What’s so important about values? Defining your best self!
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Most people are unsure or unaware of their values. That’s when life can go off at a tangent. Learn what’s so important about values in developing your best self, and why you should care.
Live with intention
Do you want to live with more intention, and be the best person you can? To know what’s important to you and where you’re headed? If so, knowing your values is the first step. It can help you achieve more meaningful goals and live the life you want.
What are values?
Values can’t be seen or touched. They’re abstract concepts or ideas. Think of them as principles or ideals you’d stand up for, such as equality, tolerance, persistence or honesty.
What’s so important about values?
Values are important for many reasons. Following your values makes it far more likely that you’ll live with intention, and develop the life that you want. If you simply drift along with the crowd, you’ll never find out what you truly believe is worth striving for, or the type of meaningful activities that will make you feel fulfilled.
How values help you through life
1 Values act as standards
You can see values as ideals you’d like to reach. They form the code you live by, and can be used as a benchmark for your behaviour.
If you didn’t have any values at all, you’d live in a vacuum. You’d have no idea of right or wrong, or what’s worthwhile and what isn’t.
2 Values determine your choices
Even if you don’t realise it, your values affect everything you do. Every day, you make decisions based on your personal code. Think of the choices you’d make in these situations:
Letting a car into traffic or blocking them out.
Listening to your child or checking social media.
Giving a dropped $50 note to the owner or keeping it.
Snapping at colleagues or being polite.
Taking care of pets or neglecting them.
In each situation you choose how you act, and your values help you make those choices.
Let’s say you believe in the values of social harmony and caring for others. How would you act in the above situations?
Now, what about someone who only considers self-interest? You’d see a very different pattern of behaviour.
The choices you make, and therefore your behaviour, are driven by values much of the time. So the values you hold will determine if you’re living up to your best self. And that’s what’s so important about them and why you should care.
3 Values guide your actions
So values provide the direction to guide your actions. If you don’t know what your personal beliefs are, you’ll drift through life. You won’t know what is and isn’t important to you.
This may be why many people don’t set effective goals. They don’t know what they’re aiming for. They’re searching for something they can’t identify.
Over time, they coast from one thing to another, but never commit to anything.
If they do set goals, they’re not really what they want. That leads to disappointment and frustration.
So it’s important to define what’s important to you first, and then you’ll know what kind of person you want to be.
4 Values aid positive character development
We often assume values are always positive, such as respect, integrity and truth. Ideally, these lead to positive behaviours. If you hold these positive beliefs, you’ll usually treat others well.
However there can be a darker side. As mentioned above, some people are self-interested. They emphasise concepts like selfishness, greed or arrogance.
So be aware of the importance of values you or others hold. Gravitate towards good role models with positive ideals. That will make it easier for you to also hold similar views.
After all, we tend to become like the people we associate with or who we follow online. So make sure you’re associating with people whose values are in alignment with the type of person you’d like to be.
Challenge yourself to follow values that will lead to positive character development. Make sure you’re developing the best version of yourself that you can.
5 Values help with dilemmas
Dilemmas are tricky situations with no clear solutions. Sometimes it’s really hard to know what action to take. These dilemmas can crop up at any stage of life, and can cause a lot of emotional turmoil.
Let’s look at two common types of dilemmas.
a) Two good choices
The first is where you have two good alternatives, both equally appealing, to choose between.
Say you’ve been offered two great jobs at the same time. Your values can help define what you’re looking for in a job, which may make your decision a little easier.
Some factors that may affect your decision could relate to:
Satisfaction at work
If one job is more positive in these areas, that may help you make up your mind.
b) Two difficult choices
On the other hand, you may also face two equally unappealing choices. For example, two difficult and unpleasant treatment options for cancer.
At first glance, there may be little to choose between them.
However, some factors that affect your decision could relate to:
Quality of life during and after the treatment
Impact of treatment long-term mentally and physically
Medical research done in the area
Financial costs involved
Already having defined both your values and what’s most important in life makes such these decisions easier.
Of course, the process of deciding will still be confusing and worrisome. But at least you’ll have considered the most important factors. That will save some time and effort, and helps you make better decisions when it really counts.
6 Values help change your focus in life
Your focus in life may change over the years. What matters when you’re young may not matter later on. With experience and maturity, we often change our beliefs about what’s important.
However, this process is usually accompanied by a fair bit of soul-searching first.
For example, when you’re young, you may focus more on achievement. Later you may move towards wisdom, spirituality and connection to others. Or you may replace consumerism with values regarding sustainable living.
Being aware of how your values are changing can help refocus how you live your life.
Follow your own values
Lastly, it’s important to follow your own values. Sometimes you may follow someone else’s ideals, not your own. For instance, you may believe that you have little choice but to fall in with the values and lifestyle of your parents or partner.
If deep down, you don’t really agree with what they believe in, this will set up a sense of internal tension. You’ll feel you’re not being true to yourself, and may feel fragmented, confused and unsatisfied.
So it’s worth spending time thinking about these issues. Make sure you’re living your own life, and not just trying to make others happy, or avoid conflict.
Challenge yourself to choose values that lead to a life of meaning and fulfilment – that will lead to your best self.
No-one else can do it for you.