One of the main targets of every personal development effort is to make our values more conscious. Only when we know what is important to us can we live them out in a conscious matter, and take them as guides, rather than being inflicted by random circumstances we cannot control. There are in my opinion two different types of values.
I call the first type VALUES FOR PRINCIPLES. These values can guide us in our daily behaviour. They are for example: Living with love and humour, pride, or to strive for excellence. The six AIESEC values are other good examples for this type (strive for excellence, living diversity, acting sustainably, demonstrating integrity etc.)
From these values, we can derive rules, or rather PRINCIPLES.
The second type of values that we have in life point us to our GOALS. Examples: Save the environment, create a family and care for them, help people to live more conscious lives, fight poverty, save the whales etc. If we know these values inside of us, we can extract a purpose in life, or for some people, even a VISION.
These two types can be compared with different cultures. The differences are not clear-cut in each aspect, but it makes sense to understand the difference, because we need different approaches to get to them. Ask a German businessman working in China whether he sees a difference in getting things done in the two cultures!
How can we then get to the first type of values, our principles?
Here are some different methods as keywords. They cannot be explained in detail here. For more information on them, lets get in contact.
1. People I admire- analyse the people around you. What do you admire on some of them? Look at your friends- why are they your friends? Which attribute is it about them that you value?
2. Reflect: When have I been passionate in life? When did I do something creative and productive with this passion? What was the passion about? I like this exercise a lot, because it reminds us that we have all created something special for us with our passion in the past. We can do so again.
3. Values-list: there are lists with different types of values. What we can do here is to cut them down one by one, so that there are just a few left at the end.
4. There are also other exercises like the Abigale: A story about how a girl sleeps with a guy just to get to the man she loves…quite controversial. Nobody is obviously right in this story, which makes it fun to discuss it. It can be a good start in values-discussions. You can download this exercise along with others here: http://www.training-youth.net/INTEGRATION/TY/Publications/tkits/tkit4/content.pdf
5. Look at difficult decision you made in your past. Why did you make them? What were the principles you based your decision on?
These are some methods to get ourselves closer to our principles. What about the others, our goals?
1. Funeral- exercise: In this exercise, imagine you are at your own funeral. People that cared for you are holding speeches. What will they say about your character? What about the achievements you had in life?
2. News-scan: What kind of news are you most interested in when reading the papers or watching news? What strikes you to be most unjust? Collect the articles that you care about, and find out what it is that touches you in them.
3. Look at your own CV: Which of the things you did in the past were most important to you? Why? Which role did I play in there?
4. One of the easiest, but for me personally, most effective exercise: Sit down with a pen and paper (or a computer), and type this title: I dedicate my life to… then simply brainstorm. In the beginning, I wrote down the most obvious things. But when I continued and kept on writing, I eventually got to something that really touched me. This is when I knew: This is it.
These are just some methods, if you know more, please share. And if there are still questions, drop me a line. .-)
As a second step to the Principle-Values, I suggest to find out rules for everyday life. What can be my principles to ensure that I really live out these values? What does it mean for me to strive for excellence? Find out tangible rules for yourself. The question was asked how many values we should have. There is no universal answer to it. I believe that we should limit the number to the ones we can consciously follow. More important than the sheer number is the PRIORITY of the values. Values, in both cases, should have ranks. It makes decision-making in life a lot easier.
The second step to the Goal-Values then is to find out a Vision for our own lives: So what is it then that I want to dedicate my life to? Its not possible to be sure about it for the rest of our lives. But we can at least be as sure as we can be, for now.
Looking forward to discussions, Thu Phong.