Know Your Values

For your Valid Values to be “valuable”, you have to put them to use. The key to living a richer and more meaningful isn’t found outside of yourself. The key is in living your values.

If You Don’t Know Your Values

If you don’t know your values, you are apt to spend much of your time and energy on pursuits that are not all that meaningful to you. For example, research indicates that when we focus most of our time on making money and becoming wealthy, we are often “surprisingly miserable”. [Burkeman] We get really good at maximizing our time and effort in generating wealth but often at the expense of treating the present moment as nothing more than a means “to travel toward a future state of happiness”. [Burkeman] The result is that our lives feel meaningless.

This decision to focus on accumulation (or any other pursuit) rather than to live from our values has more of an impact on our lives than is apparent in the moment. Small decisions appear to have little effect at the time you make them, but over a period of time they add up to have a major impact. [Christensen]

If you don’t know your values, it is “easy to lose sight of what truly matters”. [Ryan] And at the pace of life and work today, it is “completely understandable if you feel disconnected from your values” [Tartakovsky] and that you’ve lost a grip on what truly matters to you.

But don’t despair. It is never too late to define and live your “Valid Values”. So, what exactly are values?

What Values Are

A value is not a goal but values can help us set and achieve meaningful goals. Unlike a goal, a value isn’t something you cross off a list or a thing that you’ve achieved. [The Importance of Knowing & Living Your Values] Values are ideals that you “continuously aim to live and move towards”; [The Importance of Knowing & Living Your Values] ideals that are important to how you work and how you live. [Mind Tools Content Team] In the long run, your values are “the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to.” [Mind Tools Content Team]

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We all have values, whether we’re aware of them or not and whether we recognize them or not. “A gang of thieves can share values,” writes Stephen R. Covey, although they are contrary to the fundamental principles that most of us choose to live by. [Covey] Still, when you know and live your values, you are much better positioned to have an easier and more meaningful life. [Mind Tools Content Team]

Values are relatively stable but they can and do change over time and with varying life experiences. So even if you’ve taken steps to identify and live from your values, it’s a good idea to check in from time to time to be sure you’re still on track.

But first, you have to know what yours are.

Why You Might Want To Know Your Values

“One benefit of living a principled life is that the rules can simplify your thought process by eliminating dozens of small decisions.” ~ Holiday Mathis

When you know what your values are, the things that make life meaningful, you are better equipped to navigate the challenges that are inevitable as you strive to create a life of meaning, purpose, and Service. Living out of your values helps you to create a life that is “meaningful and in alignment with what we desire and believe is right.” [The Importance of Knowing & Living Your Values]

Each of us has our own set of values. Mine are not the same as yours, but yours are just as valid for you as mine are for me. Only you can determine what your values are – nobody else can do that for you. And until you decide what yours are, you are at risk of floundering or heading off in the wrong direction and languishing in a life that has little meaning for you.

But when you know what your values are and you live in a way that is congruent with your highest values, your Valid Values, life is good. You are at peace and content, and you are likely working toward goals that are meaningful for you. You are choosing “activities, relationships, and projects worthy of your attention and intention …” [Tartakovsky] And you are able to deal with any challenges that come your way.

As you see, there are many good reasons for defining and living your Valid Values.

Benefits of Knowing Your Values

What are these “good reasons for defining and living your Valid Values”? What are the benefits you’ll experience? Here is a short list to consider.

You don’t give in to negative emotions. [Tartakovsky] If you aren’t living from your values, sometimes fear, anger, anxiety, or other negative thoughts hold you back from doing or even trying projects and activities that you might enjoy and that could move you forward toward your goals. [Tartakovsky]

You stay the course. When things get difficult or uncomfortable, honoring your values keeps you on the path. You won’t give up at the first bump in the road.

You are “rooted in your boundaries”. [Tartakovsky] “It is almost impossible to be successful,” writes life coach Talane Miedaner, “without firm and clear boundaries.” [Miedaner] Boundaries are clear lines of demarcation about what you will and will not do and the behaviors you will or won’t accept from others. When you are clear on your values, your boundaries become clearer. Knowing your values lets you decline those “not-so-meaningful requests, invites, and activities”. [Tartakovsky] It allows you to say “no” to the many trivial things so you can say “yes” to the few important ones.

You have a sense of purpose. Defining and living your Valid Values day by day guides you to live on purpose. Knowing your values helps you discover and know your purpose and living them out means you are living your purpose.

You find clarity in “sticky situations”. [Tartakovsky] When you are faced with an ethical dilemma or other important decision, your values are your North star to guide you to make the right choices for you. Knowing your values brings clarity in chaotic and confusing situations. [Tartakovsky] And living from your values allows you to make “wise, healthy decisions that could set you up for success in the long term.” [Tartakovsky]

know your values
Photo by Brett Sayles

If You Want To Know Your Values

“We can tell our values by looking at our checkbook stubs.” ~ Gloria Steinem

If you want to know what you value right now, don’t consider what you say is important to you. Look at what you actually do. Look at your “checkbook stubs”.

If you want to discover your Valid Values, here’s a good question to start with: “What truly matters?” [Ryan] This question gets you to “the heart of issues at work or school, and to the heart of your own convictions, beliefs, and goals in life.” [Ryan] Asking – and answering – this question helps you separate the significant from the trivial.

And if you want a more in-depth exercise in discovering your Valid Values, try the exercises in The Excelerator JumpStart – Excelerated Values.

A Life Well Lived

“The only definitive measure of what it means to have used your weeks well: that working within the limits of your moment in history, and your finite time and talents, you actually got around to doing – and made life more luminous for the rest of us by doing – whatever magnificent task or weird little thing it was that you came here for.” ~ Oliver Burkeman

For your Valid Values to be “valuable”, you have to put them to use. You must live them out. If you value family, schedule time to be with them and do things together. If you value integrity, then be the person you say you are – everywhere, all the time. If you value courage, find ways to step out of your comfort zone every day. If you value self-mastery, then do what you say you will do.

The key to living a richer and more meaningful isn’t found in a crowd or anywhere outside of yourself. The key is in living your values. “. . . your values define what a meaningful life looks like to you.” [Tartakovsky] And they are “the justification for who and how you are — at your deepest, most personal level.” [Tartakovsky]

When you live in a way that honors your values, you are positioned to live a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service. In fact, you are embracing your Excelerated Life™!

How are you honoring one of your Valid Values in your daily life?
Share your experience by leaving a comment below.

Excelerated Values™ – defining and living your Valid Values – is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.

Read more about the Excelerated Life.


Burkeman, Oliver. Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management For Mortals. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021.

Christensen, Clayton M. How Will You Measure Your Life? New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2012.

Covey, Stephen R. The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

Miedaner, Talane. Coach Yourself To Success. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary Books, 2000.

Mind Tools Content Team. “What Are Your Values? Deciding What’s Most Important in Life.” Mind Tools. Emerald Works, . Web. October 28, 2022.

Ryan, James E. Wait, What? And Life’s Other Essential Questions. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2017.

Tartakovsky, MS, Margarita. “Discover Your Values.” PsychCentral. Healthline Media, July 20, 2021. Web. October 28, 2022.

“The Importance of Knowing & Living Your Values.” Appplied Positive Psychology Learning Institute. Appplied Positive Psychology Learning Institute, . Web. October 28, 2002.

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