Honoring your Values


By Poonam Sharma, Ph.D

There has been considerable talk about values during this election year. All sides hold passionate opinions about which particular values are important and accurately reflect our identity as Americans. Various groups lobby to have their personal values influence the decisions made in Washington D.C., rousing considerable controversy in the process.

So why does all this talk about values stir people up so much?

Values are intimately connected with our core sense of self. In many ways they define who we are as human beings. Our values make choices clear, even in the face of increasing information overload and personal stress.

Whether you are a country or an individual, a clear internal compass, such as a solid personal value system, can help you more easily navigate your course through life. If you have an interest in gaining clarity on your personal values and how to use them more effectively, read on.


Can you name your top five values? When asked, most of us will come up with a list such as: (1) health, (2) family, (3) career, (4) spirituality, and (5) financial security. It is easy to make a list of values, but much more difficult to align your life with those values. Research shows that merely coming up with a list is insufficient to bring about change. Instead, identifying your values and then working on narrowing any distance that might exist between your stated values and your actions is essential.

So what does your actual behavior reveal? If family is important to you, do your actions over the past year make this fact obvious? Was "maintaining good health" on your list of top five values? If so, what did you do this year to take care of your body? If you have a passion for learning, how did you further your knowledge and nurture your curiosity?

When your behavior is out of line with your core values, you are out of integrity, and this makes most people at least slightly uncomfortable, confused, or frustrated. Rather than changing, many of us tend to tolerate things that drain our energy and chip away at our very souls. The hesitation to change makes it difficult to experience the fulfillment and peace that are the rewards of honoring your values (and yourself).

If your personal values and your behavior are mismatched, don't worry. Most of us need work in this area.


The following are some suggestions for bringing your life more in line with your personal value system.

1. Clarify your personal values. Write down a list of your top 5 values. Examples include: learning, connection with others, financial security, wisdom, humor, and spirituality. (If you need help coming up with your list of values, check out the list of over 500 values at humanityquest.com.) Be sure to list your values in order of their importance to you.

2. Determine if you are out of alignment. How well are you honoring your values in your daily life? Really be honest with yourself. Examine how you actually spend your time. It might be interesting to look at your calendar for the past few months and see how your time was allocated. Or, perhaps, ask a family member or close friend to give you their impression about what it looks like you value.

3. Allocate your time wisely. Your life can be lived more closely in line with what you cherish, but you must be willing to devote some time to those things. So, slowly work on eliminating the time you spend on things you are tolerating and make choices that bring you closer to what's important. Each choice you make either moves you more into integrity or further away from yourself.

4. Give the very best of yourself to the people and things you value most. Many of us make the mistake of devoting too much of ourselves to "thankless" people and activities that fail to bring us satisfaction. Isn't life just too short to "put up" with activities and people you don't even care about? At the passing of another year, make a conscious decision to direct your energy into that which brings you ultimate peace and fulfillment.

5. Review your progress periodically. Most of us get motivated to make changes around the end of the year, but lose momentum with time. Make an appointment with yourself three months from now to see if it's time for another alignment.

Remember, that when you honor your values, you honor yourself. Ultimate fulfillment can be found by living your life in integrity, with your actions revealing who you are to the world, no matter what your values.

Poonam Sharma, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and life coach in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Sharma helps people improve their health, find balance in their lives, and achieve their most important personal and professional goals. Poonam Sharma, Ph.D. may be contacted at http://www.healthfulchanges.com