If you want to live a happy and successful life, you need to live in accordance with your values system.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to unlock and prioritize your personal values in order to achieve a successful and happy work-life balance.
What is a value?
A “value” is a principle or standard that is of significant importance or benefit to you.
Consider the use of value in financial terms:
“The value of the house was $200,000.”
This doesn’t mean the house was bought or sold at $200,000. Rather, that $200,000 is the worth of the house. That is how much it would be worth to a purchaser or seller.
A value is not an interaction or action.
A value is the measure by which you assess some sort of benefit.
In terms of our lives, “values” are the different feelings or experiences that provide us with some sort of benefit. We give each value a different level of importance based on how much that value advantages us. The “advantage” in this case is usually happiness, fulfillment, and joy in life.
Which values are right?
There are no set or universal values in the world. Some people value family, some value love, some value money, and some value recognition.
Different people place a higher importance on a value because they receive a different type of benefit from that value.
For example, Richard Branson likely considers passion as one of his top values. He dives into every venture with spirit and excitement. He’s made an entire business based on passion.
Oprah, on the other hand, is also incredibly successful and passionate, but she likely values love before passion. She is driven by a love of people first and foremost.
Branson and Oprah are both successful, but they approach their businesses through a different lens of values. They likely value both love and passion, but the order in which they live by these values determines how they will act and lead.
What is the purpose of values?
Values help determine your personal priorities. You make every decision based on these values. They will determine what time you wake up in the morning, your daily routines, how you talk to those around you, and even what you eat. They’ll tell you where to spend your time and where to give the most energy.
Values, in essence, become the roadmap for your life.
Life is happy when your values match your actions and situation.
Life is unhappy when your values are misaligned with your actions and situation.
For example, family is at the top of your values list. This means you assign greatest importance to family bonding time. But this quarter you’ve been swamped with work and haven’t spent time with your family. Family is your top value, but you’re not meeting the needs of that value, so you’ll feel stressed and unhappy.
Or maybe you value achievement at the top. You’re struggling day in and day out, but you can’t seem to make any headway on this new project. You’ll be stressed, anxious, and frustrated because your actions aren’t bringing you to your value.
If you want to live a beautiful life, you need to set up your day so that every moment, action, and decision is somehow aligned with your top values. Often, this might mean changing your situation with flexible work arrangements to allow for greater flexibility to meet these values.
Why do I need to know my values?
Everyone has a set of values that are driving them in some way. If you don’t realize your values, you might expend time and energy on actions that aren’t helping you meet your values. This can make you depressed, stressed, and anxious, and you have no conscious idea why.
Dissatisfaction is a direct result of not acknowledging your ideal work-life balance—and not pursuing it.
For example, you’ll feel stressed if you actually value family but you think you value work more, so you spend 70 hours at your job. Or maybe you actually value contribution but think you value competition, so your competitive work environment is stressing you out.
It’s time to take a deep look at your values so you can better understand your definition of success and work-life balance.
You don’t want to just look at your values—you want to actively decide which values will be most productive for your life in order to bring you the joy and success you deserve.
How do you define your values?
Based on the Tony Robbins “personal rules” exercise
1. Think of your greatest moments.
When were you happiest? What were you doing? Who were you with? Why were you happy? What factors contributed to this feeling?
When were you proudest in both your career and personal life? Why were you proud? Who shared that pride with you? What actions or achievements led you to this pride?
When were you most fulfilled? What experience fulfilled you? Why? How did you come to this experience?
2. Jot down applicable words.
Write down whatever pops into your head when you think of these moments. What were you doing and who were you with?
Write down how these moments make you feel.
There are no rules. No one is seeing this. Just write what comes to your mind. Notice if there are any common themes. Where do you tend to gravitate the most?
3. Circle words on this list.
Below are some of our favorite values here at Forge. Go through the list and write down those that stand out to you the most. We all want all of these in our life, but try to narrow it down to the top 10 that most jump out.
Is there another value that isn’t on the list that you wrote down? Include it.
4. Prioritize your values.
You’ve written down your top 10 values from the list. Now it’s time to put them in order.
Sequence is important when looking at your values. How you align your values will determine how you make decisions. If you value family as #1 and nature as #2, you might be willing to get your daughter a gas-guzzling car for her birthday because you know it would make her happy. Your love for your daughter would outweigh your love for nature with that values system.
The top five values you pick will be the most important. These are the ones that impact your daily decisions.
Remember, these are the values you most want in your life. These are not your old value systems that you held on to. We are creating a new, active list of values that will lead you to your ultimate happiness.
How do you prioritize?
Look at the first two on your list and compare them.
If I could only pick one of these two to fulfill, which would it be?
The answer moves to the top list. Then you keep comparing each duo until you have your list.
For example, someone may have the top five values:
They think passion is more important than community. So passion stays in the number one spot.
Freedom is more important than community. Freedom moves to number two.
Adventure is more important than community. Adventure moves to number three.
Community is more important than security. So community stays at number four with security in number five, like this:
Then you compare the others. Passion is more important than freedom, so it stays in number one. Adventure is more important than freedom, so it moves to number two. We already compared freedom and community (which includes everything below that).
Adventure is more important than passion to this person. So their final list looks like this:
In order to make these decisions in a true and honest way, you may need to visualize a situation where you’d have to make that choice. For example, comparing freedom and community. You have the opportunity to move across the country to be free, but your friends are all staying back at home. If you would move across the country, you likely value freedom more than community.
Remember that the order matters. You might make health your number one value because without your health, you can’t be productive in other areas of your life. Or you may put love first because you gain your strength and wellness from loving others.
5. Reaffirm your values.
Why do these values make you feel good? Are you proud of your top three values? Would you feel comfortable telling these values to people you admire and respect?
How will these values change your life moving forward? What decisions will you have to make in order to stay true to these values?
How will these values help shape your life?
6. Hang up your values.
Solidify your values. Write them down in a visually-pleasing way or set them as your computer desktop. Put your values in a spot where you will see them and acknowledge them every day.
7. Revisit in 6 months.
Values change over time as your definition of success changes with your life. It’s okay to reevaluate and change your values every 6 months or year. You can go through the above process again and again to ensure you are always living a life that you can be proud of.
When you consciously choose your values, you consciously choose your life.
Work-life balance is more than just family and work. It’s a blend of the values that tell you how you want to live your life.
Your values will help your prioritize where you’ll spend your time and the decisions you make.
Your values will tell you what your ideal work-life balance should look like.