Understanding Self – What are your Values?

What do you value? Family? Wealth? Fun? Adventure? Recognition?

Understanding what we value most is key to understanding ourselves and understanding how we can flourish. If you are consistently pursuing goals and activities which do not match your core values, then you may find your achievements feel empty rather than deeply satisfying.

One step towards flourishing is identifying your core values. Below is a list of common values. Take some time and identify the values which are most important to you. Most people identify between three and five.

I completed an activity like this about twelve years ago as part of a leadership course which completely changed my outlook on, and my direction in, life. Aligning your actions and goals to your values is deeply satisfying. So don’t rush, take some time to think through what really brings your joy and satisfaction in life.

 

Core Values

Authenticity              Friendships                     Poise
Achievement            Fun                               Popularity
Adventure                Growth                         Recognition
Authority                  Happiness                   Religion
Autonomy                 Honesty                      Reputation
Balance                     Humour                      Respect
Beauty                       Influence                    Responsibility
Boldness                   Caring                          Inner Harmony
Integrity                   Security                       Self-Respect
Compassion             Justice                          Service
Challenge                 Kindness                     Spirituality
Citizenship              Knowledge                  Stability
Community             Leadership                  Success
Competency            Learning                      Status
Contribution           Love                              Trustworthiness
Creativity                Loyalty                         Wealth
Curiosity                 Meaningful Work       Wisdom
Determination       Openness
Fairness                   Optimism
Faith                         Peace
Fame                        Pleasure

 

Looking through the list you will probably see values which seem quite foreign to you. That’s ok, it makes it easier to zero in on your core values. Others may seem ok others may seem almost but not quite right, but look for the three to five that really resonate with you. If you you still are having problems identifying your core values what are ask yourself the following questions

What gives me the most satisfaction? What would I struggle to live without?

For example, learning is one of my four core values as I couldn’t imagine not learning something new every day (hour?) of my life.

Once you have established your core values write them down somewhere, and whenever you need to make a decision consider which of your options best aligns with your list.

 

Further Resources

Understanding core values is an activity which I have seen included in a number of fascinating books, including Total Leadership by Stewart D. Friedman. (Hopefully I will get time to talk about more of Stewart’s book in another post).

 

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Five Factors to Flourish

In his book “Flourish” (how could I NOT read a book with that title!), Martin E.P. Seligman, describes 5 key elements which help us to flourish:

  • Experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling engaged
  • Having meaning
  • Experiencing accomplishment
  • Having positive relationships

Let’s look at these one by one.

 

Experiencing positive emotions

It probably seems rather obvious – if we experience positive emotions it puts us in a happy mental state where we achieve more and enjoy live. The challenge is that life isn’t always a series of Pollyanna sunshine moments. The trick is how do we maximise positive emotions and experiences in our lives while minimising our negative ones. There are a number of ways to do this. The Stoic approach to life is one I find personally useful. Learning not to take negative behaviour by others personally is another thing that has helped me. Taking pleasure in the little things every day, whether it be the sun on the back of your neck, a favourite food or smell, stepping into a warm room on a cold day – when appreciated fully these create a positive emotional experience.

 

Feeling Engaged

Feeling engaged means that you are doing something you enjoy. It is probably something which challenges you enough to keep you interested but doesn’t create too much stress. While you don’t have to enjoy everything you do, it is important that there are some things in your life which you find engaging. Ideally, you find at least some aspects of your job engaging, your relationships with others, your sports or hobbies. Looking forward to doing something signifies engagement. You may find that the things your are engaged with also connect to the next factor.

 

Having Meaning

The happiest people are often those who have worked out what they want to do with their life, i.e. they have worked out what gives their life meaning. Some people find this easier than others. It can be useful to use different tools to try and understand what gives our lives meaning – one good place to start is by identifying what our values are.

Identifying your core values is a start. Another thing to consider is that many people find meaning in doing something that contributes to the wellbeing of those around them or to the greater good of society in general.

 

Experiencing Accomplishment

Taking satisfaction in the tasks we accomplish every day, big or small, contributes to a happy life. It is important to take time to congratulation yourself on the things you accomplish, whether it is landing a new account at work, making a freshly laundered bed or doing something special for a friend.

If the idea of acknowledging your accomplishments seems foreign to you, try taking five minutes at the end of the day to identify three things you achieved during the day and how you contributed to the success. I predict you will find it boosts your happiness levels.

 

Having Positive relationships

No one is an island. Modern society connects use with hundreds if not thousands of people every year, either in person, or more often via media such as Facebook. Having some positive relationships has been demonstrated scientifically to contribute both to happier and longer lives. I’ve emphasised the word “some” in the previous sentence because it is not healthy to expect to have positive relationships with everyone. Sometime we have fleeting negative experiences with other people. Most often these a due to other things going on in their lives – so we should not blame ourselves or dwell on it. Sometimes we meet those who have such a negative effect on us we need to minimise our contact with them. Most of the time, however, if we approach others with a positive and thoughtful attitude we will get a positive experience back.

 

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