A Guide to Discovering Your Values

12 November 2023
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Understanding your values is essential for a more satisfying and meaningful life, and recognizing the difference between values and opinions can save time and suffering.

Lack of clarity is often a source of suffering.

Values and opinions are distinct concepts, and understanding the differences between them is half of the work in uncovering your own values.

Let’s start with a breakdown of how they differ before moving on to discovering your values :


Inherent Beliefs

  • Definition: Values are deeply ingrained beliefs and principles that guide our behavior and decisions.

  • Origin: Often rooted in upbringing, culture, personal experiences, and moral or ethical frameworks.

  • Stability: Generally stable over time, forming a foundational aspect of one’s identity.


  • Commonality: Shared by individuals within a cultural or societal group, but specific values can vary between individuals.

  • Transcendence: Some values are considered universal, such as honesty, integrity, and compassion.

Impact on Behavior

  • Guiding Force: Values influence how we prioritize goals, make decisions, and interact with others.

  • Consistency: People often strive to align their actions with their core values for a sense of personal integrity.


Subjective Views

  • Definition: Opinions are personal viewpoints, thoughts, or judgments about a particular matter.

  • Subjectivity: Rooted in personal perspectives, experiences, and interpretations.

  • Variability: Can change based on new information, experiences, or shifts in personal beliefs.


  • Situational Nature: Opinions may vary depending on the context, circumstances, or specific details of a situation.

  • Open to Change: Subject to modification as individuals encounter different information or perspectives.

Expressive in Nature

  • Communication: Opinions are often expressed verbally or in written form to convey an individual’s stance on a given topic.

  • Debate and Discussion: Opinions can be the basis for debates and discussions, allowing people to share and exchange diverse viewpoints.

Key Differences

Basis of Formation

  • Values are deeply ingrained and rooted in fundamental beliefs and principles.

  • Opinions are formed based on personal interpretations, experiences, and perspectives.


  • Values are generally stable and enduring over time.

  • Opinions can be more fluid and subject to change based on new information or evolving perspectives.

Impact on Behavior

  • Values serve as a guiding force for behavior and decision-making.

  • Opinions are expressions of personal viewpoints and may not necessarily dictate actions.


  • Values can have a more universal quality, shared by individuals within a cultural or societal group.

  • Opinions are highly individualistic and may not be universally accepted.

While values are foundational beliefs that guide behavior and decision-making, opinions are subjective viewpoints that can evolve based on personal experiences and perspectives.

Knowing the difference between values and opinions is a fundamental aspect of self-discovery.

It creates a firm foundation for negotiating life’s complexities, forming well-informed decisions, and building genuine relationships with oneself and others.

This realization is a pivotal factor in the progression towards personal development and contentment.

Now let’s move on to the thought process that has helped me with self-discovery.

These steps are a starting point for you to uncover and embrace your core values.

Discovering Your Values

Now that you know the difference between values and opinions, it’s time for the next crucial step to a more fulfilling and authentic life.

Reflect on your experiences, identify key themes, and prioritize your values, until you start to gain insights into what truly matters to you.

Reflect on Your Experiences

Moments of Fulfillment and Challenge

  • Recall moments of fulfillment, pride, or satisfaction in your life.

  • Example: Achieving a personal goal, completing a challenging project.

  • Consider difficult times and how you navigated them.

  • Example: Overcoming a setback, coping with loss.

Find Your Guiding Principles

  • Reflect on the principles or beliefs that guided your decisions in those moments.

  • Examples: Dedication, resilience, and empathy.

Identify Main Issues and Needs

Analyzing Positive and Negative Experiences

  • Look for common themes or patterns in your positive and negative experiences.

  • Example: Positive – collaboration, Negative – lack of communication.

  • Examine different life aspects: relationships, work, personal development, and leisure.

  • Example: Positive – supportive relationships, Negative – unfulfilling work.

Unmet or Disrespected Needs

  • Identify needs that are not being met or respected in your experiences.

  • Example: Need for autonomy, respect for personal boundaries.

Ask Yourself Essential Questions

Prioritizing Values

  • What is most important to you in life?

  • Example: Authentic connections, personal growth.

  • What do you want to achieve in your personal and professional life?

  • Example: Career success, a sense of purpose.

Principles for a Fulfilled Life

  • What principles do you think are important for a fulfilled life?

  • Examples: Integrity, balance, gratitude.

  • What qualities do you admire in others?

  • Examples: Empathy, resilience, authenticity.

Put Your Values first

Prioritization and Non-Negotiables

  • Prioritize your values based on importance.

  • Example: Family over career, integrity over success.

  • Identify non-negotiable values that define who you are.

  • Examples: Honesty and compassion.

Consider Core Values

Fundamental Beliefs

  • Identify a set of core values that transcend specific situations.

  • Examples: Honesty, empathy, and continuous learning.

Explore External Influences

Cultural and Social Factors

  • Consider the values you’ve grown up with and cultural influences.

  • Example: Traditional values, societal expectations.

  • Reflect on whether these align with your personal beliefs.

  • Example: Reevaluate gender roles and redefine success.

Seek Feedback

External Perspectives

  • Ask close friends, relatives, colleagues, a coach, or a mentor for their perception of your values.

  • Example: “How do you see me handling challenges? What values do you think I prioritize?”

  • External perspectives can provide valuable insights.

  • Example: Discovering blind spots in your self-awareness.

Review and Revise

Dynamic Nature of Values

  • Acknowledge that values can change over time. Life is not a linear process.

  • Example: Shifting priorities with life stages.

  • Regularly review and evaluate your values.

  • Example: Quarterly reflections, life milestone assessments.

Embarking on this journey of self-discovery with an open mind and a willingness to embrace the values that truly resonate with you is a game changer.

Navigate through life, and let your values be your guiding light toward a more purposeful and authentic existence.

What is the first step you can take today?

Recommended Books for Further Exploration:

  • “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey

  • “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown

  • “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl

  • “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz

What is the first step you can take today?

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