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How to define your values


While I was away in Byron Bay on retreat recently, I revisited my personal values. If you’ve never worked on your values, a great way to start is by creating a mind map. Grab a large sheet of paper and lots of coloured textas or pencils. 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 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. You’ll find lots of examples by Googling ‘values list’.

How to begin

Note your top ten values on a piece of paper and on your mind map, write the word ‘Values’ in the centre of your page. 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 as they arise and remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do this.

Grouping your values

You may find it helpful to group your values. For example, under the value of ‘integrity’ on my mind map, I added ‘honesty’ and ‘loyalty’. Under ‘connection’ I added ‘family happiness’ and ‘friendship’. 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 but rather, see this exercise as a starting point for creating meaningful change in your life.

Taking action

Once your mind map is complete, 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.

Posted in: Life
Kate James

About the author

Kate James is an author, coach and mindfulness teacher. She works with female leaders and business owners to help them clarify their values and strengths and discover a mindset that allows them to live confident, purposeful lives.