How to identify your values: 6 tips for a more fulfilling life

How to identify your values

In this article on how to identify your values, I offer useful advice on how to identify them, live in coherence with your priorities, and improve the quality of your daily life at work and in your private life.

Discover my tips now!

What are values?

Values are the principles that guide our lives, our choices, and our actions. They are the foundations on which we build our existence and determine our personal and professional fulfillment.

Why is it important to identify your values?

Identifying your values is essential for several reasons:

Clarify our priorities: by recognizing the values that are most important to us, we can set our priorities more clearly and consistently.
Making aligned decisions: when we know our values, it becomes easier to make decisions that are in line with our convictions and aspirations.
Living in harmony: knowing our values helps us to live in peace with ourselves and others, avoiding internal conflicts and regrets.
Self-fulfillment: by acting according to our values, we achieve greater fulfillment and find meaning in our lives.

In short, identifying personal values is the key to greater fulfillment and a truly successful life.

How to use your values to make decisions

Here are a few tips for using your values to make decisions:

  • Evaluate the importance of each value: determine which values are most important to you in a given situation and give them proportional importance.
  • Compare options: evaluate different options in terms of how they match your values.
  • Be honest with yourself: acknowledge your emotions and fears, but don’t let them dominate your decisions. Instead, base your decisions on your values.
  • Learn from your mistakes: if a decision doesn’t match your values, learn from it and adjust your future choices accordingly.

To go further on the subject of decisions, I invite you to read my article on how to make decisions.

Tips on how to identify your values

1 – Make a list of values

The first step in identifying your values is to draw up a list of potential values.

You can draw inspiration from the list of universal values proposed by Schwartz (1992).

These values are considered universal because they are shared by different cultures and societies around the world.

Schwartz’s value theory is a social psychology theory that identifies ten universal values to which individuals attach importance to varying degrees.

Here is the list of Schwartz’s universal values:

Autonomy: Independence, freedom, and creativity.

Stimulation: Seeking novelty, excitement, and challenge in life.

Hedonism: Seeking pleasure, satisfaction, and personal gratification.

Achievement: Search for success, competence, and personal fulfillment.

Power: Seeking control over others, prestige, and social domination.

Security: Seeking stability, security, and harmony in social and personal relationships.

Conformity: Adherence to social norms and expectations, and respect for authority.

Tradition: Respect, commitment, and acceptance of cultural or religious customs and ideas.

Benevolence: Seeking the well-being of others, offering help and cooperation.

Universalism: Understanding, tolerance, and protection of the well-being of all human beings and nature.

You can also add other values that you feel are important and not included in this list.

Take all the time you need to identify your values, but once you’ve done so, check whether they are really your values, or those of your parents, your culture, your company, your friends, etc. Doing so will enable you to differentiate between your values and those of others.

Doing this will enable you to differentiate between what characterizes you and what you’ve absorbed over the course of your personal or professional life.

Actionable tip

Take a moment to think about what really matters to you and write down all the values that come to mind, without overthinking or censoring yourself.

If you can’t come up with these values immediately, don’t get discouraged!

Start with two or three values that seem essential, then try to add others as they come to mind.

Then write them down in a notebook and repeat them every night before you go to bed.

In this way, your values will become more engraved in your subconscious and will more easily become a priority for you.

2 – Evaluate the importance of each value

Once you’ve drawn up your list of values, it’s time to assess how important each value is to you.

Rokeach (1973) proposes a method for assessing the importance of values by ranking them in order of priority.

You can use this method to determine which values are most important to you.

Rokeach distinguishes two categories of values: terminal values and instrumental values.

End values represent desired life goals and correspond to the results people want to achieve. There are 18 of them, encompassing aspects such as peace on earth, freedom, fairness, knowledge, protection of loved ones, and financial well-being.

Instrumental values, on the other hand, correspond to behaviors or personal attributes that individuals consider important for achieving their desired life goals. Rokeach lists 18 such values, including sincerity, aspiration, commitment, collaboration, and bravery.

Rokeach’s technique for determining the importance of values involves asking participants to rank terminal and instrumental values from most to least significant. This approach makes it possible to capture individual preferences in terms of values and to compare priorities between different people or groups.

Evaluating the importance of each value ultimately provides a clear vision of what matters most, so that the right decisions can be made more quickly.

Actionable tip

Be honest with yourself at this stage, and don’t hesitate to take the time you need to reflect on the importance of each value in your life.

If you’re in doubt about the order of priority, think about your most important life choices and the factors on which you’ve based your decisions.

You can also think about your most recent decisions to see how your values have evolved over the years.

3 – Narrow the list down to 5-10 key values

Once you’ve assessed the importance of each value, it’s time to narrow your list down to the 5-10 values that are most important to you.

Focusing on a small number of key values makes it easier to integrate them into your daily life.

As we saw earlier, having your priorities clear and then narrowing them further enables you to act more effectively and quickly in most situations.

Actionable tip

When selecting your key values, bear in mind that they must be in line with your deepest convictions and help you to lead a fulfilling life.

You can write these values down on several sheets of paper and place them in different parts of your apartment or house.

Doing so will enable you to integrate them more fully into your daily life, and over time you’ll be able to act more and more consistently with your values.

4 – Analyze the situations in which these values come into play

Now that you’ve identified your key values, it’s important to understand how they influence your behavior and decisions.

Tetlock (1986) proposes a values-based ideological reasoning model that can help you analyze situations where your values are at stake.

The ideological reasoning model proposed by Tetlock in 1986 offers an interesting approach to analyzing situations where our values are at stake. According to this model, individuals who reason ideologically often adopt a coherent and rigid pattern of reasoning, which is based on their fundamental values. They tend to look for evidence that corroborates their beliefs, and ignore or reject evidence that contradicts them.

However, this can lead to biased judgments and erroneous decisions. That’s why it’s crucial to take our personal values into account when analyzing complex and controversial situations. By becoming aware of the influence of our values on our reasoning, we can better understand the positions of others and be more open to ideas that differ from our own.

In short, this approach provides a better understanding of the values at stake in decision-making. It highlights the importance of recognizing our own values to foster constructive communication and mutual understanding.

Actionable tip

Think of past situations where your values have been put to the test, and try to understand how they have influenced your actions and decisions.

Reflect on how you felt when your actions were consistent with your values, and vice versa recall the emotions you experienced when your behavior was at odds with your values.

Try to identify whether you have one or more value conflicts, i.e. values of almost equal importance that are at the same time incompatible with each other.

If so, reorganize your values according to what’s important to you now, and make the choice that seems most appropriate.

Write down your values again, ranking them in order of importance from the most important to the least important, and do your best to respect them.

When you succeed, congratulate yourself, and when you fail, forgive yourself and try again next time.

5 – Integrate your values into your daily life

For your values to have a real impact on your life, it is crucial to integrate them into your daily routine.

Emmons (1999) examines how to integrate one’s values into daily life and how they are related to motivation and spirituality.

Emmons’ study highlights the importance of personal values in our lives, especially concerning our motivation and spiritual well-being.

Values are the fundamental beliefs that guide our actions and behaviors, and they are essential to give us meaning and direction in life.

Emmons suggests that individuals who have a clear understanding of their values and manage to integrate them into their daily lives are more likely to feel motivated and live a spiritually rich life.

To integrate one’s values into daily life, Emmons proposes several strategies, including:

  • Reflect on your values: Take the time to identify and clarify your personal values. This can be done by writing a list of values or discussing your fundamental beliefs with friends or family members.
  • Align your actions with your values: Try to ensure that your daily actions reflect your values. This may involve making decisions based on your values or choosing activities that allow you to express them.
  • Regularly evaluate the alignment of your values: It is essential to regularly check if your actions are still in line with your values. If you notice a misalignment, try to adjust your behavior accordingly.
  • Cultivate gratitude and appreciation: Gratitude is an essential aspect of spirituality and can strengthen the connection between your values and your daily life. Try to cultivate gratitude by recognizing the positive aspects of your life and appreciating experiences that reflect your values.

By living according to your values, you are more likely to lead a fulfilling life in line with your beliefs.

Actionable tip

Find practical ways to apply your values in your daily life.

For example, if one of your core values is generosity, you can engage in volunteering or donate to causes close to your heart.

If one of your values is health, you can buy more organic products, exercise, improve your sleep quality, and learn to manage stress better.

Here’s what you can do to check if your actions align with your values.

At the end of each day, think about the different choices you made, write them down in your notebook, and check if you acted in line with your values.

If you now focus on your actions that were consistent with your values, did you make these decisions automatically, or did you need some reflection time to make them?

Which values were at stake when you needed time to decide?

By answering these questions, you will be able to act with greater consistency and more quickly.

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6 – Regularly Re-evaluate Your Values

Lastly, it’s essential to regularly reassess your personal values. Cultural shifts, modernization, and personal experiences can influence our values over time.

Inglehart & Baker (2000) emphasize the importance of re-evaluating one’s values to maintain a life aligned with one’s beliefs and aspirations.

These authors stress the significance of regularly examining one’s values to maintain a life consistent with our beliefs and personal goals.

Even though these social science researchers primarily study cultural changes and value systems of societies worldwide, it’s still possible to apply their work on an individual level.

Values, as fundamental beliefs guiding our actions and choices, can evolve over time. Experiences, education, social environment, and cultural traditions are all factors influencing our values. Therefore, it’s crucial to periodically reassess our values to ensure our lives remain in sync with our current beliefs and aspirations.

To effectively re-examine our values, consider the following tips:

  • Allocate moments for reflection: Set aside time to think about your current values and their relevance in your life. You can meditate, keep a diary, or share your thoughts with trusted individuals.
  • Identify changes: Try to determine which aspects of your life have recently changed and how these changes might have influenced your values.
  • Match your actions with your values: Examine your daily behaviors and decisions to check if they align with your current values. If there’s a mismatch, you might need to revisit some of your values or adjust your actions accordingly.
  • Be open to evolution: Understand that your values can naturally change over time. Accepting this evolution and staying open to changes helps maintain a life aligned with our current aspirations and beliefs.

Actionable tip

Take the time, at least once a year, to re-examine your values and ensure they still align with your beliefs and aspirations.

If necessary, adjust your values and how you incorporate them into your daily life.

However, to achieve this, you must realize that even if you don’t notice it, you are constantly changing.

You feel like the same person, but in reality, your life experiences, learnings, choices, and perception of life contribute to your perpetual evolution.

Think about significant choices you’ve made recently.

Would you have made the same decisions 5 or 10 years ago?

If the answer is no, it’s probably because your values have evolved over the years.

Now, you can rearrange the priority of your values to live coherently with what matters most in your life now.

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Conclusion on How to Identify Your Values

In this article, I have provided you with 6 tips on how to identify your values. By following these six steps, you can pinpoint your personal values and incorporate them into your daily life to lead a fulfilling life in line with your beliefs.

Remember that identifying and applying your values are continuous processes that require regular commitment and reflection.

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Read this article in other languages

Français : Comment identifier ses valeurs : 6 conseils pour une vie plus épanouissante
ItalianoCome identificare i propri valori: 6 consigli per una vita più soddisfacente

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