How would you go about identifying your values? First, we need to look at what values are. Values are the things that are essential to you being who you are. Although we do not have one hundred percent agreement on where values come from and how they are formed in each of us, we do know that our lives are more satisfying when our actions are consistent with and a reflection of our values.
As infants and very young children, we receive our values directly from our environment–the people, culture and other influences that impact our lives on a daily basis. This is the time in our lives when we often don’t recognize the separateness of us and others. We start to experience pleasure and pain and form patterns of behavior in response to whether we receive mostly pleasure or mostly pain.
Once we reach the age where we recognize there is a difference between us and the world around us, we begin adopting values by imitating the behavior of the people in our lives. We quickly learn what things we do result in pleasure. We repeat these. We learn to avoid the things that bring us pain. Sometime during this period in my life I spoke up in a class and received recognition and affirmation. I liked this, and I began speaking up in class and other group settings. Interaction with others began to be remembered as a pleasurable experience and became one of the values in my life.
As we get older and ideas and philosophies become more and more a part of our lives, we begin choosing values consistent with our beliefs. These carry over into our relationships as the social aspect of our life plays a more important part in determining who we are. As an example from my life, it was at this stage of my life that my faith became the core value of my life. It began to influence more and more of the decisions that impacted my life. It came to be the defining aspect of my life.
Another way of determining your values is to answer questions centering around happiness. What things make you happy? Who are the people in your life that you would identify as happy? Why do you view these people as happy? A lot of happiness has to do with how we live in relation to our values.
Sometimes things cause us to question our values or to act in opposition to them. Things such as health crises, death of a loved one, drastic change in our financial security can prompt us to act outside of our values. Anger is one of the emotions that can drive us to act in opposition to our values. Greed, jealousy, envy and other emotions can have the same effect.
How healthy is your life in terms of being in line with your values? A simple examination of that question and the way you answer it can go a long way toward bringing you happiness, contentment and a sense of fulfillment. So, what are your values? How consistently are you living your life in harmony with your values?
What is one simple thing you could do today to start living more in line with one or more of your values?
–David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.
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