At So She Did, we believe it’s important to know what you stand for. Without these guiding principles, also known as “values,” we’re lost… easily tempted to look externally for what we think we should do, and who we think we should be. We need to understand what uniquely matters to us so that we can live a life that truly honors our values — only then can we begin to feel fully fulfilled.
The problem is, we can’t always articulate what our values are. Unlike ethics or morality, which are learned, values are something that are already within us and left to us to uncover. They are the ideas and beliefs that we consider to be of worth deep down in our core and a lot of self-reflection and soul searching is required in order to discover them.
That’s what So She Did is here to help with. By answering the questions below, you’ll be able to finally zero in on what your true values are and then use them to make conscious steps toward achieving a life you can feel connected to and be proud of.
Seriously, we can’t stress it enough: Taking both of those steps — defining your values and then using them to navigate your life — are necessary to achieve a sense of resonance. And that’s important because, when we’re living in resonance, that’s when we feel most alive and motivated. Rather than the dread and indifference that can creep in when you don’t know what you want or why you’re doing what you’re doing, aligning your values with your actions gives you purpose because you’ll finally know what it is you stand for.
Step 1: Identify your values.
Begin mining for your values by answering the below questions, which will help you uncover what’s really important about how you live, what nourishes you, and who you are. Pay special attention to the characteristics behind the ‘why,’ noticing the words that resonate with you most. The goal is to have about 50 possible values at the end.
- Who is someone you admire and what are the characteristics you admire about this person?
- What is your favorite book and what makes it your favorite?
- Who is your favorite speaker and what are the characteristics that make him/her your favorite speaker?
- Who is your best friend and why is this person your best friend? What characteristics?
- What is your favorite childhood memory and what makes it so memorable?
- What is a hobby you enjoy doing and what do you enjoy about it?
- Recall a moment in the past year when you felt fully alive. Who if anyone were you with? What were you doing?
- What is your favorite vacation so far and what makes it your favorite?
- What is your favorite movie of all time and what makes it your favorite movie?
- Who was your favorite school teacher and what characteristics made him/her your favorite teacher?
- What makes you upset/ticked off and what about this upsets you?
- What are your natural skills and gifts?
- What are you obsessive about?
- What are your must-haves? Beyond food, shelter and community, what do you need in your life in order to feel fulfilled?
- If you had 5 lives, what would you do professionally in each one and why? (my all-time favorite question, we’ll revisit this one in future posts!)
- If you had to choose 1 activity to do for 10 hours a day for 10 weeks, what would you choose, and why? (another favorite question that uncovers hidden passions and hobbies!)
Step 2: Hone in on the values that are most important to you.
By now you should have a list of roughly 50 values that feel at least somewhat meaningful to you. You might notice some overlapping concepts. Take another look at that list and pick the 10 most important values to you, that most resonate with you. Now review your 10 and see if you can think of a word(s) that better captures what is important to you about this value. For example, if you wrote down ‘creativity’ – ask yourself, what is it about creativity that you most value? You might write down “free expression,” “imagination,” “innovation,” “art,” and “play.” Circle the word that best captures it, is it imagination? Or did the original word creativity best capture it? This will allow you to dig deeper to understand what you really mean when you say you value “creativity.”
Once you’ve circled the 10 MVP values, take a step back. These are the jewels that light you up and therefore are the most important ones to remember. Put this list somewhere visible to you daily. You can turn to these 10 jewels and focus on living in those values. That’s what will create the most resonance for you.
Step 3: Assess where you are right now.
Now that you’ve defined what your values are, consider where you’re starting from right now. On a scale of 1 to 10, rate how you’re living each of these 10 values in your life right now. Take a look at your ratings. Is there a value(s) that you’d like to honor more fully in your life? Start thinking of ways to do that.
Step 4: Start living in your values.
What decisions do you have before you at the moment? Are there any important decisions about work or a project you’ve been working on? What about your personal relationships, romantic or otherwise?
The answers to these challenges and the choices you have to make will become clearer when you ask yourself values-based questions: “Will A decision honor my values, or will B?”; “In what way does this _____ (relationship, career move, commitment, etc.) honor my top five values?”; “What values are not honored by my saying ‘yes’ to this?”
Remember, your values are your essence. They are what fulfills you and helps you discern what we really want from all of the distractions that are out there. And the more you internalize your values, the more you can make choices based on those core values without having to overthink things. They’ll serve as a compass for you to live according to your own measures of self-worth. When that happens, you’ll discover what it’s like to live fully and purposefully for yourself as opposed to living for how others think you “should.” And that, dear reader, is the first step toward what we here at So She Did call self-definement. It’s what builds the foundation for self-empowerment. Being self-empowered will allow you to boldly live from the inside out, not from the outside in. You’ll live according to your own measures of self-worth, success, and happiness, not for any external validation.