Values – you’ve heard this word before. It’s thrown around quite a bit actually. Most of the times, people confuse values with preferences. We often discuss values, but to the average person, it may sound like a la di da (read vague & pretentious) concept and sometimes confuse them.
Values are basic guidelines that are based on your essential nature. They help meet your deepest needs and prevent or minimise confusion and self doubt. They give you a sense of what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. You subjectively judge something as right or wrong according to your values, it’s personal to you.
Mind you, just because they are personal to you doesn’t mean that values are not important. Values are central to recognizing your identity as a person. This might make you think. What are my values? How do i know for sure? To what extent is this value important to me? It’s only natural to have questions like these. But unfortunately, nobody can answer these questions for you. You have to figure out what is important for your well being.
It’s time to Self reflect.
You can ask yourself these questions. Keep adding new questions, or if you can’t think of any, expand on these and answer in detail.
What’s been always important to me, throughout my life? Values don’t usually change unless we do. There are some values that stick with us through life. These values are a part of us. For example, if you value emotional intimacy with your family members, that will likely not change. It is a core need that will remain with you no matter the circumstance. If you have family members who have opposite values to that, you will still continue to seek it probably unsuccessfully from them, and elsewhere.
What felt good or bad during my childhood? What qualities of yourself were you proud of during your childhood? Would you change anything about the way you were raised? What would you tell the 8 year old you? You’ll be surprised how much you can find out about yourself and your values just by looking back to your early years. That’s where our deepest values are formed.
Is there a pattern to my relationships? We seek the same core things from all our relationships based on our values. What is it that you’re seeking? What was it that you wanted and never got? Is there anything you got from your relationships that felt good?
What makes me feel good and ‘secure’? Not an emotional high, rather a feeling of contentedness. The kind that is stable, long lasting and makes you feel like everything is alright.
Are there topics on which i have a strong opinion? If so, what are they? They often give you an indication of things that you sub consciously feel inside that are important to you.
Understand the difference between Core vs Secondary Values ( and good old preferences).
Core values are fundamental beliefs that you have. They define who you are and what you do. Ask yourself what’s important to you? When you ask yourself this question, you may get an answer which is essential in order for you to feel secure or you may get an answer which is actually not essential but it INDICATES something that is essential. For example, you may feel like having loads of money makes you feel good, and you may be right. But there can be various reasons for wanting it in the first place. You may feel that by having money you can buy your own house, which symbolizes security. You may feel that by having money, you will be admired. Maybe it’s not so much about the money then, not so much as the approval from others. Think of it as, means vs end. A core value is the end in itself. Secondary values are those values which we believe will help us to live life in line with our core values. The real conflict occurs when there is a contradiction between them.
In a relationship context, for example, wanting to only date tall guys is not a value. Sure, that might be something you’re looking for, but it may not be essential. I can almost hear someone saying, ‘But it IS important to me!”.
The difference between secondary values and preferences are that while secondary values are kind of important in that they (if you pay attention) point towards your core values, preferences are simply things that are nice to have, but you don’t necessarily need them in order to lead a happy, fulfilled life. In the above example, if you want to be with someone who’s tall, because you find that attribute physically attractive, then it’s simply a preference. On the other hand, if you want to date tall men, because you feel like others might judge you for having a short partner (when in fact you don’t really care about it personally), then that means your secondary value is approval from others. The associated core value that it points towards could be self approval, which you’re not giving yourself. Learning the differences between them will help you gain clarity about your values.
In the grand scheme of things, core values> secondary values> preferences.
Keep a journal.
If you’ve never kept a journal, it might sound boring. But it absolutely helps you understand yourself better. Once you start recording your thoughts and feelings, go through them once in a while. You’ll start to notice patterns, there may be certain topics or areas of life that you may write more about which may give you an indication as to what’s important. In particular, note down things which makes you feel emotional or opinionated.
Understand that values can and do change.
It’s also worth pointing out that you will most likely think about those needs of yours which aren’t being met and values that you aren’t living by. Where we feel contended, we rarely think about the associated values. That’s why the process of finding out your values is always ongoing. They are not set in stone. We might get exposed to unfamiliar situations and people which may give us a different perspective. When we change and hopefully evolve as a person, our values also change with us.
Ultimately, when you know and live life in line with your values, the better you’ll feel about yourself. You will need less and less of other people’s approval. Not only that, it gives you great clarity of mind and purpose. And that helps you get the most out of life.