The Easy Way To Find Your Deepest Values & Live By Them

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Today, we’re going to be talking about deepest values — what they are, how to find them, and how to orient your life around them.

Setting ambitious goals and working to achieve them is an integral part of success. However, despite the importance of goals, things can get tricky when they begin to take precedent over our deepest values.

Our level of self-worth is often directly related to whether or not we achieve our goals, but it’s important to occasionally take a step back and ask questions like:

  • Do my goals align with what I really want out of life?
  • Are the goals I’m striving towards matching the desired identity that I want to create?
  • Is the pursuit of my goals causing me to sacrifice my values? 

The worst possible thing that can happen in life isn’t failing to climb the mountain, it’s reaching the top only to realize you chose to climb the wrong mountain.

That’s why it’s so crucial to design your life around your deepest values. When your goals and values are aligned, life just feels right. 

You’re not constantly questioning yourself and pondering, “What’s all this effort for anyway?” You’re energized and focused because you know you’re climbing the right mountain, and have a clear path to a meaningful, fulfilling life.

Let’s get into how to identify your deepest values and how to organize your life around them.

The Importance Of Having Good Values In Life

There’s a lot of focus on goal-setting in the world of self-improvement, but our values really determine where we should be aiming.

Your goals center around what you want to achieve, but your values center around the type of person you want to become.

If all you do is focus on the type of person you want to become, your goals will likely take care of themselves.

  • You may have a goal to become more spontaneous, but if you value comfort and safety, then your internal compass will steer you towards risk-averse pursuits that are within your comfort zone.
  • You may have a goal to build a million dollar business, but if you value personal relationships and downtime, it’s likely that you’ll struggle to put in the 12-14 hour days required to achieve that goal.

It’s incredibly important to have good values because contrary to our goals, they are really the driving factor behind our decisions.

Almost every decision that you make is guided by your values — they act as the internal compass that guides almost everything that you do.

That’s why it’s crucial to create synergy between your goals and your deepest values. When this synergy is present in your daily life, you’ll be more energized and productive because you know that you’re moving towards the best version of yourself.

roadsign with deepest values placed on it

What Are Your Deepest Values?

We all possess values that guide our decisions, but there are certain beliefs that play a bigger role in the habits that we adopt.

These are called our deepest values the guiding principles that are largely responsible for the decisions that we make each and every day.

Our deepest values are the core building blocks of who we are. They embody the type of person we believe ourselves to be and determine how we interact with the world around us.

Many people are quick to open up about their goals and desires, but struggle to uncover their deepest values 

I think that this is because finding your values requires radical honesty. It’s pretty easy to take out a piece of paper and write down what you want to achieve.

If someone was interviewing you right now and asked you what you wanted to achieve in the 12 months, without a moment’s hesitation you could reply back with desires like:

  • I want to get a promotion at work
  • I want to travel to Europe
  • I want to become debt-free
  • I want to get in the best shape of my life

However, what if that same interviewer asked you, “What are your deepest values? What principles govern your day to day habits?”

These are deep questions that require a little more self-reflection, and a whole lot more honesty. 

Because once again — your goals represent what you want in life, but your deepest values represent who you are.

And the truth is that you may resent the current version of yourself. You may feel a little shame about the fact that you can’t avoid procrastination, regularly skip workouts, don’t keep in touch with friends, watch too much Netflix, etc.

Well, the reality is that those actions are being driven by your deepest values. Just like your good habits, your bad habits are a direct reflection of what you believe is important to you.

It’s a tough thing to accept, but that brutal honesty gives you the wisdom to change your life for the better.

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Should You Be Living By Your Deepest Values?

Well, the truth is that maybe you shouldn’t.

As we’ve just discussed, it’s entirely possible that your deepest values are sabotaging your ability to live a happy, fulfilled life.

So should you be living by your deepest values? Well, it depends on your answer to these questions:

  • Do you feel satisfied with the current trajectory of your life? 
  • Does it feel like your life has meaning? Or are you feeling unfulfilled because you’re wandering around aimlessly trying to figure out who you are?
  • When you look back at the last 12 months of your life, do you feel like you’ve made meaningful strides in becoming your ideal self?

If you’re brutally honest with yourself and the answers to these questions are largely positive, then that’s a good indicator that your values are guiding you down the right path.

If the answers to these questions are mostly negative, then that’s an indicator that your deepest values are doing more harm than good.

It’s impossible to feel happy all of the time. There’s no scenario in which life is a stress-free joy ride where you walk around in a bulletproof bubble of positivity. 

Permanent happiness is an illusion, and we all know this. What we’re all really after in this life is meaning — we want to feel good about who we are, but also the type of person we’re becoming.

This is a much more achievable, non-idealistic aim, but we can only reach it if we possess good values and actually perform good daily habits that align with those values.

The rest of this article will help you identify your deepest values, and craft a specific plan for designing your life around them.

man sitting down on a beach

4 Steps To Identifying Your Deepest Values & Living By Them

Identifying your deepest values doesn’t need to be a marathon exercise that takes a couple of hours. Simplicity is king, which is why the following process should take you a maximum of 30 minutes to complete.

By the end of these four steps, you’ll have identified what your deepest values are and be armed with a specific action plan for executing on those values daily.

Let’s dive in!

Step #1: Uncovering Sources Of Happiness

First things first, get out a pen and paper or open a Google Doc/Word Doc. The first thing that you’re going to do is this — write down ten sources of unhappiness in your life that are completely within your control.

Typically, the things you write down will either be certain character flaws that you’re ashamed of or self-sabotaging habits that you keep repeating.

Here’s an idea of some of the things that you might write down:

  • My financial situation
  • I don’t sleep enough
  • The fact that I watch too much Netflix
  • My procrastination habit
  • My lack of confidence
  • My inability to maintain close personal relationships
  • My dating life

Once you’ve got a solid list of ten, then proceed to the next step.

man experiencing depression and sadness

Step #2: Identify Your Biggest Demons

As you look at your list, certain flaws/daily behaviors are gonna stand out. Everything that you’ve written down is making you unhappy in some way, but there are certain things sucking more joy from your life than others.

The items that stand typically represent your “biggest demons.” They’re the kind of shortcomings that you can’t stop thinking about  — the ones that you’ve told yourself over and over that you need to fix.

Identifying your biggest demons will be the focus of step 2. To complete the next step in this process, go through your list and narrow it down until you’ve identified what you believe to be your three biggest demons.

You know yourself better than anyone, so no guidance is needed for this step. Just tap into your intuition and trust that it’s steering you to the right choices.

Identify the top three and then move on to step 3.

Step #3: Connect Your Biggest Demons To Your Deepest Values

Now it’s time to connect your biggest demons to your deepest values. As we’ve already talked about, almost every decision that we make ties back to our values. 

If you’re unhappy with some aspect of your character, that unhappiness is a direct result of your choices, and those choices are driven by your values.

One concept that’s important to bring up here is the idea of incongruence. This concept was popularized by Abraham Maslow, the founder of humanistic psychology. 

Incongruence suggests that unpleasant feelings arise from a discrepancy between our ideal self and our perceived self. Our perceived self is how we view ourselves, and our ideal self is the type of person we wish we were.

That’s the funny part about finding your deepest values you actually have to focus on what you hate about yourself, not what you love about yourself. The massive discrepancies between who you are and who you want to be are the purest representation of your values.

Let me ask you guys a question  what made you decide what your biggest demons were in step 2? 

It didn’t really feel like a choice right? Didn’t it just kinda just feel like you were following your gut?

You don’t know why you came to that conclusion, you just did — that’s the true power of your values.

So what do you do now? 

First off, look back at your biggest demons. For each one, you’re going to complete the following statement:

  • The Value Reversal Statement: “I’m unhappy with { biggest demon } because I deeply value X, and I’m not embodying that value with my daily actions.

Given that each demon will connect to a specific value, you’ll probably need some additional help to fill out this statement. 

That’s why I’ve attached a resource to assist with this process. This core values list from James Clear contains over 50 core values that you can reference.

Feel free to open a new tab in your browser and open the list: James Clear – Core Values List

As you go through it, you might realize that a source of unhappiness connects back to multiple values that you’re not living out.

Once again, just use your gut intuition to resolve the dilemma. Pick the value from the list that you believe is the best choice to accurately complete the statement.

For further clarity on this step here’s an idea of what some of your value reversal statements might look like:

  • I’m unhappy with my lack of personal relationships because I deeply value friendship, and I’m not embodying that value with my daily actions.
  • I’m unhappy with my job because I deeply value meaningful work and I’m not embodying that value with my daily actions.
  • I’m unhappy with my lack of self-confidence because I deeply value boldness, and I’m not embodying that value with my daily actions.
  • I’m unhappy with my constant need to fit in because I deeply value authenticity, and I’m not embodying that value with my daily actions.

Fill out three value reversal statements using the core values list from James Clear provided above and then proceed to step 4.

demon chasing a man

Step #4: Aligning Your Daily Habits With Your Deepest Values

Now that you’ve identified your deepest values, it’s time to create a plan that will help you live out these values daily.

Creating this plan is going to be very simple. You have three values, so you’re going to come up with three daily habits that align with these values.

That means one habit for each value. The habits that you pick need to meet two criteria — they need to directly address your biggest source of unhappiness and also align with your deepest values.

Here’s what a sample plan would look like with value reversal statements and the associated habit:

Example 1:

  • Value Reversal Statement: I’m unhappy with my lack of personal relationships because I deeply value friendship, and I’m not embodying that value with my daily actions.
  • Daily Habit That Aligns With The Value: I will reach out to one person from my social circle via text/call every evening.

Example 2: 

  • Value Reversal Statement: I’m unhappy with my job because I deeply value meaningful work and I’m not embodying that value with my daily actions.
  • Daily Habit That Aligns With The Value: I will spend 30 minutes before work building a side hustle that I hope to turn into a full-time career

Example 3: 

  • Value Reversal Statement: I’m unhappy with my lack of self-confidence because I deeply value boldness, and I’m not embodying that value with my daily actions.
  • Daily Habit That Aligns With The Value: Every day, I will attempt a comfort zone challenge after getting home from work.

When picking your habits, make sure to be specific about when and where your new behavior will take place. 

In psychology, this is known as creating an implementation intention, which is just a fancy word for getting super clear on the specifics of your new habit.

If you’re specific, you’re much more likely to take action. If you’re vague with your intentions, life’s struggles will get in the way of your plans for change.

Once you’ve settled in on three habits, you now have a clear-cut plan for living by your deepest values.

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Final Thoughts

Values are such an incredibly important, but often overlooked aspect of self-improvement. 

The truth is that setting goals is sexy and exciting. It feels amazing to write down that we’re going to build a million dollar business, or lose 50 pounds, or become a productivity machine.

Digging deep into your values is significantly less sexy. It requires radical self-awareness and a deep exploration of the good, bad, and the ugly of you.

Generally, we like to think that our deepest values are positive. But this is the kind of belief that blinds us to the reality of who we are.

At the end of the day, your daily actions tell the story. If you don’t feel good about who you are and where you’re going, it may be time to admit that your value structure is flawed.

I hope that the process outlined in this article gives you a starting point towards making the next 6-12 months the best of your life.

And always remember, small progress every single day is still progress. If you move forward every day, you’re ahead of 97% of people who want what you want.

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