Do you have a big decision you’re struggling with? At this very moment, billions of people across the globe are contemplating their next move in life on a variety of issues, as if it were a game of chess.

However, navigating these decisions isn’t always easy, and I want to talk about what’s driving all this difficulty, and how understanding your core values may be the clarity you need to get to the next level in your life.

Life Creates an Endless Supply of Big Decisions

What’s driving all these big decisions? Well, lots of things, but here are some of the biggies…

  • Career: 53% of people are unhappy at work (Forbes), and 71% of people are looking to change jobs (Washington Post).
  • Money: The median per-capita income worldwide is $2,920 and in the USA it’s $15,480 (Gallup) — lots of people want and need more money.
  • Relationships: 6 of every 10 people are unhappily coupled and 4 out of 10 have considered leaving their partner (Psychology Today).
  • Health: Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. 39% of adults aged 18+ were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese (WHO).

There are countless big decisions most of us are thinking through at any given time. Maybe some of these statistics resonate with you.

If you feel like you need to do a baseline and inventory of your life in this moment, the Wheel of Life assessment is a simple tool to give you a birds-eye view of where you are right now and where you’d like to be in the future.

But You’re Stuck, And Here’s Why

There’s a handful of reasons why the struggle is real.

You’re confronted with a lot of decisions everyday

You make 35,000 choices each day (Psychology Today) of which about 70 of those decisions (Iyengar) are considered conscious decisions — a big number in either case.

You’re overstimulated and distracted

We are living in the most overstimulated and distracted time in human history with a barrage of endless pings, alerts, and other rich media all vying for our attention — it’s hard to focus on anything.

You look inward for answers, but you’re staring into a blank void

When you look inward to reflect on these questions and decisions, you might feel that you’re starring into a blank void — you just don’t know enough about yourself to know what you want; and this might be because you’ve spent all your time try to copy what everyone else is doing, rather than figuring out what you truly want.

Social norms create tremendous pressure to go with the flow

We’re told from a young age what is expected of us: get good grades, graduate from high school, go to college, get a good job, get married, build a family, and save for retirement.

And, when a large swath of the population subscribes to these ideals, it’s hard to be break from the flock, to be an outsider, and to go in a completely different direction — it takes a lot of courage to do something different (and your friends will certainly be watching and counting on your diverted failure as justification and comfort that they don’t need to be doing something different too).

This isn’t to say we don’t need social norms. We absolutely do. They create cohesion, good citizenry, human progress, etc., but often the pressure to conform sometimes comes at the expense of our goals and values.

There’s no guarantee that your journey will be easy

The most tense part of navigating a a big life decision is the transition from where you are now to where you want to be — the journey to your next step carries the possibility of success and the risk of failure.

Self-reflection takes work, but your autopilot gives you comfort

Once we get a steady job it’s easy to become so comfortable with a daily routine that long-periods of time can pass doing the daily grind while ignoring what we truly want.

Self-reflection is so vital to change and growth, but in a world driven by instant gratification, it’s hard for many to take the time to reflect, because we always seem to either be out of time or not willing to make the time. A lot of busy adults love the idea of personal growth, but few actually make the time for it.

Avoidance is often easier than an inconvenient truth

For some people, they have an idea of what they want deep down inside, but they’d rather avoid confronting those feelings and that clarity, because what they might actually uncover may prompt a swift change.

No one has ever asked you what you wanted out of life

What do you want? When I’ve asked this question as a coach, it’s not uncommon for someone to say, I don’t know. Often, they do know, it just has to be unravelled, once we get past all the values conditioning you’ve received from parents, community, education, and faith — not that any of those are bad (the intentions are good and they serve a purpose), but often people take on an identity of someone else’s creation.

And isn’t personal development just mumbo jumbo

Finally, there’s a lot of noise in the personal development space, and no shortage of contradictory advice; plus personal development can also seem intangible and nebulous. So, this smoke screen can be hard to cut through, and as a result can create an air of ambivalence about personal growth.

Bottomline, all these things create an environment where you become overwhelmed and paralyzed by the important decisions in your life.

How do you rise above all the noise? One possibility is your values.

Big Decisions Are Easier With Your Core Values

Finding an answer to a problem or a big decision gets a whole lot easier when it’s made based on your core values.

It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.
— Roy E. Disney

Roy was right. The answer lies within the awesome power of your personal values. Your values are the goals and motivations in your life that when honored allow you to live with greater fulfillment and joy. And, when you start to make decisions that are in alignment with your values, your life will transform in incredible ways.

A value is really just a motivation — an end goal. It’s something you need in your life, and you are either getting right now (through success) or not (with struggle). These motivations can also shift some over time as our needs change in life — so we always need to re-visit our values periodically.

The Science of Human Values

Social psychologist Dr. Shalom H. Schwartz pioneered the Theory of Basic Human Values. While there are many aspects of his research I will cover in upcoming articles, here’s what you need to know right now.

Dr. Schwartz theorized that of all the thousands of words that we use to describe values, that the broad underlying motivation of those values can actually be deduced to a structured framework that is comprised of 10 value categories and 57 individual values. This is what I love about the Schwartz values list — it’s not arbitrary — there is a method here.

Just about any value you can think of can be tied back to this framework, so it’s a very useful tool in helping you understand what truly motivates you.

If you want more background on the research, check out an overview on this theory published by Dr. Schwartz.

Theory of Basic Human Values: 57 Core Values

The Theory of Basic Human Values

Download a a beautifully-formatted desk reference of this framework. You can also take the Personal Values Assessment based on the Theory of Basic Human Values.

Core Value Definitions

Below are some definitions I’ve pulled together from various sources to describe these values as a reference.

Power — “social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources” (Schwartz).

  • Social power “the potential for social influence; the available tools one has to exert influence over another that can lead to a change among that group” (iresearch.net).
  • Authority: “power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior” (Merriam Webster).
  • Wealth: “abundance of valuable material possessions or resources” (Merriam Webster).
  • Preserving my public image: “the ideas and opinions that the public has about a person…that may not be what they are really like, e.g. reputation, standing, track record)” (Macmillan).
  • Social recognition: “the status and esteem (‘feel good factor’) that individuals…receive as a consequence of displaying certain characteristics, reaching certain achievements or engaging in certain activities.” (Defined Term)

Achievement — “personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards” (Schwartz).

  • Successful: “having attained wealth, position, honors, or the like.” (dictionary.com)
  • Capable: “having attributes (such as physical or mental power) required for performance or accomplishment” (Merriam Webster).
  • Ambitious: “having a desire to be successful, powerful, or famous; having a desire to achieve a particular goal.” (Merriam Webster).
  • Influential: “someone…that has an impact on or shapes how people act or how things occur” (yourdictionary.com).
  • Intelligent: “the ability to think, understand, and learn things quickly and well” (Collins).
  • Self-respect: the “feeling of confidence and pride in your own ability and worth” (Collins).

Hedonism — “pleasure or sensuous gratification for oneself” (Schwartz).

  • Pleasure: “a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment” (Oxford).
  • Enjoying life: “to take pleasure or satisfaction” in “the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual” (Merriam Webster).
  • Self-indulgence: “unrestrained gratification of one’s own appetites, desires, or whims” (Merriam Webster).

Stimulation — “excitement, novelty, and challenge in life” (Schwartz).

  • Daring: “venturesomely bold in action or thought” (Merriam Webster).
  • A varied life: “changing often” “the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual” (Cambridge, Merriam Webster).
  • An exciting life: “Causing great enthusiasm and eagerness” in “the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual” (Cambridge, Merriam Webster).

Self-Direction — ”independent thought and action — choosing, creating, exploring” (Schwartz).

  • Creativity: “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination” (dictionary.com).
  • Curious: “the desire to learn or know about anything; inquisitiveness” (dictionary.com)
  • Freedom: “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint” (Google).
  • Choosing own goals: the ability to choose “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result” (Google).
  • Independent: “Free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority” (Oxford).
  • Privacy: “the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people” (Google).

Universalism — “understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature” (Schwartz).

  • Protecting the environment: “anything we do to protect our planet and conserve its natural resources so that every living thing can have an improved quality of life” (Conserve energy).
  • A world of beauty: “a part or aspect of human life or of the natural features of the earth, in particular.” that “ gives great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about, etc.; delighting the senses or mind” (Google, dictionary.com).
  • Unity with nature: “the state of being one” with “the animals, plants, and other things in the world that are not made by people, and all the events and processes that are not caused by people” (dictionary.com, Collins).
  • Broad-minded: “willing to accept opinions, beliefs, or behaviors that are unusual or different from your own” (Merriam Webster).
  • Social justice: “justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society” (Oxford).
  • Wisdom: “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement; the quality of being wise” (Oxford).
  • Equality: “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities” (Oxford).
  • A world at peace: “the concept of an ideal state of happiness, freedom and peace within and among all people and nations on earth” (Wikipedia).
  • Inner harmony: “deliberate state of psychological or spiritual calm despite the potential presence of stressors” (Wikipedia).

Benevolence — “preserving and enhancing the welfare of those with whom one is in frequent personal contact (the ‘in-group’)” (Schwartz).

  • Helpful: “giving or ready to give help” (Google).
  • Honest: “honorable in principles, intentions, and actions; upright and fair; truthful or creditable” (dictionary.com).
  • Forgiving: to “stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake” (Oxford).
  • Loyal: “giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution” (Oxford).
  • Responsible: “having the job or duty of dealing with or taking care of something or someone; able to be trusted to do what is right or to do the things that are expected or required” (Merriam Webster).
  • True friendship: a close relationship between two people that share the highest level of trust, honesty, respect, camaraderie, vulnerability, and support during good and bad times.
  • A spiritual life: “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things” (Google); connection to a belief, idea, purpose, or feeling greater than yourself.
  • Mature love: “strong and lasting affection between spouses or lovers who are in a happy, passionate and fulfilling relationship” (yourdictionary.com).
  • Meaning in life: the ability to find and achieve purpose, relevance, and contribution in “the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual” (Merriam Webster).

Tradition — “respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that one’s culture or religion provides.” (Schwartz).

  • Devout: “totally committed to a cause or belief” (Google).
  • Accepting portion in life: “to receive willingly” your “lot, fate, or fortune” in life (Merriam Webster).
  • Humble: “not proud or arrogant; modest” (dictionary.com).
  • Moderate: “avoiding extremes of behavior or expression : observing reasonable limits” (Merriam Webster).
  • Respect for tradition: “high or special regard” for “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (such as a religious practice or a social custom)” (Merriam Webster).

Conformity — “restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms” (Schwartz).

  • Politeness: “Behaviour that is respectful and considerate of other people” (Oxford).
  • Honoring parents and elders: “to regard or treat [parents and individuals of a greater age] with admiration and respect” (Merriam Webster).
  • Self-discipline: “the ability you have to control and motivate yourself, stay on track and do what is right” (yourdictionary.com).
  • Obedient: “complying or willing to comply with orders or requests; submissive to another’s will” (Google).

Security — “safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self” (Schwartz).

  • Clean: “free from dirt; unsoiled; unstained” (dictionary.com).
  • National security: “the security of a nation state, including its citizens, economy, and institutions” (Wikipedia).
  • Social order: “the way in which the various components of society — social structures and institutions, social relations, social interactions and behavior, and cultural features such as norms, beliefs, and values — work together to maintain the status quo” (ThoughtCo).
  • Family security: the ability for a family to “feel safe, stable, and free from fear or anxiety”(Google).
  • Reciprocation of favors: “a return in kind” of “an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual” (Merriam Webster, Google).
  • Healthy: “in a good physical or mental condition; in good health” (Oxford).
  • Sense of belonging: “the experience of personal involvement in a system or environment so that persons feel themselves to be an integral part of that system or environment” (Science Direct).

Values-Based Living Will Transform Your Life

So what can you expect when you start living by your values?

  1. Achieve clarity — get clear about what you want
  2. Make better decisions — start charting a course that’s right for you
  3. Discover more fulfillment — create the life you want, you’re in control

If any of these insights and research resonate with you, I’d invite you to discover your values and take our Personal Values Assessment.

References

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