Identifying Your Values

Corey —  May 31, 2010

       Last week, I talked about the importance of values. Now it’s time to identify your personal values. If you are married, have a partner, or your finances somehow involve other people, then you may want to do this exercise with the other people involved. This will elicit an important discussion and ensure you are in agreement or at least have an understanding about your guiding principles.

Identify Your Values

       To start this process, you will want to make sure you have time to focus. Sit down with some paper, and ask yourself this question: What is most important to me in life? Write down your values to answer this question. Try to make these one or two word phrases, and don’t worry about the order yet. I was able to get the major ones for me (Faith in God, Family, and Love) but I hit a road block trying to think of everything that’s actually important to me.

       If you’re like me and are having trouble listing specific values, you can try using a list of values as a starting point. Go through the list and find the values that you feel are most important. Try not to choose the values you think you should have, but choose the ones you find truly important in your life.

       To make it easy, I have included a link to a list of values in a Microsoft Word Document so you can edit it on the computer. Feel free to add other values or put them in your own words.

Prioritize Your Values

       Now try to narrow down this list by combining similar values into a single value (or two if you need to). You want to get this list down to no more than 10-15 values. Using the list of values mentioned above, I ended up with 59 on my list. I had a lot of cutting down to do! I eliminated the overlapping values to get it down to the phrases I thought summed up that particular group the best. For example, I eliminated ‘Education’ and ‘Knowledge’ and used ‘Learning’ instead. It took me a while, but I got my list down to 13 values.

       Then you need to prioritize your list of values. You can do this by listing your top value first, then your second highest value, and so on until you’ve prioritized your entire list. If you are having difficulty prioritizing this list, then you might want to try CNN Money’s “The Prioritizer” calculator. The Prioritizer allows you to list up to 15 items and then asks you a series of questions that forces you to choose between each possible pair of goals. Once you’re finished, the calculator will give you a list of your values in priority order according to your choices.

The Next Step: Examine & Evaluate

       Now you should have a list that reflects your personal values in order from most important to less important. The next step is to examine and evaluate these values. Make sure you’re here next week as I talk about how to examine and evaluate your values in light of your actions and goals in life. To make sure you don’t miss that article, sign up for free updates to Provident Planning. You can also enter your email address below to get updates sent directly to your inbox.

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Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in religion. While he enjoys learning and writing about Christianity, another one of his new passions is writing about personal finances in order to help others make wise decisions with their money.

2 responses to Identifying Your Values

  1. This is such an important thing to do. I find that many people that I speak with about their finances never identify their values. They often speak of these “canned” goals such as buying a house in x years, or saving for college for a child, but they never speak of priorities and greater values (even the Christians).
    .-= Khaleef @ KNS Financial´s last blog ..True Christian Conduct =-.

  2. I think many people neglect this, Khaleef. It’s entirely possible to go through life without actively thinking about your values. But doing so early on helps you avoid the tragedy of getting to the end, looking back, and regretting what you’ve done and where you are. Your goals need to be your goals – not society’s, your parents’, or your friends’. Identifying your values and weighing everything against them help ensure that your goals really are your own.