The Value of Knowing Your Values

What Is a Value?

Turning to “The Google,” here’s the definition: a person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life.

For example, money and time are not actually values (despite the picture). It is what money and time give us (or we think they give us) that we value.

An even easier way to think about it is this: Every action you take (or choose not to take) reflects your values, whether or not you realize it.

And that’s the important part: whether you realize it or not. Unconsciously living according to someone else’s values is likely to cause you confusion and unhappiness down the road.

A values assessment is one of the first things I ask my clients to do. Understanding your values helps clarify what makes you happy and can lead to easier decision making. But first it’s important to make sure those values are actually yours.

We have a tendency to accept the values that were passed down to us by family, friends, the community where we grew up, etc. The messages about what’s right and what’s important are buried deep in our brains from an early age. This is normal—but—the values you grew up with might not be the ones that make you happy. If you aren’t satisfied in your life, compare what you value with how you are living. Examining your values can help you discover the core of what brings you fulfillment.

For example, a client of mine is incredibly creative and talented. However, creativity was not important in her family growing up; hard work was. It didn’t matter what she did, as long as she worked hard. Growing up on a farm, there was plenty of hard work to be done, but little attention and time for play, experimentation or creative pursuits. Her talents have languished in the pursuit of her parents’ values. Furthermore, the emphasis on hard work negated her creativity and play, making it seem frivolous. As a result, she never got the chance to develop her natural talents and live experiment with what was important to her.

It’s easy for us to adopt our parents’ values, but our parents lived through a different time and might have passed along a belief system that support a set of values that actually aren’t serving us.

Which is why my client came to see me. She has a hard time figuring out “what she should be when she grows up” because she spent her childhood absorbing and living according to someone else’s values. No wonder it’s difficult for he