When you define your personal values, you discover what’s truly important to you. A good way of starting to do this is to look back on your life – to identify when you felt really good, and really confident that you were making good choices.
Step 1: Identify the times when you were happiest – Find examples from both your career and personal life. This will ensure some balance in your answers.
- What were you doing?
- Were you with other people? Who?
- What other factors contributed to your happiness?
Step 2: Identify the times when you were most proud – Use examples from your career and personal life.
- Why were you proud?
- Did other people share your pride? Who?
- What other factors contributed to your feelings of pride?
Step 3: Identify the times when you were most fulfilled and satisfied – Again, use both work and personal examples.
- What need or desire was fulfilled?
- How and why did the experience give your life meaning?
- What other factors contributed to your feelings of fulfillment?
Step 4: Prioritize your top values – This step is probably the most difficult, because you’ll have to look deep inside yourself. It’s also the most important step, because, when making a decision, you’ll have to choose between solutions that may satisfy different values. This is when you must know which value is more important to you.
- Write down your top values, not in any particular order.
- Look at the first two values and ask yourself, “If I could satisfy only one of these, which would I choose?” It might help to visualize a situation in which you would have to make that choice. For example, if you compare the values of service and stability, imagine that you must decide whether to sell your house and move to another country to do valuable foreign aid work, or keep your house and volunteer to do charity work closer to home.
- Keep working through the list, by comparing each value with each other value, until your list is in the correct order.