Why are values important?

Uncategorized Mar 14, 2019

If you live your life in a way that is in line with your core values you will have happiness in your life.

Values are at the very core of who we are. They are closely linked to our emotions - how well aligned our values are to the way we live our lives, the happier we will be. A bold statement I know but I feel really passionate about this and I’m going to tell you why.

Firstly lets explore what values are… Values are the deep rooted principles which we hold dear, they are at the core of who we are and influence the way we behave, what we think and how we feel. Our core values develop from childhood into adulthood and many mature, for example fairness in childhood may develop to justice in adulthood or telling the truth in childhood may mature to integrity in adulthood.

Our values grow as we learn and experience the world. This doesn’t necessarily mean we adopt all of the values we are taught or experience. This is where our individuality and uniqueness come in, for example we could be taught in childhood that we must respect our elders, however if these elders then behave in a way we don’t like, we may grow to reject this value, indeed we may develop respect as a deeply held value, but strongly believe that respect should be earned.

To live our lives in a way that is aligned with our core values will mean we are living our lives authentically. Alex Wood et al (2008) undertook research to examine the affect of authenticity on mental wellbeing and found a positive link, in other words if we live our lives aligned with our true selves then we will live a happier life.

In psychology there is a term – cognitive dissonance, which defines the feeling of unease or unhappiness that we experience when our actions or behaviours are in conflict with our core values.

Imagine a train journey. The most important thing, the Core Value is smooth straight lines, if the train driver is unaware of this, he may switch tracks many times – without understanding how or why the passengers are experiencing discomfort.  If however, the driver spends the time to explore what is truly important to the passengers (the core value) then he can ensure he chooses to stay on smooth straight lines as much as possible – thus the passengers will remain comfortable.

Many of us move through our lives without truly knowing what our core values are, of course we know that we value safety, warmth and love but we may not be aware of our core values, which means we may make choices – even day to day choices that conflict with our core values which may lead us to feeling uneasy or sad without knowing why.

For example we could act in a way that is kind to someone who is close to us maybe by lying about something to protect them, which if you hold honesty or integrity as a core value this could make you feel uncomfortable, because you have acted in a way that is in conflict with your core value. You are experiencing cognitive dissonance. However if you knew that honesty is one of your core values and used this as a guide in the way you behave, you may have acted differently – finding a way that is congruent with both being kind to those you care about, whilst withholding honesty and integrity.

So how do we apply this? How do we know what our core values are?

Although this will require both time and dedication what is important is that it is possible and if you put in both the time and effort you can and you will be happy.

A good starting point is to reflect on our childhood. Ask yourself the following question – What Values was I taught as a child? For each of these values, ask yourself the following questions.

Did I accept this as a child?

Do I accept it now?

Why do I accept it or not accept it?

How does this make me feel?

Can I think of an example of when this value has played a role in my experience and how this value has made me feel?

If this was a negative feeling, what was the opposite value that would have made me feel more positive?

If you invest time and commit to this process you may find 2-5 of your core values, though don’t worry if you don’t. You can come back to these questions again at a later date.

Now move on and write down two major life experiences where you have experienced feeling negative. Now ask yourself the following questions

- What irked me about the situation?

- Was there anything else playing a part in the way the situation made you feel?

- What value or values were missing? (for example honesty / fairness / respect)

- How important is this missing value to you on a scale of 1-10?

- Have there been times when this value has been present and you have experienced positive feelings?

- Is there a word that better represents this value?

- How important does this value feel to you now on a scale of 1-10?

Finally ask yourself the following questions about two major life experiences where you have experienced feeling positive.

- What caused the positive feeling?

- Was there anything else playing a part in the way the situation made you feel?

- What was the most important value at play?

- How important is this value to you on a scale of 1-10?

- Have there been times when this value has been present and you have experienced positive feelings?

- Is there a word that better represents this value?

- How important does this value feel to you now on a scale of 1-10?

Once you know what your core values are you can start to use them as your guide, when making decisions from everyday decisions to big life changing decisions.

And so there is psychology research that supports the fact that if you live your life in an authentic way that is aligned with your core values, you will have improved wellbeing. Psychology theory also identifies cognitive dissonance, the feeling of unease when we behave in a way that is in contrast to our core values.

It is in your best interests therefore to explore who you truly are, explore what your core values are and use these as a guide in all areas of your life, from big decisions to small decisions. I feel passionate that everyone deserves to feel happy and here are a few steps to point you in the right direction.

If you would like to explore your core values with me, so that you can live your life in a way that makes you happy, then click here for a free clarity coaching call and let’s get you started on living your best life.

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