I'm a scout leader and recently as part of one of their badges the scouts created an artwork highlighting their own personal values.
I’m really glad children these days get a chance to consider the question "Just what are my own values?".
I think growing up I wasn’t even aware people had different personal values. It’s just not something that we spoke about at home or at school. I was told about the value of “hard work” and was familiar with the phrase “Some people know the price of everything but the value of nothing” but didn’t get a chance to think too much about how I was supposed to know the value of something to me.
These days I have a bit more of a clue, and that’s why I encourage others to take a few minutes out to think about what their own values are.
What is a Personal Value?
So, what is a personal value?
I quite like this definition “Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work.” . Another way of describing values is to say they’re the personal characteristics that are important to you.
Personal values can be things like Belonging, Being the Best, Competitiveness, Compassion, Knowledge, Kindness, Teamwork,Thoroughness.
For me personally, Learning is one of mine, as is Fairness. There are lots of great resources on the internet where you can learn more about how to identify your own personal values.
If we know what our own values are they can become our faithful compass, guiding us as we navigate the ups and downs of life.
Three Important Things to Know about Personal Values
I’d like to highlight three important things to know about values.
Firstly they are your personal values, and are probably not the same as other members of your family or your friends, although you may have some in common.
Secondly, it’s important you make decisions based on your values and not those of other people including your parents, family, friends and even cultural values.
Thirdly there are no right or wrong, good or bad values. Competitiveness is just as good as Compassion. Just don’t expect to be motivated by competitiveness unless is it one of your core values. Instead seek motivation via one of your own values.
For example, imagine you decide you’d like to get fitter and start doing a local Parkrun near you. If one of your values is Competitiveness then you may well find motivation in realising your time is recorded for each run and you can go onto the Parkrun website and see how you’re doing compared to other runners of your age. If Compassion is one of your values you may prefer to go to the run and spot someone who is struggling during the run and walk with them to encourage them. Helping them will help you.
What happens if we don't know our Personal Values?
Maybe nothing. You may intuitively know and be making decisions that are congruent with your values. You’ll know if you’re doing things in tune with your values because you’ll feel good about what you're doing, it’ll feel right. Your compass has guided you in the right direction for you.
Alternatively, if you’re following someone else’s values it can be as if someone has hidden a great big chunk of iron near to your personal compass, which is affecting its ability to guide you towards the right path. If this happens you can end up with a bit of an inner conflict. Part of you thinks you should continue the way you're going (after all compasses always point north, don't they?), another part of you knows it’s not the right thing for you.
In my experience in working with my hypnotherapy clients this can lead to a range of feelings including general unease with life, feelings of lack of purpose, anxiety, or even panic attacks. You may find you spend your time looking at other people and wishing you had their lives rather than living your own.
What to do next
If you've never had the opportunity to identify what your own values are then why not take some time to explore this? You can do this with the help of online resources, or with a coach or therapist.
If you're aware of your values then it may be time for a bit of a review to see if you've allowed anything to impede your compass. As we get older our values can shift and that's fine as long as we adjust our actions to allow us to plot our new course.
Compasses always point to the earth's magnetic north and even that is shifting slowly each year, so you're allowed a re-calibration every now and then!