What does the word value mean to you? Can you define it?

Values are what you believe matter most in life. Everyone’s values are different. Some common values are love, success, friendship, intelligence, and respect.

As children, our parents and teachers pass values on to us and we live our lives based on what they’ve taught us is important, be that kindness, friendship, listening, etc. But as adults we must determine what is of most value to us on our own. Some of the values from childhood may stay the same, but you may realize that others have become increasingly more important as you have grown and changed. Tolerance, gratitude, and family, for example, may be of huge significance to you now.

So, without further ado, here are 8 benefits of identifying your values.

1. Values help you find your purpose.

Have you already figured out the purpose of life? If not, as is the case for most of us, values can help answer the all-encompassing question, “What is my purpose in life?” You can’t expect to know what you want out of life if you don’t know what is important in life. Knowing what you value gets you that much closer to an answer. Think about it.

2. Values help you react in difficult situations.

Values are guiding principles for behavior. They can help ensure you behave in a way that matches who you want to be at your core. People often react quickly in situations, especially difficult ones, and they don’t always take the time to think about what they are doing before they do it. You can use your values to reflect on situations, too, to decide, for example, if you need to apologize for something. What a helpful little tool!

3. Values help you make decisions.

When you come across the need to make a decision, your values can help you make the right call. Sometimes emotions get in the way of good decision making, but if you stop to ask yourself, “What would someone who values X do in this situation?” then you just might be able to come to a more clearheaded, less emotionally-affected decision.

4. Values help clear out clutter.

Do you ever want to eliminate excess baggage from your life? Identifying your values will help you rule out the things you really do not want, need or believe are important. People are consumed with so much these days. Weed the time- and energy-wasting things out of your life!

5. Values help you choose the right career.

All career paths come with pros and cons, we know that. But when you know what matters most to you, you can be sure you are choosing the right career path. If you value connection, interaction, and friendship, for example, then it’s possible a work-at-home job may not be a good fit for you. On the other hand, if you value travel, wealth, and conversation, then maybe a traveling sales job is perfect for you. Sometimes knowing your values can even help you determine if a promotion is the best idea for you. Who knew saying no to a promotion could be a good idea?

6. Values help you develop a sense of self.

Knowing your values means you can develop strong opinions about important subjects. You don’t want to just believe what your parents believed. You can’t just say you believe you what your friends believe. You need to figure out what you truly believe, and then you can share your honest self with others. This is important!

7. Values help increase your confidence.

Identifying your values increases your level of confidence because it brings about a sense of stability and safety to your life. When you know what you want, it doesn’t matter what other people want. When you know what is important to you, it doesn’t matter what is important to other people. This will naturally bring a sense of confidence to your life.

8. Values help your overall happiness level.

If you combine the results from benefits one though seven, then you have likely improved your life. You’ve developed a purpose, reacted better in difficult situations, made good decisions, found the right career, developed opinions, and increased your confidence. It’s fair to say you might just feel a little happier!

If you’ve never identified your values before, here’s a quick how-to guide to get you going on your process.

Make a big list of values (love, achievement, trust, compassion, wealth, honor, appreciation, etc.) or use a page like this. You can set a timer if you want, but it’s not necessary. As you read through, circle the ones that pop out at you—the ones that you feel are part of you. You can mark as many as you’d like at the start, but after you have your initial list, try to cross off the ones that don’t seem quite as important to you. Aim to get the list down to 10 or 15 values. Put these in order of importance if you can. Ta-da! Now you have your Top 10 (or 15) values. Don’t worry, though, values are not static. They change and evolve with us as we grow.

Here are my ever-evolving Top 10 values as of February 2014: love, family, personal development, integrity, honesty, acceptance, gratitude, laughter, kindness, and education.

What are yours?

Featured photo credit: al shep via flickr.com

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