“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”
– Roy Disney
If I was to ask you what are your values, would you know what they are? And more importantly, would you know how to utilise them?
When it comes to Happiness, understanding your values is a fundamental building block. Your values influence your behaviours, your choices and your emotions. Your values influence your habits, your lifestyle and your social experiences. Your values are your motivators and give you purpose for getting up in the morning. When asked the above question, most responses I hear are pretty vague, people have to think them through or people just say things that they think are their values or that they want their values to be as they are seen as desirable traits to have. But are the values that you want to have really your values?
This is a two part series as it’s such a broad topic and I want to ensure it captures all the essential elements. Part one will focus on the explanation of values and the benefits of understanding your personal values. Part two will focus on how to elicit your values and utilize them for goal-setting and decision making.
So what are values? Values are such a broad topic and can’t really be summed up in a single sentence, but put simply, your values represent what is important to you. As mentioned above, they are the driving force behind why you get up in the morning, the choices you make and why you behave the way you do. Examples of values are success, honesty, belonging and health. Some people suggest that other activities such as reading, swimming or socialising are values, however these would be symptoms of your values. For example, if you feel reading is a value, it is probably more accurate to assume that your actual value is learning, or relaxing or something of a similar nature. Think about the actual reason as to what it that led you to read? Similar to swimming, is this truly your value or is it that you value health, wellbeing or success? Perhaps you socialise while swimming and your true value is friendship. These are the reasons that made you choose to go swimming. Understanding exactly what it is that you value is the perfect starting point for understanding your self and understanding your motivators.
Benefits of understanding your values
If you want to gain tremendous clarity around your life, your decisions, what matters most to you and ultimately live a happy and successful life, then understanding your values is fundamental. Ultimately, through understanding your values you will be able to prioritise effectively, make consistent decisions and take action in a way that leads you to success and happiness in the areas you pursue.
Why does this matter? For three primary reasons:
1) Time is the most limited resource
2) Our decisions are often inconsistent with our goals
3) You want to achieve awesome Happiness
Firstly, time is a limited resource. The fact that you’re reading this suggests to me that you are wanting to maximize your life, an outcome of maximizing your time. Understanding your values and prioritizing helps you achieve this. Secondly, the decisions you make are far more consistent when you understand your values. When you know what is most important to you, you can prioritise and make consistent decisions to progress you towards your goals. Thirdly, you are on a journey of Starting the Happiness in your own life and in the lives of others. If you want to achieve success and happiness, understanding your values is a sure-fire way of gaining tremendous focus and clarity of your goals, and through clear prioritization and consistent decisions, you will get there, faster.
When you are not in harmony with your values
”Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
There is something I left out of the benefits above, simply because I feel it deserves a section all to itself.
Happiness is and ought to be our ultimate end.
When you make choices that are in line with your values, you experience harmony, a feeling that leads to satisfaction and happiness. Re-read that quote above by Mahatma Gandhi, the preeminent leader of India who inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world. This quote sums up how the heart, mind, body and soul work in unison. The heart is what represents your values, the things that are most important to you. When other parts of our being are not aligned to our values (eg we make a different choice or we take a different path) we experience dis-harmony which can lead to feelings of frustration, confusion, guilt, emptiness or unhappiness.
Lets look at an example. Some readers may value their health. If this is a strong value for you then how do you feel after going to a birthday afternoon tea and instead of opting for the healthier options, you realise that you have stuffed yourself with sweet slices, fluffy cupcakes, sugar-coated lollies and soft-drinks. I’m pretty sure you would be feeling a strong sense of guilt, perhaps angry with yourself about your choice. You immediately get a sense that something is ‘wrong’. You’re experiencing dis-harmony. This feeling would differ depending on how strong you value your health.
Taking another example. Let’s say you value fairness. How would you feel if you had one gift to giveaway between two people who needed it most. It would be an extremely tough choice for you because no matter your decision, one person will miss out. You will experience feelings of uneasiness as this goes against your values.
When you experience dis-harmony between your values and your behaviours, subconciously you will automatically take action to correct the situation and rectify your feelings. The person who ate themselves silly at the birthday afternoon tea might make the decision to hit the gym and sweat even harder during their next session or set themselves up on a new diet. This will realign their decisions and actions with their values. The person who gave the gift to one person may go out of their way to do something for the other person to ensure harmony between their values and actions.
The more clarity you have of your values the more rapidly you can identify why you are experiencing dis-harmony and realign yourself to feelings of happiness. Ultimately, understanding your values helps you make choices to experience congruency, success and happiness.
Do you ever get the feeling of dis-harmony? Do you recognise this feeling when it occurs? What do you do that ensures you actions and behaviours are in line with your values? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Now that you understand what are values and why they are important, do you actually know what your values are? In part two you will have the opportunity to elicit your values and look into how to best utilize them for goal-setting and decision-making.
Before heading to part 2, I highly recommend you gain access to our free toolkit which provides you with a range of free, bonus strategies and tools for helping you live more successful, fulfilled and happy. You can gain instant access by completing the below.