Personal leadership
is the process
of keeping your
vision and values
before you
and aligning your
life to be
congruent with them.

Steven Covey
American leadership consultant and writer
Conscious Life Skills newsletter
No.3, June 2007
Frequency:  6 times per year
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What are your personal values?

by Frances Todd
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c2007 Conscious Life Skills
We read and hear a lot about values. We’re told that if we live by our values, we will experience a more fulfilling, stress-free life.  Yet…how many of us understand what values actually mean?  How many of us can readily identify what our personal values are? What’s more, how do you go about connecting your values consciously to your everyday life experiences? How do we know when our values change, and how do we change our everyday life experiences to reflect the shift?  Let's take a look at each of these points.

Defining values

A value is a principle or quality or state of being that is intrinsically important to you
. Examples of values include: Care and compassion, Doing your best, Fair go, Freedom, Honesty and trustworthiness, Integrity, Respect, Responsibility and Understanding, tolerance and inclusion.

Values are your beliefs or ideas about what is good, right, and appropriate and often carry an emotional charge with them. These beliefs are mostly deep-seated and tend to remain constant for long periods of time. We accumulate our values from childhood based on teachings and observations of our parents, teachers, friends, religious leaders, and other influential and powerful people.

Identifying your personal values

Your personal values may be a blend of family, social and cultural values, together with values you have come to attach importance to, as a result of your individual life experience.

There are two ways you can identify your personal values. You can choose from a list of human values and pick out those that are important to you, or you can build your list based directly on your life experiences to date. As you do this task, it’s important that you keep in mind personal values are what’s important to you as an individual, not what family or society or culture says should be important.

If you choose to pick values from a list, check out the lists on the following websites.
Top   Back
Tick the values that resonate with you.  Feel free to include other values that are not mentioned. Then prioritize the personal values you’ve identified according to how important they are to your life.

If you choose to build your list of values based directly on your life experience, think back to a time when life was rewarding and satisfying. What were you doing?  Who was present? What qualities or values were you demonstrating?

Whether you identify your personal values from a list of human values, or from reflection upon your life experience, the questions below can help in ‘feeling’ how important a value is to you.
· Is this something that's important to you?
· Do you feel good about this being important to you?
· Would you feel good if people you respect knew that this was important to you?
· Have you ever done anything that indicates that this is important to you?
· Is this something you would stand by even if others made fun of you for it?
· Does this fit in with your vision of who you are?
Integrating your values in your everyday life

Knowing and prioritizing your values in everyday life can help you significantly in three ways.

Firstly, knowing and prioritizing your values can help you prioritize how you spend your time and energy right here, right now. For example, if you receive an offer of promotion, you’ll likely take up the offer, if success is high on your list of values.  If family life is high on your list of values, and the promotion meant longer hours away from the family, then you might choose not to take the promotion.

Secondly, knowing and prioritizing your values can help bring clarity to important decision making. When you have an important decision to make, you can consult your prioritized list of values and ask: What would a person with these values choose to do in this situation?

Thirdly, knowing and prioritizing your values can help resolve tension between choosing values in an apparently conflicting situation. Let's look at a common situation. You feel quite comfortable when you tell a white lie to someone because you don’t want to hurt their feelings yet you know it’s not generally all right to tell a lie. Is there a conflict in values here?  If so, what higher priority value would you employ in this situation - honesty or kindness?  Do you vary the application of values in this situation depending on the company?

Evolving your values

Our personal values can change and shift in priority as our life experiences bring new information and deepening insights to light. When this happens, you’ll experience a sense of disharmony between your inner and outer lives.  This requires you readjust and reprioritize your working list of personal values. Then you adapt your outer lifestyle, so you are living in harmony with what’s important to you now.

For example, as you grow older, health may become more of a priority value compared to when you were younger. In your outer lifestyle, you then make time for exercise as part of your routine, and choose healthier foods to eat.

Over time, personal values usually become more universal in scope, because they are the avenue through which we find the answers on how to live life with meaning. We begin to see patterns of experience and insight in our lives, which converge with patterns of experience and insight in the lives of others. We find out we are connected in relationship with each other, irrespective of what age and nationality we are. For example, love is recognized both as a personal and a universal value.

Valuing yourself

The personal values you identify and prioritize are going to be right for you.  They are not necessarily right for anyone else. Your personal code of values tells you more about who you truly are, and the way you think feel and do. By taking the time to know and feel your personal code of values, you are valuing who you are  and how you express yourself. Valuing yourself is an integral part of consciously practising self honour - the act of loving and respecting yourself.
The ability to know and feel your values is a necessary ingredient in creating a more conscious life. This article discusses ways to identify your values and apply them in your everyday living.