Discovering Your ‘True Values’

Earlier this year in April, I was opened up to the world of value cards. Looking back, I am almost disappointed that I didn’t do this exercise earlier in life. Like learning about the Love Languages, it was groundbreaking and made me understand so much of what drives me. It forced me to understand why I bristle at certain things, and feel this locus for certain activities such as travel and understanding human personalities.

The Value Card Exercise

When you sit down to do the Value Card exercise, you have 44 cards in front of you. Each card has a value and a short, succinct definition of the real meaning of that word on it. The task is for you to sort the cards into piles: less important, more important, and most important. While the values on every card are arguably all important, the purpose of the exercise is to force you to choose. You go through a process of elimination until you end up with five cards in your most important pile.

Halfway through the process, you will probably get a bit stuck because you feel as though everything remaining is really important to you. This is the inflection point of the exercise, where you need to go through the process of realising what your real values are. Your “true” values aren’t ones that you are working towards, or that you ‘should’ have; your true values are the drivers that impact and influence everything you do.

While working through the cards myself, I had difficulty choosing between Curiosity, Adventure, and Independence. I wondered if my sense of independence was what made me curious, and if that was why I travelled so much. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t feel the need to be independent — it wasn’t the reason why I did things. This helped me eliminate Independence from my pile. Next, I assessed Adventure. Is it my sense of adventure that drives me to explore places and meet new people? I decided not because while I am seemingly adventurous, it’s not my nature to jump out of planes or scale mountains. This led me to conclude that though I was both independent and adventurous, this was because I am a naturally curious person. Curiosity was my “true” value, and that couldn’t be truer. I am a “why” person, and I need to know things just because I am curious about them. It fuels the brain and my fire.

Other examples of values that I wanted because they were what I was working on or felt very strongly about but ended up not being my true values were ones like Mindfulness, Connection, and Honesty.

What are my values and Why does this matter so much?

In the end, these are my values:

  • Curiosity
  • Loyalty
  • Health
  • Learning & Growth
  • Achievement

To explain why it’s important to do the true value cards exercise, I have another anecdote that is pretty insightful. It is one of the reasons why I encourage people to go through this exercise.

Before I did these value cards, I was introducing a friend to an acquaintance. In the course of introducing the acquaintance, I mentioned that this person was a dick (I don’t enjoy speaking poorly about anyone, but sometimes people aren’t just very nice I’m sure I’m also guilty of this too). My friend surely thought, ah that’s pretty negative I’m going to take it with a grain of salt. After I had done my value cards, my friend came back to me and said, “why did you say that this person is a dick?” I explained and said that it is because he doesn’t learn from his lessons. To which my friend turned around and said, “it sounds like he just brushes up against your values.”

GROUNDBREAKING. I went from being negative nancy about certain people to now understanding that certain people just brush up against my values. Now I can deal with that as I fundamentally understand myself better. How cool is that?!

From understanding my values, I can relate to people better. I can use more empathy when noticing our differences, and explain myself better and where I am coming from. It is a unique and powerful thing to be able to share understanding with people at this level.

My insane need for Achievement combined with a strong conviction for Learning & Growth means that I can be pretty intense. When you combine that with values like Curiosity and Loyalty, it makes sense why I like to revel in thought, why I need to know things, and why I like to unravel everything. I am always learning and growing, and what’s more, I enjoy it. It’s Healthy for me. When you find your true values, they’re often related in that they make perfect sense and fit together for you. You can understand yourself better, and other people too.

Imagine goal setting with all of this information, or choosing your relationships with friends, family, mentors and colleagues. You can reimagine happiness and life through a more defined and accurate lens. Operate with true integrity and with new found depth.

What’s next?

I encourage you to do the value cards exercise (and the Love Languages quiz). Buy the value cards or make some time with me to use mine and we can go through this together.

Come back to me with your results and let’s schedule some time to talk about it. Start thinking about what it means to you and how you can spread some of these messages so that as a collective we can have a greater understanding of ourselves and others and ultimately a stronger and deeper connection to our relationships that we treasure.