Making happy choices
Happy choices are usually those that are in harmony with your most important values. This article describes how values influence our long-term satisfaction or stress, and how knowing your values can help you make important decisions in life.
Values represent who we are: what matters to us in life, what we consider most valuable and desirable, not only in our personal life, but in human life as such.
Examples of values include: health, belonging, objective analysis, independence, creativity, achievement, concern for one’s environment, and so on. You can find more examples of values at the end of this article.
Every individual has a different combination and order of values, which means that even your partner, family and best friends are likely to have a value system somewhat different from yours.
Life choices that are in step with our values and do not collide with any of the top ones, are more likely to make us feel motivated for action, courageous in overcoming fears and difficulties and, (in the long term), fulfilled.
How to use values as a compass for your decisions
When you know which your top values are, then you can take them into consideration when making a decision.
Whether you are deciding between a number of existing options, or you are trying to design a new solution, you can use the following guide:
- Focus on those options that are in better harmony with your top values.
Try to avoid options that clash strongly with any of your top values. If avoiding clashes is not possible, consider which options collide with your top values least or might collide less in the future.
- Find a balance between your own top values.
Some of your top values might mutually support each other, and you can fulfil them in synergy: if you act according to one of these values, you will honour also the other one.
At other times, your action may strongly fulfil an important value of yours, while colliding with a different value that is also very important to you. For example, if you strongly value both independence and belonging, you might find yourself in situations when you cannot go 100% for both of the values, because they are leading you in different directions. The key is to seek balance. That means, do not commit fully to one of the values while totally sacrificing the other one. Instead, try to choose or design options that honour each of the values, even if not for the whole of your time. If you find a way to fulfil all of your top values to some realistic extent, you will likely be much less stressed than if you go fully for one important value at the expense of another value that is very important to you. In other words, don´t go for “all or nothing”, it is very stressful.
- Keep realistic and maintain good time-and-energy management.
Living according to your values means that you commit and feel motivated to use the time and the energy you realistically have (not just wish to have), taking into consideration also the actual external circumstances and your current life roles.
No action that honours your values can keep you satisfied and in balance for long if it exhausts your energy.
If you need to take a joint decision with your partner or another person, you can discuss the options in relation to the values of each of you, acknowledging that you are different and unique. Open and non-aggressive communication (that is, when you do not fight to defeat each other, but you are seeking a common solution), can help you resolve even the biggest dilemmas of your life.
The key advice, thus, is to always seek balance: balance between each of your top values; balance between your values, your energy and your time; and balance between you and the other people with whom you want to find common solutions. It will help you maintain your life satisfaction.
Life Values Inventory, a programme developed by researchers and academic experts R. Kelly Crace, Ph.D. and Duane Brown, Ph.D. lists 14 basic values that were identified as a result of their extensive research:
Concern for Environment
Concern for Others
Health & Activity
Resources related to values offer different lists, some briefer, others more detailed. You can work with any of these inventories, but also with your own words and definitions. The important thing is that you know what you honour in life, rather than which words you use for it.
Note: it is useful to distinguish between values and needs.
Needs express what you would currently like, for yourself. Needs are linked to your current situation, usually to something you lack at the moment. A need will very likely decrease once you get what you needed.
Values describe what you consider most important for satisfaction rather than just survival. They express what you honour in people´s life in general, not just yours, and they are stable over time, not just when you lack it.
Still struggling with your decisions and solutions? You can contact me here to discuss whether career and life coaching could help you move on.