No two people have the same set of beliefs and it’s important to ask yourself, “What are my values?”
What do you believe in? What do you care about most? What are your ethics and morals?
These are all questions that relate to determining your values.
Figuring out what your values are can seem like an overwhelming task.
Even determining what counts under the umbrella of the term “values” is a difficult obstacle, so start by defining what goes into your system of values.
Merriam Webster defines the word “value” in many different ways. Most of the definitions involve how much importance, usefulness, or monetary worth something has.
Although the values we’re talking about are slightly different, that core idea of worth in relation to yourself is a good way to think about what values are.
Now that you’re thinking about value in reference to worth, apply those ideas to your beliefs and principles. Your values are your beliefs about what has worth and importance in society. Your values are also your morals and ethics. That’s to say how you define good and bad, or right and wrong.
Why do we have values and how do we come to define our unique set of values? How do we use our values? Answering these questions is the next step towards answering the larger question: “What are my values?”
Our values come from what’s most important to us. Because that varies a lot from person to person, there’s no right or wrong. Make sure you have your own defined set of values because we base our decisions on our values.
We have values for that exact reason and purpose: to help us make decisions on how we want to live, how we judge scenarios, etc. Even if you don’t have words for this criteria, you still use them every day.
You might be thinking, “I don’t know what my values are, or if I even have any.”
Even if you have never sat down and made a list of your principles, you have them and use them every day.
Have you ever been in a situation and decided not to do something because it felt wrong? Have you ever disagreed with someone on a social issue? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions that means you were using your values to make a judgement.
If you’re still having trouble pinpointing what your values are, consider taking some time to write down the aspects of your identity that inform your choices.
Start by establishing who you are. Your identity plays a strong role in determining your values. Your life experiences and the choices you have made shape your sense of right and wrong.
Think about how you describe your identity, and then consider how that might affect your beliefs. If you don’t know where to start, think about the broad categorizations of your identity.
Every culture has its own unique way of doing things. Whether your community is based around a religion, nationality, or locale, it’s likely that you share certain values with others in your circle.
Consider how your community does things and compare that to other communities. You will notice that no two communities do things the exact same way. These differences in ritual, relationship dynamics, history, etc. have an impact on your values.
We even associate certain values with different cultures.
For example, consider the expression, “southern hospitality.” I was raised in the American South, and it’s customary to be as polite as possible, even with strangers. This custom comes from a set of values. Specifically, the moral importance of being polite.
Your experience with your family also shapes your values. As you grow up, the people who take care of you have their own set of values. Values serve as a type of standard, and the people you grow up with each hold you to their own standards.
As you mature, their values affect your values, whether you think the same way they do or decide to go in a different direction. Either way, your values stem in part from how you were raised.
These are just a few parts of your identity that play a role in forming your values. You can also think about things like your education and your hobbies when trying to determine your moral code.
How you spend your time and what you prioritize can be a good indicator of what you may value.
Every experience we have shapes our beliefs. Now that you’re thinking about where your values come from and what they are, how can you apply them?
We have already talked a little about how we use our values in everyday life, but some concrete examples can help you answer the important question “What are my values?”
If you are a voter, you probably use your values when you are picking a candidate to support. You probably attempt to choose a candidate who has similar values to your own. The main reason we have political parties is because of the different things people choose to value and prioritize.
If you have kids or plan to have them someday, many of the decisions you make while raising them will stem from your values. As I mentioned earlier, values play a role in how we parent our children.
For example, teaching your kids the importance of generosity is enforcing a value. If you believe a value is important, you’ll want to pass it down to your children.
Your values can have a huge impact on your career. What you do and how you represent yourself to those you work with are determined by what your values are and how you choose to express them in your daily life.
If you find yourself feeling lost on your career path, take a moment to pause and ask yourself, “What are my values?”
Once you recognize the things that are important to you that you may be neglecting in your work life, you can adjust. This might mean starting your own business, or even simply tweaking how you behave and what you privilege at work.
When you start focusing your energy on what matters most to you, you can feel more fulfilled—on and off the clock.
Now that you know what values are and some examples, you should be able to determine your own.
It’s really important that you decide what your values are because it can help you determine how you live your life as a whole. Our diverse values contribute to constructive conversations and innovative ideas, in and out of the office.
Knowing your values allows you to champion what you believe in and dictate how you live your life. If you have a strong sense of your beliefs it’ll always be easy for you to make choices that reflect what matters most to you.
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LAWYER & ONLINE ENTREPRENEUR
After graduating from law school and passing the bar, I struggled to find work, pay my bills, and make ends meet. That's when I decided to take control of my future and start working for myself. Now, several years and a handful of companies later, I'm sharing how I launched a successful business, and how you can do it too.