What Are Values? How to Live By Them?

At times, we all wonder what are values and how to live by them?

To explain simply, values are personal beliefs that are important to a person, and they are the influences that shape individual characteristics and behaviors. People have different motivations and decision-making abilities in accordance with their values.

For a person believing in integrity, it would be against professional ethics to sleep while on guard duty, while for others, it might be a widely followed practice. A person might value kindness and go on to donate half his/her salary for patients affected by the pandemic whereas another person might criticize the healthcare system and pin the blame on systemic inconsistencies. Our actions are guided by our values and beliefs and they can differ greatly.

Despite the differences, values are crucial because a person feels better and lives a more satisfying life when he/she is able to live as per personal values whether it is daily life decisions or major choices.

What are your personal values?

To find the answer, you need to start by looking inwards and asking yourself, “what makes me happy?” Before you say ‘chocolates’, let’s make it clear that values are not an object, but, traits and beliefs. Get a pen and paper and write down the answers to the following questions:

  1. What matters to you in life?
  2. If there were no financial concerns, what career would make you happy?
  3. What inspires you?
  4. What makes you irritated or angry?
  5. What do you want to change about yourself?
  6. What do you want to change about the world?
  7. What makes you proud?

Writing honest answers to these questions will help you identify your personal values. Relying on creative thinking and gut feelings to find the answers will be helpful in the process. The process of identification might be shorter or longer depending upon your choices but here is a list of the commonly held values by people all over the world:

  • Achievement
  • Adventure
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Dependability
  • Determination
  • Friendship
  • Health
  • Honesty
  • Independence
  • Integrity
  • Intelligence
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Learning
  • Love
  • Peace
  • Security
  • Sincerity
  • Success
  • Understanding
  • Wealth

How to live with values and base your decisions on them

Finding out about ideals is one thing, but if they are not incorporated into daily life, they are meaningless. Here is how you can do that and reap benefits from your values.

Use your values to set life’s vision

We all love to look at the big picture. You must find out if you are living the way you wish and is your career a manifestation of your values. You might love to travel and seek out adventure but might be working a boring nine-to-five desk job. If your career choice doesn’t make you happy then there is a reason to analyze. It is a bad idea to let go of your values for short-term gains. Note your values down and use creating thinking to visualise all the various kinds of possibilities.

Make your values the basis of your decisions

Not only the life’s goals, but, even everyday choices of what to eat and wear are also reflective of a person’s values. If compassion and kindness are your values then you must analyze whether you are kind to people, compassionate towards living beings and empathetic in behaviour. It may not always be easy to do so but practice can make you successful. You can try the following steps:

  • Reiterating your values every morning upon waking up
  • Visualizing your day and your actions/responses in sync with your values
  • Keep printouts and written sheets of your values near you at all times
  • Put the list of your values as a background to your smartphone and computer screens.
  • Regularly analyze your behaviour and take corrective steps if you stray from your values

Regularly focusing on your values, setting priorities and goals is the first step. Slowly, but, surely you will learn to live by your values and make them your lifestyle!