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  • Rachel Brislane

How to clarify your values for the year ahead

With the busyness of modern-day life, it is easy to become swept away on a treadmill of never-ending busyness.  Constantly rushing around, from task to task in a cycle of doing.  But what are you doing it all for?  Where are you trying to get to?

When was the last time you stopped and asked yourself what’s truly important to you?  What do you want?  What do you want your life to be like?  What kind of person do you want to be? How satisfied are you with your current situation?   And if you’re not satisfied, how would you like things to be different?  What difference could it make to your life if you had this clarity?

Clarifying your values can provide a sense of direction in your life, guiding you and assisting your decision-making at times when you feel lost or stuck.  Values are essentially principles and ways of acting that you hold to be important.  It’s about how you want to act in life and the type of person you want to be, from moment to moment.  Unlike goals which are something to be achieved (with an outcome or end-point), living in alignment with your values is an ongoing process - qualities and ways of behaving that are continually reflected in your daily actions.  Its about how you want to be as you go along on the journey rather than focusing on just getting to the specific destination. 

A signpost

By clarifying your values, not only will this help to give you a sense of direction in life, but you can also identify and structure your goals in service of your values (keeping you committed to acting in ways you value), then even if you do not achieve your specific goal, your actions will still be intrinsically meaningful and rewarding.  For example, you may value maintaining good health and fitness whereas aspiring to run 10k is a goal to be achieved.  If for some reason you do not complete the 10k run (achieve the goal) you will still be acting in a way which you value (running in service of maintaining health and fitness).

Be aware however that we all have values which we have inherited from family, peers, and society (known as 'Introjected Values') and so when seeking to clarify your own personal values make sure they reflect things that you personally hold as important and not things that you think you ought to value based on outside influences.  One way to check this is by imagining that you go to live on a desert island and asking yourself ‘if no-one else knew, would I still choose to live by these values?’

The following exercises can help you to clarify your values:-


1.       Pick a hobby or activity that you actively choose to do.  Ask yourself ‘What am I doing this for?’ ‘Why is it so important to me?’.  For example, if you choose to go to exercise at the gym each week, ask yourself ‘what am I doing it for the sake of?’  To keep fit?  And for the sake of what do I keep fit?


2.       Imagine you’re deceased and looking down observing your own funeral.  What would you ideally want people to be saying about you?  What do you want to be remembered for?  What do you want your life to stand for?


3.       Consider what’s ultimately most important to you in life – what you really care about.  In an ideal world, what would you most want to spend your time doing?  What sort of person do you want to be in your relationships, work, and life?  What are the qualities you admire in others?


It can take time to clarify your values, particularly if this is something you have not done before.  View it as an ongoing process, not to be rushed.  And values can also change over time.  So even once you’ve clarified your values, a yearly reflection is still a worthwhile exercise to check in with yourself and your direction in life.

Rachel : )


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