Decide What You Stand For
What are your values? What do you stand for? What are the organizing principles of your life? What are your core beliefs? What virtues do you aspire to, and hold in high regard when you see them demonstrated by others? What will you not stand for? What would you sacrifice for, suffer for, and even die for? These are extremely important questions that are only asked by about three percent of the population, and that small minority tends to be the movers and shakers in every society.
Write Out Your Key Values
When I first began this values clarification exercise some years ago, I wrote out a list of 163 qualities that I aspired to. I think I eventually came up with every virtue, value or positive descriptive adjective that referred to personality and character in the dictionary. And I agreed with all of them. I felt that they were all important and I wanted to incorporate every single one of them into my character.
Focus on Very Few Core Beliefs
But then reality sets in. I realized that it is very hard to learn even one new quality, or to change even one thing about myself, let alone dozens of things. So I scaled down my ambitions and began narrowing the values down to a small number that I could manage and work with. Once I had settled on about five core beliefs, I was then able to get to work on myself and start making some progress in character development.
Select Your Five Key Values
You should do the same. You should write down the five values that you feel are the most important for you to live by. Once you have those five values, you then organize them in order of priority. Which is the most important value in your hierarchy of values? Which would be second? Which would be third, and so on?
Learn To Make Better Decisions
Every choice or decision you make is based on your values. Whenever you decide between alternatives, you invariably choose the alternative that you value the most. Because you can only do one thing at a time, everything you do is a demonstration of what you consider to be the most important at that moment. Therefore, organizing your values in an order of priority is the starting point of personal strategic planning. It is only when you are clear about what you value, and in what order, that you are capable of planning and organizing the other activities of your life.
Action ExercisesHere are two things you can do immediately to put these ideas into action: First, clarify your core beliefs and your unifying principles. Write them down and compare your life today with the values that are really important to you. How are you doing? Second, organize your values in order of their importance to you. Which of your values is most important? Which is second? And so on. Do your current choices reflect this order of values?