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Steps to Define Your Personal Values

Personal values are ethical principles that form your internal beliefs about what is good and what is important to you. They are what you stand for, your viewpoints, and outlook on life.

They define you as a person, guide you in your decision making, and help determine how to conduct yourself. You manifest them in your personality traits, the way you behave alone, and with others.

Is it possible to define your personal values? Of course, but few take the time for conscious reflection to do so. Most of our personal values have developed unconsciously and automatically. Many of them are not truly 'ours.'

They are a conglomerate of what was impressed upon us in our formative years, modified by our own experiences as we progress through life. Sometimes our values can be an absolute rejection of what our early experiences were. Values of this nature are often far more consciously determined, often due to abusive or uncaring beginnings.

Personal values provide us with our understanding of what is right and what is wrong, our moral compass. It's called our conscience. It speaks to us, whether it condemns or praises us. Does it bother you if you don't tell the truth? If so, you have a guilty conscience. It acts as your judge to keep your behaviors aligned to your personal values.

What are the moral values that you might think will influence your priorities in life? There are quite a few, and may include the following:

  • Love

  • Honesty

  • Forgiveness

  • Freedom

  • Respect for life

  • Self-control

  • Courage

  • Humility

  • Equality

  • Acceptance

  • Kindness

  • Generosity

  • Integrity

  • Resilience

What Are the Steps in Defining Your Core Values?

Be aware of what you're doing, as you are doing it.

You encounter many situations every day that cause you to react or say something. Don't just dive into them immediately with an unconscious response. Momentarily, stand back and assess what best to do for a particular circumstance. You have the intelligence, so use it and not your instinct. You should use your superego (Freud's psychoanalytic theory of personality) to act morally.

Is it wise to think, "Go with your heart" or "If you feel it's right, then do it"? No, because this line of thinking can prove to be treacherous. You are acting with your emotions, and that is unreliable. It is actually not thinking, but non-thinking. On the other hand, your values are the products of your thinking ability, of your reasoning power. It is what you decide to do and not what your primitive, impulsive, instinctive gut instinct is telling you.

Understand your motivation.

What motivates you to tell the truth? Is it to continue the values which your parents taught you from childhood? Or do you get self-satisfaction when you're honest in all your dealings? When you understand the reason why you act the way you do, then your values become more structured and clearer to you.

Train your conscience.

The feeling of guilt tells you that your conscience is sensitive to your wrongdoing. Otherwise, you will not feel anything when you lie. It's a sign that urges you to correct the mistake that you made. So, listen to your conscience. When you do, you further develop that ideal trait.

Evaluate the consequences.

You need to learn to identify your options. To lie or not to lie, to act nobly or dishonestly, those are your options. Then weigh the pros and cons of your options. Just knowing right from wrong is not enough. You need to follow through the idea with action. It's important that you understand and appreciate the benefits of being honest and the consequences of being dishonest.

Reflect on your past.

When you reflect on the mistakes of your youth, you learn life lessons. Why? You will have been in a situation where you made a poor choice and suffered the consequences. Have you been grounded by your parents for being late? In the same manner, as an adult, when you're late reporting to your job, you must accept the consequences of your actions.

Your boss might be angry or dissatisfied with your job performance. If tardiness is habitual, you might lose your job in the end. You can resolve to improve yourself by getting up earlier (use an alarm clock) and better manage your time so you won't need to rush. The values you're nurturing are punctuality and time-management, and respect for others.

Why Is It Important to Have Well-Defined Moral Values?

It is said that social values are changing with time. Maybe for some, but not for all. This is a subjective call because everybody's memory is imperfect. What really matters is your values - if you become successful, will you disregard your values such as courage and resiliency, which helped get you where you are now? The answer lies within you. But remember that a strong person possesses deep-rooted moral values that don't shift on a whim.

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