Lost in the stressors of our daily life, we often overlook the importance of self-reflection, interrupting our ability to understand our values.
Whether we call it a lack of time, energy, or motivation, the reason is the same for most of us.
Our limited awareness of our needs and values multiplies the challenge, making it difficult to understand or appreciate these integral parts of ourselves.
Societal norms, cultural expectations, and family dynamics shape our beliefs and values, sometimes diverting us from what we could be.
We reduce ourself to a mindless wanderer with no clear aim or purpose.
Ever-changing circumstances add complexity, and our changing needs and values require constant self-awareness and adaptation.
Social expectations create a disconnection between our true selves and the behaviors expected of us, making it difficult to discern our genuine needs and values.
The fear of exploring ourselves, facing uncomfortable truths or confronting aspects of our identity creates a barrier that provokes avoidance or resistance in the quest for self-knowledge.
To overcome these challenges, we need intentional self-reflection, and willingness to explore our inner world.
If your goal is to become the best version of yourself, you need valuable instruments for navigating the complexities of uncovering your values.
If you are having trouble identifying your values, this article is for you.
Today, I will guide you on how to identify and understand your values to provide clarity, purpose, and direction in your life.
Let’s start by defining values and addressing the million dollar question: Why is it so difficult to identify your values?
What Are Values?
Values are like shining stars in the dark night, guiding you on your life path and shaping your choices and actions.
When faced with tough decisions, your values are like mountains, standing firm and reminding you of what is important and right.
They serve as an internal compass, aiding in navigating life’s storms and finding purpose in each step you take.
You might be thinking, “I am unsure of my values”
Everyone has values, even if they are not consciously aware of them.
Values are deeply rooted in your beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors.
The One Million Dollar Question: Why is it so Hard to Identify your values?
If you find it hard to break a habit or keep repeating destructive patterns in your relationships, it could be because of one or more of the following factors:
You don’t know your what values are
I often encounter a pattern when I am coaching.
The majority do not possess a well-defined and distinct understanding of their own values, which consequently makes it difficult for them to distinguish between values and needs.
When they find that their values and needs are not being met, they often resort or relapse to harmful habits and behaviors to escape the resulting stress.
Furthermore, they tend to blur the line between goals, such as aspiring to become a nurse, or desiring a specific lifestyle, and what truly defines a core value.
Your values show in your actions, in what you strive for and what you consider important or virtuous.
They shape your identity and decisions and are manifested in the societal norms you embrace.
Needs are what you must have to survive and thrive.
Needs can be categorized into physical essentials, such as food, water, and shelter, as well as emotional and social necessities like love, belonging, and self-esteem.
Let us look at how needs differ from values.
There are two crucial things you must know about needs:
Knowing the difference between needs and values helps you make smarter choices, live in line with your beliefs, and create a life that meets your requirements and fulfills your values.
Ignoring your basic needs holds you back from growing and feeling good.
If you don’t feel safe or if your basic needs aren’t met, you can’t focus on value-driven aspects of your life such as relationships, self-esteem, and personal growth.
By understanding the difference between values and needs, you gain a better understanding of yourself and your values in life.
Identifying your values is hard, especially when they are deeply rooted in your behavior, making it tricky to articulate them.
When you consider a combination of factors like upbringing, experiences, and personal beliefs, it becomes even more challenging.
It takes time and a lot of self-reflection to explore and understand your values.
Values sometimes contradict each other.
For example, you value both independence and closeness, but find it difficult to decide which is more important in a situation.
It can be a source of frustration when values don’t align or aren’t clear.
If you recognise yourself in this behaviour, Practice being patient.
Societal expectations and norms influence your values.
There’s a delicate balance to be found between your own personal values and those that are shaped by the environment in which you live.
As the saying goes: “Your identity is determined by the five people you spend the most time with.”
When figuring out your values, the interplay between societal expectations and personal beliefs often complicates matters, making it even more challenging to understand your own values.
We and the world are in content change.
Some values change. What was important to you in the past may no longer be so once you are a parent.
It’s challenging to keep track of and accept changes in your own values.
If you experience difficulties in identifying your values, it’s helpful to give yourself time and space for reflection.
You can intentionally gain a deeper self-understanding by being open to self-exploration and experimenting with different values.
Why is it important to know your values?
Understanding your values is essential as they provide direction, help navigate life’s twists and turns, and contribute to shaping who you are.
Your values influence your priorities, relationships, and career choices.
The absence of values makes goal-setting difficult, because your values or lack of values determines what you aim for.
How I determine my values
The introspective process of determining your values followed by action is transformative.
The process of uncovering and understanding your personal values can be approached in various ways, with each method presenting its own set of possibilities and outcomes.
This is how I approach it.
I take the time to reflect on what is important in my life.
Just like life, I am constantly changing, which is why I make it a practice to return to this every three months.
I consider the principles and beliefs that guide my decisions and actions. What I value most in myself and others?
I journal about the things that I am grateful for and the things I want to develop.
It has become a habit for me to revisit and revise both my short-term and long-term goals.
This functions as a mirror for who I am and where I am headed.
It serves as a valuable opportunity for me to assess my alignment with my values and reconnect with my inner self.
Experiment and explore
I fail a lot, every day.
I push myself to different activities, situations, and relationships to gain a better understanding of what motivates and engages me.
One thing that I prioritize in my life is paying attention to the situations that bring me the most feelings of aliveness and satisfaction.
Review past choices
Reflecting on the decisions and choices I have made in the past is a valuable exercise that allows me to learn from my experiences.
This reveals what values and principles have influenced my decisions.
I realize the significance of certain things in different situations, while regrettably neglecting others.
I embrace conversations with my wife, where I ask about her perception of the values that I hold.
If you find yourself with no one to offer feedback, you can turn to the work of successful thinkers for valuable insights.
By exploring these different methods, I don’t sit around and wait for life to knock me down, but deliberately seek to develop a better understanding of my own values and how they shape my life.
The quickest way to get started in figuring out your values is to sit down with paper and pen and do some self-reflection.
I would like to share some questions that have proven helpful to both myself and my coaching clients in uncovering values.
- What is most important to you in life?
- What principles and beliefs guide your decisions and actions
- What are you willing to fight for or sacrifice?
- What things give you the most meaning and satisfaction in life?
- What are your priorities for career, family, and personal development?
- Which problems or issues in society engage you the most?
- What qualities do you most appreciate in other people?
- Which situations or conflicts of values make you feel the most frustrated or uncomfortable?
- What goals and dreams do you have for your future, and how do they relate to your values?
By reflecting on and answering these questions, you gain a better understanding of your own values and how they affect your input and output.
Books That Have Helped Me Clarify My Values:
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
- Values Clarification: A Handbook of Practical Strategies by Sidney B. Simon, Leland W. Howe, and Howard Kirschenbaum
- Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl