Values Clarification

Image par Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke de Pixabay

Values clarification might be quite timely for some people, who are rethinking their life because of the circumstances of Covid-19 and being less busy. Some self-help books, especially those found in the business section of the bookstores, focus on the idea that you are the captain of your ship, and success or failure is all up to you. I think these are written by privileged, white, educated males for the most part. You set your destination, determined by your beliefs, values and goals, and life unfolds as it should. On the other hand, I think a lot of peoples’ lives are more like what John Lennon wrote in the song Beautiful Boy: “life is what happens when you are making other plans”. Perhaps some people can set a course for their life, and step by step, move towards their goals in an orderly way. I suspect this is the exception rather than the rule.

Often times, there are greater forces at work in our lives and the world that encroach or frustrate our goals: our spouse/partner, our boss, our co-workers, our parents, our children, our upbringing, our gender, our race, our culture, our society, illness, the economy, being handicapped, inequality, prejudice, Covid-19 (add whatever obstacles are in your path). For people in many parts of the world, the things that frustrate their aspirations are harsher than the so-called first world: hunger, war, poverty, homelessness, having no citizenship, lack of education, lack of opportunities, human trafficking and worse.

Nevertheless, clarifying what you value or don’t value, believe or don’t believe, what rules you want to follow or not follow, is a good exercise to as a youth or at crossroads (divorce, career failure, severe illness, Covid-19, imprisonment, or whatever).  Since values, beliefs and rules a person chooses are so pivotal, I think they should either be upmost in your mind, in your “soul”, or if nothing else, written down so that you can refer to them from time to time.

My approach to this, as always, one day at a time, one step at a time, progress not perfection, and moderation in all things. I think it is better to get some clarification on where you stand, rather than try to do it perfectly, then never getting anything done or being frustrated because it takes too much time and energy.

An quick and simple way to clarify your values is answer the following questions:

  • What do I value?
  • What do I believe?
  • What goals do I really want to achieve?
  • What standards, rules and/or morals do I want to choose for myself?

To further refine your results, rate each item on a scale of 0 – 10, where 0 is you don’t value it at all and 10 this is an item you place top emphasis on. Then reorder your results according to these ratings in order of priority, with the highest scoring items at the top of the list and the lowest scoring items at the bottom of the list. I recommend doing this in a Word processor file, so you can cut and paste to re-organize the items according to priority.

For further work, check out the book Values Clarification. It can give you some ideas if you are stuck or can’t come up with anything on your own. What Color Is Your Parachute is a book that has been updated yearly for something like 40 or 50 years. It is for job hunters and career changers, but much of what it contains is directly related to values clarification in the big sense of the term. The part of this book I liked the best was a chart or grid system to help prioritize a list of competing items. It is a bit of work, but pays off with big decisions, like who to marry, what job to choose, or where to live. In the 2015 version of What Color Is Your Parachute that I have, this chart or grid is in Chapter 7 called “You Need To Understand Yourself More Fully”, in the section “second petal”. I suspect the 2020 version still has this chart or grid.

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