Few things are more useful than knowing your personal values. Knowing your values will give you clarity and focus. Your values define who you are at the core of your being and shape your behavior.

Your values can be used to define your priorities, as well. These priorities determine how to best spend your time and energy. Recognizing your values streamline your life and efforts. Decisions become easier to make.

One of the most common causes of stress and anxiety is the disconnect between your core values and your behavior. If honesty is one of your core values and you’re pressured to submit unauthorized items on your expense report as business expenses, honesty should cause you to reject that behavior. Your decision should be clear.

However, if you claim honesty as one of your values, but feel comfortable submitting false claims, could it be that honesty is not a priority? Despite your words to the contrary, your behavior conveys your true values. As the old adage goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” What do your actions say about you?

How do you know if you are living your values? Do the values you portray represent the best version of you? It may be time to conduct a self-check.

It’s almost impossible to be happy and fulfilled if you spend most of your days living a life that isn’t aligned with your values.

First, you must know your values. You may assume you know your values because of the associations you’ve made — i.e., business groups, political parties, charities, faith communities, etc. Many of us make the connections mindlessly as part of a lifestyle, as opposed to a conscious intention based on our values.

For example, your family may have a history of supporting a particular nonprofit organization for the past four generations. You’re expected to do the same. Do you know what that organization currently stands for? Do you agree with it? Has the organization’s work become stale and ineffective? Do you find yourself embarrassed when your name is linked to it?

Now is the time to determine your values. Make a list. Write them all down, even the seemingly small ones. If the value means anything at all to you, put it on the list. Prioritize your list.

Prioritize your list. It doesn’t matter if you have 100 values or just 10. Put them in order from the most important to the least.

Reexamine your list. Decide if you’re happy with it. Does it describe who you are or who you want to be? Consider the life you want to live. Will those values take you there? Reorder your list as appropriate.

Use your values to choose a career or hobby. Suppose your top values were compassion, contribution, and peace. A career in investment banking may not be the best fit, but working with a charitable nonprofit or ministry could be more rewarding.

Does your current career align with your values? If not, what can you change today to begin to move in the direction of one that does? Using the previous example, perhaps you can volunteer on weekends as you start the process of making a transition.

It’s almost impossible to be happy and fulfilled if you spend most of your days living a life that isn’t aligned with your values.

Create habits aligned with your values. Suppose one of your highest values is health. It makes sense to have eating and exercise habits that support that value. Examine your list of values and determine if your current habits support those values. What habits can you do more consistently? List the habits that are counter to your values so you can make the appropriate changes.

Choose the people you allow in your life. Despite your independence, the people in your life influence your thoughts, decisions, and behavior. Spend less time, if possible, with those who pull you away from your values. Spend more time with those who reinforce your values. You can minimize the negative family members or co-workers you cannot remove from your life by increasing the strength of your values. Be true to who you are.

Make decisions with your values in mind. Your values define who you are. Knowing your values makes decisionmaking easier. Imagine you’ve been offered a large raise, but the new position will cause you to spend less time with your family. That would be a hard decision for many people. If your primary value is wealth, the solution is obvious. If your primary value is family, the solution is also obvious. Use your values as a guide.

Learn your values. Live your values. Be intentional and keep them in focus when making decisions. You’ll be able to make the decisions that are right for you easier and more quickly. You will enjoy greater peace and happiness because you’ll be in alignment with yourself.

Got questions about defining your values? Contact me and let’s talk about it.