My wife and I were dating for about 10 years before we decided we would tie the knot at a beautiful 19th century gothic castle called Kinnitty Castle in the heart of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in Co. Offaly, Ireland. It was a date to remember because not only did we get married on the 18th March – the day after St Patrick’s Day – it was also the day Ireland was playing England at Twickenham for the Triple Crown! The invites were sent, the dress was bought and everything was going according to plan when I got the phone call, “I’m sorry, man. I can’t come to your wedding”. These were the words from one of my best friends. I couldn’t believe it…I was pretty upset at the news and went through every possible solution I could think of to have him and his wife attend. You see, Paul recently had a little girl and he and his wife didn’t want to be away from home over night and Paul himself didn’t want to be away from his new family even for one night. I struggled with his decision and knew it was killing him inside too. Even though I was upset, I never questioned his friendship but I couldn’t fully understand how he could make this decision and know, for him and his family, it was the right one. That is, until I learned about Value Systems.
It might go without saying but a value is something that we deem to be important to us; for the purpose of this article we’re talking about personal values…those things that are important to us in life. Like beliefs, our values are generally picked up throughout our lives from our parents, peers, books, movies, religion or some other influence in our lives. Therefore, most people don’t choose their values consciously and, because they aren’t conscious of them, they aren’t fully aware the impact they have on our day to day lives. You see, every decision is guided by our values; they are the criteria we use to decide what we will do and evaluate what we have done. If you’ve ever had difficulty making an important decision it’s likely that you were unclear about your values at the time. Ultimately, your values are the guiding compass that will lead you toward your destiny.
Therefore, our values are vital to our happiness and ensuring we get what we want out of life…and be happy with what we have got!
How Do You Determine Your Values?
Determining your values is, on the surface, a simple exercise but requires you to really ask the following question of yourself with honesty. The Question: What’s most important to me in life? I know, for Paul, that Family is the most important thing in his life. Ask the question again with a slight twist: What else is most important to me in life? Keep asking this question until you have a list of about five or six values.
Now, here’s the important part. Once you have your values they need to be prioritised because you and I could have the same set of values but still make different decisions because our “values hierarchy”, their order of importance, is different. For example, even though Friendship is an important value for Paul, Family trumps Friendship so whenever there is a decision that puts these values in conflict the answer is clear. Similarly, Career and Family are values that often come into conflict in most working people’s lives. Both can be important but which one generally wins? What about Physical Health versus Career?
Building Your Hierarchy of Values
Building your hierarchy of values is another simple process. Say, my values are Money, Happiness, Success, Family and Health. I would ask this question: Is Happiness more important than Money? If the answer is yes, I’d move Happiness to the top of the hierarchy. Next I would ask, is Success more important than Happiness? If no, then I would ask, is Success more important than Money? And so on until I have my hierarchy of values.
The powerful lesson to take away from this exercise is that if you want to make changes in your life you can create a values hierarchy to reflect the type of decisions you might have to make. For example, if losing weight is a priority for you this year then raise it up on your hierarchy so whenever there is a conflict over getting an extra hour in bed or staying late at the office and exercise, your decision is clear. Set up your hierarchy of values to help you achieve whatever it is you want out of life and take control of your future!
If you’d like to know more about the role values play in our lives, or if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.