How to know your values and why they’re so important

values
Photo by John Tuesday on Unsplash

If you feel unhappy and you’re not sure why, that might mean it’s time to determine your values. For instance, your life looks really good to other people but you feel empty inside.

That’s a sign you’re living according to other people’s standards instead of your own. That happened to me when my children were young and it derailed my life for a very long time.

Unsure of my own values, I went along with other people’s beliefs about the importance of my kids attending a “good” school.

As a result, I moved from a home and neighborhood I loved, to a school district that made me feel uncomfortable and out of place. That’s because a cookie cutter house on a suburban street went against my values.

The impact of not taking time to determine my values as life entered a new phase of motherhood had a devastating impact on my psyche. I discovered too late that “good” school meant “wealthy white” school.

I discovered too late that "good" school meant "wealthy white" school. Click To Tweet

Perhaps that makes me naïve, but I ended up surrounded by parents whose ethics I did not share. For years, I abandoned myself and my needs, all so my kids could attend this sought-after school.

So, take it from me. Save yourself some heartache and get to know your values. Write them down and refer to them often.

And when you enter a new phase of life, reassess those beliefs. Take into account the ways life has changed and how your belief system needs to encompass those changes.

With that said, here are 4 reasons knowing your values is essential to your happiness and well-being.

1. Values help you set boundaries.

Knowing what you believe in helps you decide what you will and won’t accept in your life. It helps you decide what to say yes or no to.

For example, if you value simplicity like I do, you won’t tolerate clutter. That means you prefer a streamlined home and calendar. No fuss no muss.

Valuing simplicity means I carefully weigh every purchase decision. And I’m equally discerning about the appointments and company I keep.

2. Values help you know who you are.

If you can’t name your values it’s difficult to make decisions that align with your true self. This leads to confusion around who you are and what you believe in. See my story above.

3. They improve quality of life.

When you make decisions according to what you believe in, you feel more fulfilled and proud of yourself.

When you make decisions according to what you believe in, you feel more fulfilled and proud of yourself. Click To Tweet

This is because you’re living out of integrity, rather than getting tossed to and fro without an internal compass to guide you.

You’ll spend more time doing things that make you feel good. And the shame that comes from living out of alignment with your values will disappear.

4. Values help you make career choices.

If you cherish freedom, you find yourself suited to an entrepreneurial role where you make your own hours and decisions.

And when you esteem family time, you’ll turn down a position that requires weekend work or extended travel.

If you value peace and harmony, you won’t be happy in an ultracompetitive role with high stress and conflict.

Final thoughts

Values are not right or wrong (outside of unethical activity). They are specific to each person and that’s why it’s important to know yours.

Without the internal compass values provide, we look outside ourselves for clues to mark our route. That means adopting others’ standards and finding out too late they go against our own.

So, take the time now to determine your values. Arm yourself with the self-knowledge that will take you on a life path filled with integrity, fulfillment, and happiness.

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