When you define your personal values, you discover what's truly important to you. A good way of starting to do this is to look back on your life – to identify when you felt really good, and really confident that you were making good choices.
Step 1: Identify the times when you were happiest
Find examples from both your career and personal life. This will ensure some balance in your answers.
What were you doing?
Were you with other people? Who?
What other factors contributed to your happiness?
Step 2: Identify the times when you were most proud
Use examples from your career and personal life.
Why were you proud?
Did other people share your pride? Who?
What other factors contributed to your feelings of pride?
Step 3: Identify the times when you were most fulfilled and satisfied
Again, use both work and personal examples.
What need or desire was fulfilled?
How and why did the experience give your life meaning?
What other factors contributed to your feelings of fulfillment?
Step 4: Determine your top values, based on your experiences of happiness, pride, and fulfillment
Why is each experience truly important and memorable? Use the following list (at the end) of common personal values to help you get started – and aim for about 10 top values. (As you work through, you may find that some of these naturally combine. For instance, if you value philanthropy, community, and generosity, you might say that service to others is one of your top values.)
Step 5: Prioritize your top values
This step is probably the most difficult, because you'll have to look deep inside yourself. It's also the most important step, because, when making a decision, you'll have to choose between solutions that may satisfy different values. This is when you must know which value is more important to you.
Write down your top values, not in any particular order.
Look at the first two values and ask yourself, "If I could satisfy only one of these, which would I choose?" It might help to visualize a situation in which you would have to make that choice. For example, if you compare the values of service and stability, imagine that you must decide whether to sell your house and move to another country to do valuable foreign aid work, or keep your house and volunteer to do charity work closer to home.
Keep working through the list, by comparing each value with each other value, until your list is in the correct order.
If you have a tough time doing this, consider using Paired Comparison Analysis to help you. With this method, you decide which of two options is most important, and then assign a score to show how much more important it is. Since it's so important to identify and prioritize your values, investing your time in this step is definitely worth it.
Step 6: Reaffirm your values
Check your top-priority values, and make sure that they fit with your life and your vision for yourself.
Do these values make you feel good about yourself?
Are you proud of your top three values?
Would you be comfortable and proud to tell your values to people you respect and admire?
Do these values represent things you would support, even if your choice isn't popular, and it puts you in the minority?
When you consider your values in decision making, you can be sure to keep your sense of integrity and what you know is right, and approach decisions with confidence and clarity. You'll also know that what you're doing is best for your current and future happiness and satisfaction.
Making value-based choices may not always be easy. However, making a choice that you know is right is a lot less difficult in the long run.
Accountability Accuracy Achievement Adventurousness Altruism Ambition Assertiveness Balance Being the best Belonging Boldness Calmness Carefulness Challenge Cheerfulness Clear-mindedness Commitment Community Compassion Competitiveness Consistency Contentment Continuous Improvement Contribution Control Cooperation Correctness Courtesy Creativity Curiosity Decisiveness Democraticness Dependability Determination Devoutness Diligence Discipline Discretion Diversity Dynamism Economy Effectiveness Efficiency Elegance Empathy Enjoyment Enthusiasm EqualityExcellence Excitement Expertise Exploration Expressiveness Fairness Faith Family-orientedness Fidelity Fitness Fluency Focus Freedom Fun Generosity Goodness Grace Growth Happiness Hard Work Health Helping Society Holiness Honesty Honor Humility Independence Ingenuity Inner Harmony Inquisitiveness Insightfulness Intelligence Intellectual Status Intuition Joy Justice Leadership Legacy Love Loyalty Making a difference Mastery Merit Obedience Openness Order Originality PatriotismPerfection Piety Positivity Practicality Preparedness Professionalism Prudence Quality-orientation Reliability Resourcefulness Restraint Results-oriented Rigor Security Self-actualization Self-control Selflessness Self-reliance Sensitivity Serenity Service Shrewdness Simplicity Soundness Speed Spontaneity Stability Strategic Strength Structure Success Support Teamwork Temperance Thankfulness Thoroughness Thoughtfulness Timeliness Tolerance Traditionalism Trustworthiness Truth-seeking Understanding Uniqueness Unity Usefulness Vision Vitality