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Defining your values


While I was away in Byron Bay on retreat, I revisited my personal values. If you’ve never worked on your values, the best way to start is by creating a mind map. Grab a big sheet of paper and lots of coloured textas or pencils. These help you to connect with the creative part of yourself. Put on your favourite music and allow yourself plenty of uninterrupted time. You may even like to listen to a short guided meditation before you begin to put you in a relaxed and intuitive state of mind.

What exactly are values?

Your values are your heart’s deepest desire about how you want to live your life. They can describe the person you want to be, the personal attributes you want to focus on most or the way that you want  to live. You can choose any words you like as your values but you might find it helpful to begin with some suggestions, such as the words on this values list that I use with my clients. I intentionally use a shorter list so people don’t feel overwhelmed but if you prefer to begin with a longer collection of words, you’ll find lots of other lists by Googling ‘values list’.

How to begin

Review the values list and make a note of your top ten values. Next, write the word ‘Values’ in the centre of your page and then create a branch for each of your individual values. As you complete this exercise, stay connected to your breath and your body – resist the urge to overthink your choices. It’s important to trust your instincts.

Add any other words that come into your mind

As you work on your mind map, be guided by whatever comes into your mind. Add any other words that you think of – there’s no right or wrong way to do this. You’ll see that on my mind map I’ve also included some ‘how to achieve the value’ words in the creativity section (these are marked with a little cross). As I was mind mapping, these jumped out as ways I could align with these values more easily.

Grouping your values

The image above is actually my second mind map. The first one included all ten values and then I narrowed it down to highlight my top four (inner harmony, health, creativity and connection). Originally I included other words that I found meaningful such as ‘fairness’ and ‘intelligence’ but ultimately, I found I was able to express the same value in a way that resonated more for me. Gathering your values into no more than five simple categories makes them easier to remember.

Are you aligned with your values?

Once you’ve refined your top values, check in with each of them and see how you’re tracking. You might even want to give yourself a score out of ten as to how aligned you are with each value right now (with 10/10 being completely aligned). It’s important that you don’t use this as an opportunity to beat yourself up – see this exercise as a starting point for creating meaningful change in your life.

Taking action

Once your mind map is complete (you may find you want to do a couple of versions if the first one doesn’t quite nail it), choose at least one small action step you can take this week that will help you align with one of the values you’d like to focus on now.

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Posted in: Life
Kate James

I'm Kate James and the owner of Total Balance. I work with people who care about living purposeful, creative lives. My clients want to clarify their personal values, identify their strengths and learn about how they can make a difference in the world in their own unique way.

I run workshops and retreats in Melbourne and Byron Bay to give you the chance to escape the noise of everyday to discover what really matters to you.