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Personal Values

An exercise to get more meaning from life

· coping tools,values exercise,psychology,emotions,moral development

Everyone has values that are gathered  across time via individual moral  development. In early childhood, we start to understand what is 'right' and what is 'wrong' as we are subjected to the values of others around us. 

As we mature, we sift through these values to validate what resonates with our personality and experience, and what doesn't. 

This is how we create a values system in our brain. You might picture this developmental process similarly to (or part of) a nodal aquisition of language model: the primary nodes being our core values, and our other values being housed under the more frequently refered to core. 

We do this development without much awareness, but to understand what makes life meaningful to you, you need to bring awarenes to the process by knowing what your values are, where they came from, and how you have defined these abstract ideas. 

By becoming more aware of your values, you will better understand what makes you feel validated or violated, what makes you feel at peace or outraged. So how do you bring awareness to values?


1) IDENTIFY: List your values using simple values words, such as courage or independence. Don't overthink it--all the values are good so only select the ones that you resonate strongly with. Write those down.

2) DEFINE: Narrow the list down to your TOP 10, then define what each value means to you—what behaviors tell you that value is present, or absent. Like "When people lie to me I get really angry, so I value HONESTY; which means tell me what is true instead of a lie. " 

TIP: Consider your hot "buttons", then note the opposite of that is the value being violated. For instance, if lying pisses you off, you may value honesty. 

3) SOURCE: Identify where you obtained each value (i.e. experience, family, media, culture, faith, etc.), what made it important. It will likely be a value handed down to you from the family values, or one you sought out to correct what was handed down to you. 

EXAMPLE: "I value AUTONOMY because I grew up in a  environment where freedoms were limited. " OR "My dad was good with money and taught me fiscal RESPONSIBILITY"

4) ORGANIZE: Circle 3-5 values that would be the most difficult for you to live without, these are your core values. Ask yourself which values you cannot live without, that life would be meaningless without them. 

5) ALIGN: Rate your own behaviors using the scale—how often do your own behaviors reflect the definition you wrote down? What values do you need to better align with and how might you do that? 


Now that you have sorted through your values, it might be helpful to note that we use values to make judgments. But importantly, every single adult human person you encounter has their own values system, we need to assume moral subjectivity (not moral relativism). If we do not, our personal judgments impair our ability to be curious about others' values.   This in turn creates more rigidity in our values system and makes it harder to negotiate conflict. 

REFLECTION: Here are some good reflections for your to consider when thinking about how you use your values.

  •  How  frequent are your judgements of yourself?  Of others?
  • Do you notice when judgments you make are contributing to conflict?
  • Are your judgements dissmisive of others' values? 
  • Do you struggles with 
  • Are you aware of when you are projecting from your judgments? 
  • Are your judgements of self or other harsh and unyeilding? 
  • Do you know how to release a judgment? Ideas of how?
  • Would you rather sit in your judgments than act from your values?



I act in alignment with my values and am accepting of differences.

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