“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are”
– Roy E. Disney
Values are the ideas and beliefs that we consider to be most important to us. However, not many people are actually that clear about what their most important values are. Many of us have a general sense of what we value, but would have a hard time making a list of our top 5 values. When you clarify and align with your values, you will take an important step towards living a more fulfilling life.
Why Is It Important to Clarify My Values?
We often want to aspire towards every quality that we can think of. Because by choosing just 5 values, we’re worried that somehow we’re saying that the other values are not as important to us. For example, let’s say that my top 5 values are health, personal growth, family, love and faith. I didn’t have honesty as one of my top 5 values, so does that mean that I’m really a dishonest person? Absolutely not. Honesty is very important to me, but the other 5 values are more important. And that’s the key.
But do I have to select just 5 values, you may be asking? It doesn’t have to be 5, but it needs to be a small number, so having somewhere between 3 to 5 values is a good goal. And there are a number of reasons for that.
1. Firstly, there are probably hundreds of possible values that might be important to you. How can you possibly do a great job with each one of those values? Focusing on the most important ones, gives you an opportunity to be outstanding in a few critical areas, instead of being mediocre in lots of different areas.
2. Secondly, knowing your top 5 values will make it much easier for you to make decisions. You have a fantastic new job offer that will dramatically advance your career but will mean you will have a lot less time to spend with your family. How do you choose? Well, when you’re clear about your most important values and whether career is a more important value than family or vice versa, then the decision becomes a lot easier.
3. And finally, the third reason for clarifying your top 5 values is that it will make you happier. I made this mistake for years. I set goals that I thought were important to me, but weren’t really aligned with my values. And after months or even years when I finally accomplished a goal, I still didn’t feel any happier. When your goals are completely aligned with your values, you will be able to live a more fulfilling life.
How To Identify Your Top 5 Values
The process of identifying your top 5 values is fairly simple, but not necessarily easy. If you’re anything like me, then it will be easy for you to pick 10-15 values, but it will be much harder to get to your top 5 values. But getting to those top 5 is where the gold lies, so it’s worth the effort.
- Review the values list at the end of this post and write down the 10 to 15 values that you consider to be the most important for you.
- Reduce that list down to the top 5 values. Ask yourself which values are really the most important to you. How do you want to be remembered?
- Put your top 5 values in priority order i.e. put the most important one first, the second most important one second and so on.
Tip: one way that I like to prioritize is to use Post-It notes (or index cards) and write one value on each note. I layout the notes next to each other in an initial priority order. I start by comparing the 1st and 2nd notes i.e. is the first value really more important than the second one? If the answer is no, then I swap the two notes. If the answer is yes, then I move onto comparing the next pair i.e. the 2nd and 3rd notes i.e. if I think that the value on the 3rd note is more important than the 2nd note, then I swap the notes around, otherwise I move onto comparing the 3rd and 4th notes. And then the 4th and 5th notes. I repeat this process a few times, until I can compare all notes in my list and don’t have to swap any more around.
Your Top 5 Values List
At the end of this process you should have a prioritized list of your top 5 most important values in order.
Keep this list handy — write it down somewhere so you can easily refer to it when needed. It will help you when you’ve got a difficult decision to make.