“Our necessities never equal our wants.” – Benjamin Franklin
Would you want a sports car that couldn’t drive you anywhere? It would look nice. The stereo system is incredible. The rims are chrome and shining. But when it came to a car’s basic function – to get you from point A to point B – it couldn’t get you there. Would you still want it?
The answer is easy. No.
What’s the point of having a car if you can’t drive it? Because all those nice things, the stereo, the chrome, those are things you might like to have in a car, even want, but what you need is to get to work, to get to the grocery store, you need a ride and if it can’t give you one, what’s the point?
That’s the difference between a want and a need – and needs are values, the things that really matter to us.
I believe “identifying values” is the most important single exercise we can do regarding self-awareness. In this step, the first among our “30 Steps to a Better You,” is all about putting together a car that drives (or in this case a life that works) – by focusing on what really matters.
First – Make a list.
Identifying our values is a way of outlining the basis of what we’re going to use to build a larger structure to improve our lives with. This is the foundation. We have to know what we value so we can make better decisions about our future – whether that’s related to our careers or love lives. List the things you value. Honesty is a value. So is fidelity. So is faith. So is hard work. Think of the things that make up your personality, your belief system and how you choose to live your life. Try to avoid things that are pure desire or fantasy – like saying you “need” to have a mate that is exactly 6’5.” The site Mind Tools has some great examples of what questions to ask in order to make your list of values.
Use the following list of common personal values to help you get started – and aim for about 10 top values. (As you work through, you may find that some of these naturally combine. For instance, if you value philanthropy, community, and generosity, you might say that service to others is one of your top values).
Being the best
Making a difference
Second – Break it down.
If someone created a rule book to your life, what would it be? Take a look at your list of values and expound on them, of how you try to live up to these values or if you’re not living up to them, what you are doing to work towards that. Mind Tools recommends that we “Determine your top values, based on your experiences of happiness, pride, and fulfillment,” then prioritize which ones matter the most.
“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.”
What you determine from these measures are the rules you live by, your personal mantras. For example, say one of your needs is a strong spiritual foundation. Ask yourself how often do you meditate or pray? What do you need from your spirituality in order to be able to best live your life? How does spirituality fit in the larger scheme of your life? The answers to these questions are your rules.
Third – Use it.
Creating a rulebook for ourselves and who we are, what we truly need and believe in is an important first step because understanding ourselves is the key to understanding others. We can recognize shared values in others if we understand our own needs. Also, in knowing what we need we realize other people know what they need too and needs are often inflexible. While a person’s values can change, they rarely do after becoming adults. Values are integral to who we are. The greatest key to success in any relationship – romantic or business or otherwise – is compatibility in the form of similar values. We all must learn that, whether we realize it, we live by rules and it’s most effective to surround yourself with people who live by the same rules as you.
Your Task >>> Complete steps 1-3 above and place in a reference folder specifically created for your ’30 Days To A Better You’ tasks.
To read the next step (#2) on identifying your passion, click here.