Having values in life is a core component of personal development. Our values dictate how we think, how we speak, and how we act. They can even help to bring us together on both a personal and a societal level. If you want to grow as an individual, you need to understand your core values and act according to your own unique belief system.
What are Values?
Values are how we define our lives, giving us a framework for ethical decision making and defining ourselves as human beings. Our values guide both our personal choices and the actions that we take as a society.
When we value quality, it’s because we see it as beneficial to ourselves and toward the greater good. Our values are what help us to grow as a person and create a better world for those around us.
As many of us have a complex system of values, we often prioritize the things that mean the most to us. For example, while most people value their career, it’s not uncommon for people to place their family first when forced to make a choice.
Where Do We Get Our Values?
We rarely create our own value system from thin air. Instead, we learn what’s important in life based on what we observe and experience. From birth, our concept of the world is shaped by how we interact with it.
For most of us, our values change as we grow older. While babies and toddlers take most cues from their parents, once we start school, we begin to absorb values from friends, teachers, and mentors. With age, we become more independent in our thoughts and better able to shape a solid moral foundation.
What we choose to place importance on is often what we know will gain approval from friends, loved ones, and the greater community. Humans thrive best within a social structure, and we’re hard-wired to ensure that we aren’t ostracized for our own physical and mental wellbeing.
By living with a value system that’s in line with the beliefs of others, you ensure that you gain communal approval. Whether you’re part of a specific culture, class, or religious body, the people you spend time with will have a significant impact on how you see the world.
The Types of Values
We all have a complex value system that helps to dictate the choices that we make in our daily lives. While no two people have the exact same values, we all share similar ideals on a personal, professional, and societal level.
What you value as an individual is a critical component to shaping your mind, your ideals, and your interests. Your personal values reflect what you consider important and play a major role in how you choose to live your life.
For many people, personal values revolve around self-actualization and personal achievement. Some find that religion fulfills this purpose, while others find individual value in art, philosophy, theater, and other creative pursuits.
While self-actualization is undoubtedly an important part of personal growth, humans are social creatures. We crave connection and interaction with others, whether they’re friends, family, or a significant other.
Each person has different qualities that they value in a relationship, which they often show in one of five love languages. For the most part, however, we all seek honesty, trust, selflessness, and kindness in others.
Our values can extend beyond our immediate personal life and encompass a greater good. Many people find fulfillment in being part of a group, whether that means a professional work team, a local community, or even a casual club.
Regardless of the circumstances, group values often revolve around teamwork and productivity. In certain settings, you may also consider financial growth and networking as core group values.
On the largest scale, many of us live by societal values. We work to sustain not only ourselves but also the others around us. Striving toward a greater goal helps to bring us together and create a healthy, functioning society.
Societal values can be vastly different between countries, cities, and even communities. However, in general, societal values focus on creating a better world for future generations. Nowadays, many societies value qualities such as altruism, environmental awareness, and sustainable living.
Discovering Your Values
Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to define your core values. Though you can ask for the advice of others and find inspiration online, nobody else can tell you where your beliefs lie. It’s up to you to put in the work to learn about your own value system. There are several different ways that you can analyze your beliefs and figure out what matters the most to you.
Think About Who You Admire
We often choose our role models based on values of which we may not even be consciously aware. Consider who you respect most in your life, whether that might be a parent, a teacher, a friend, or even a public figure. Then ask yourself: why do you admire that person?
Often, thinking about why we look up to a person can tell us a good deal about who we are and what we value. Try writing down a list of the most important five people in your life, and why you admire them so much. You may begin to notice some common qualities that are important to you.
By recognizing what you appreciate about others, you can work toward bettering yourself. If you tend to gravitate towards honest individuals, for example, you should aim to become more trustworthy yourself.
Conversely, you can also consider people who you aren’t fond of, and what it is that you don’t like about them. If you figure out what beliefs and values you disagree with, you can make sure that you don’t act in a way that will cause you shame or stress.
Consider Highlights in Your Life
Identifying the times that you were happiest or proudest in your life can give you a clearer picture of what matters the most to you. Think back to the high points in both your personal and professional life and consider what factors made the event so special. It may have been who you were with, or it could have been what you were doing at the time.
If you begin to notice some common themes among your favorite moments, it’s probably due to your core value system. For example, a family-oriented person would most likely think back to memories of time with their children. A work-oriented person, on the other hand, may remember job accomplishments more fondly.
Though it may seem a simple concept, far too many of us get too wrapped up in the outside world to focus on what’s happening inside our heads. To determine your values, you have to be consciously aware of yourself and your actions.
Each day, pay attention to what you say, how you act, and the decisions that you make. By taking a step back and observing yourself from an outside perspective, you can get a better grasp on who you are as a person and what core values drive you.
Observing yourself can also help you to identify problem behaviors such as hypocrisy. If you notice a pattern of you acting in a way that you find upsetting or immoral, you can give yourself a chance to become a better person.
See a Professional
If you’re struggling to define your values, you may benefit from the help of a trained professional. A psychologist or psychiatrist will often be able to help you delve into the very foundation of your personality and unearth the core values by which you should be living your life.
If you’re having trouble succeeding in the professional sphere, a career counselor can help you to figure out what you want from your job. These individuals have a whole cache of tools at their disposal designed to help you think critically about your beliefs and figure out where your priorities lie in the workplace. A career counselor may even be able to help direct you down a more appropriate path if you’re not happy in your current position.
Why Do Values Matter?
It’s important to know what you value in life and to stick with your principals when challenged. If you don’t live according to your values, you may find that stress can take a toll on your mental and even physical health. While it isn’t always easy, living according to your values is a vital part of the human experience for a number of reasons.
Gain Respect for Yourself and Others
If you don’t respect yourself, you can’t expect others to do so for you. One of the best ways to earn your own self-respect is by living according to your values. You can be confident in the decisions that you make and don’t have to worry about being labeled a hypocrite.
You have to be able to clearly communicate your values to others to gain their respect. Talking about your values will not only help to solidify your beliefs but also give others a clear insight into your life.
By helping your loved ones to understand what matters most to you, you’ll be able to build up a strong, mutual respect for each other. Don’t be afraid to state when something makes you uncomfortable or if you don’t agree with a communal decision. State your values clearly and be consistent.
Make Wise Decisions
Your decisions are a direct reflection of the values that you hold closest to your heart. Whenever you’re having a tough time making a choice, you can always turn to your core values for guidance. You’ll be able to make good decisions quickly and easily, and there’s little risk that you’ll end up regretting your choice in the long run.
If you’re expected to act in a way that doesn’t align with your values, don’t be afraid to speak up. Be firm about what you believe, and don’t allow yourself to compromise your integrity for anything, whether that means companionship, money, a promotion, or more.
Further Your Career
When you know what you value, it’s easier to create achievable career goals for yourself. If you feel that you’re stagnating at the office, consider and prioritize what you value most at work. For example, while some people place value on personal recognition for accomplishments, others are more interested in pay raises or even forming work relationships.
Knowing how much importance you place on different values can help you to come up with a career path that will bring you fulfillment. Instead of working towards the goal that you’ve been told to aim for, you can work towards something meaningful to you as an individual.
Identifying your values may even help you to change career paths. If your current job doesn’t align with your beliefs, there’s a good chance that you won’t be happy working your way up through the company. Instead, you can search for a new job and have confidence that you’ll enjoy it more.
Enjoy Living Life
Far too often, we get caught up in trying to live what we consider the perfect life. Social media platforms have only compounded on the issue. It can be easy to feel unhappy with your life when you see posts from friends and family members who appear to have it all together.
Of course, enjoying your life isn’t as simple as posting beach selfies and food photos. People tend to post only their best moments on social media, leaving out difficult yet defining moments of their life. Comparing yourself to what you see on your Facebook feed will only leave you feeling like you’re trailing behind your peers.
Instead, focus on the values that are important to you to find fulfillment in life. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to live the same life as your loved ones to be happy. Figuring out your priorities is the first step to reducing stress and making the most out of every day.
Connect With Others
One of the best ways to form a bond with a new friend is through shared values. We tend to get along well with other like-minded individuals who are following similar goals in life to our own.
Sharing core beliefs is an important component of any relationship, whether it be personal, professional, or romantic. While shared interests can help to strengthen a bond, it’s possible to have a healthy relationship with someone who doesn’t share your passions.
Shared values, on the other hand, are necessary for a healthy relationship to function. If you and your spouse differ in your views on money, for example, handling household finances will likely be a stressful affair. You should make important values clear early on in any relationship, or you may be in for conflict down the road.
One of the best ways to meet others who share your values is by joining a club or special interest organization. Many people meet friends who share their beliefs through religious services, but there are also plenty of other ways to find like-minded individuals in your area.
You can search social media platforms or online meetup sites to find out about get-togethers that revolve around your interests and beliefs. Many community centers also run weekly programs and events for people of all ages to find new friends.
It can be easy to lose focus in life, especially when you don’t have a clear goal in mind. Acknowledging your values can help you to stay motivated at home and work.
Your values can help you to set reasonable personal and professional goals to work toward, giving you a stronger sense of purpose in life. When we have an end goal in mind, it’s easier to stay focused on the task at hand.
With goals that are in line with your beliefs, you can remind yourself that even on your worst days, you’re still moving forward. What’s more, you don’t have to worry about compromising your integrity. You can rest easy, knowing that every decision you make brings you one step closer to your ideal self.
Develop a Sense of Self
It can be challenging to come to terms with who you are if you’re not sure what you stand for. Knowing your values can help to strengthen your personality and create a sense of self-confidence. You’ll be more comfortable in your own skin, and better able to communicate your needs and desires to others.
When you know what’s important to you, you don’t have to waste time worrying about how to think or act. You also won’t have to waste energy trying to impress people who aren’t worth your time. Knowing yourself makes it easier to recognize toxic influences in your life while attracting other like-minded individuals.
Eliminate the Unnecessary
If you know what you value, you don’t have to waste time stressing about the things that you don’t. Identifying your core values allows you to clear the clutter from your life without guilt. If you find that you value a healthy lifestyle, for example, you can clear the junk food from your pantry and feel better about your meal choices.
By eliminating the unnecessary from your life, you’ll save yourself time, energy, and stress in the long run. Doing this will also free you up to focus more on the things that you do value, whether that means spending more time with the family or putting in extra hours at the office to get your next promotion.
Core Values to Live By
While none of us have the exact same set of beliefs, there are a couple of core values that span across age, gender, ethnicity, and even culture.
If you work to make life better for those around you, they’ll respond in kind. Valuing kindness is universal, and you can see countless examples of people helping each other out every day.
You should aim to treat others as you wish to be treated. Valuing kindness is a crucial part of being a productive member of society. The next time that you have an opportunity to help another in need don’t hesitate to take it.
Bravery is another value that most people admire. Having courage doesn’t necessarily mean being fearless or reckless, however. It’s about doing what you believe is right regardless of the potential consequences.
While many of us value courage, it’s not always easy to show bravery when push comes to shove. It may require you to step outside your comfort zone. However, standing up for yourself and your beliefs will help you to feel at peace with yourself.
Most people would agree that they don’t like those who come across as phony. Authenticity is always an admirable trait and can make others more at ease with you in both a professional and a social setting.
Many of us tend to act differently around different peer groups, whether consciously or not. If you value honesty, it’s always best to act as your true self in any situation, regardless of whether you’re with family, coworkers, or even complete strangers.
You should also aim always to tell the truth, even when it makes you uncomfortable. Not only will you spare yourself stress and guilt, but others will admire your integrity.
When something is bothering you, it can be easy to overreact and snap. However, nobody likes to be treated as a burden. Valuing patience will help you to maintain healthy relationships at home and in the workplace.
The next time that you’re irritated with somebody, try taking a moment to place yourself in their shoes. Treat them with kindness and respect, and help them to learn how to resolve a given issue themselves.
When we enter adulthood, there’s a certain expectation that we’ll act responsibly. Most people respect those that take responsibility for their actions by admitting to wrongdoings and accepting the consequences.
Valuing responsibility doesn’t just encompass owning up to mistakes. You should also take control of your life and actively work to change what you don’t like. In most cases, only you have the power to change your situation, and others will respect you more for doing so.
Humans are curious by nature. We’re driven to learn about the world around us, and for most, this is a lifelong pursuit. We should embrace our curiosity and treat it as a way to become better people.
While you may not always understand what you learn, exposing yourself to a wide range of experience will undoubtedly expand your worldview. Trying out new things is one of the most exciting parts of the human experience, and should always be encouraged at any age.
It isn’t always easy to forgive others after wrongdoing, but forgiveness is an important value to hold. Letting go of resentment is as much for your own peace of mind as that of another.
Forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily mean giving them a pass on poor behavior. You can still acknowledge that you’ve been hurt, but choose to be the bigger person and forgive whoever has wronged you.
Don’t forget that a part of forgiveness is knowing when to forgive yourself. Many of us can be harder on ourselves than others, and it isn’t always easy to reconcile our thoughts and actions. However, if you value forgiveness, you need to know how to let go of anger directed at yourself.
When somebody shows you kindness, you should make them aware of your appreciation. Gratitude is an important value that’s pressed on most of us from a young age.
Never assume that someone knows how thankful you are for their help. Always make a point of telling them. Even a simple “thank you” shows that you appreciate what someone else has done for you.
Many of us are much better at talking than we are at listening. However, learning to listen can help you to gain the respect of others and improve relationships in your life.
If you value listening, you should aim to be silent when others are speaking. Ask the occasional question to show that you’re invested in the conversation, and try to make interactions positive. It’s also a good idea to make suggestions when appropriate.
Living Life According to Your Values
Throughout our lives, our values shape who we are as individuals. However, it isn’t always easy to define our beliefs. By carefully observing yourself and others, you can gain a greater sense of what matters most to you, whether that means your career, your family, or other passions.
Knowing your values is a vital part of growing as a person. When we follow our beliefs, we’re happier, healthier, and less stressed than when we allow ourselves to compromise our integrity.
While some values are universal, each of us has a completely unique belief system. You should never allow someone else to tell you which values to live by. Instead, take the time to figure out what you stand for, and do your best to live your life and set your goals accordingly.