, identifying values can take you in a direction of a more meaningful life. How can you clarify your values? The way to explore your values is to ask yourself what is really important for you in life, what really matters, what you care about. Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you didn’t have the problems you have? What kind of things would you do or like to do if that was the case? Ultimately, what do you want your life to stand for? So, values define not only what you want to pursue from day to day but also what you want your life to be about. It can make the difference between a vital life and a deadened life. You need to find your own values within the important domains of life such as family relations, friendships, career, leisure, spirituality, etc.

Common personal values are harmony, integrity, honesty, hard work. If, for example, harmony is one of your values, there may be less conflict in your life in comparison to someone who does not value harmony. Friendship is another area of personal relations that most people value. Think about what it means to you to be friends with someone close to you and what kind of friend you would like to be. What would you like to have manifest in your life regarding your friends? Different people have different values.

Values are also connected to meaning in our lives. A primary motivational force is to find meaning in our lives. A valued life is meaningful. Meaning in life comes from using our values and strengths (such as creativity, intelligence) that gives us pleasure and putting it in the service of something larger than ourselves (such as knowledge, goodness, family, community or a higher spiritual power) gives us the meaning in life. So in order to live a fulfilled life we need to know what is valuable for us in life. Values are very powerful. When your actions line up with your chosen values, you feel a sense of vitality and life inevitably becomes more meaningful.

It is important to keep in mind that valued living is a lifelong process and it is not easy as many barriers arise along the way. It is about ongoing commitment to face these barriers each day as you move in a valued direction taking all your pains, fears, painful thoughts and feelings with you.

Remember, life is a choice. The choice is not about whether or not to have pain. It is whether or not to live a valued and meaningful life.

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