UPDATED March 19, 2017
Have you ever had one of those precious moments when you’re keenly aware that everything is right with your world? In those perfect moments, your life values are being fulfilled. And you don’t even have to recognize this fact. Most people don’t.
But if you do a life values inventory, you can make these moments happen on purpose, every single day.
Last month during an iNLP Center live webinar, a student was hopelessly stuck. It had been months since finishing her life coach training, yet she still had taken no steps to market her coaching skills and build a business for herself.
Ten minutes later, she’d had an epiphany. She knew specifically why she was procrastinating and it made all the sense in the world – and was now free to move forward. She was thrilled!
And so was I. A deep sense of satisfaction settled in. I knew in that moment I was living the life I am meant to live. Better yet, I realized I get to have these moments regularly. They fulfill my value for contribution and psychology – for helping people reach their potential.
Contrast that with a similar moment with my older brother.
Crowds of people surrounded a small, rocky ravine in the desert of Southern California.
People cheered at off-roading competitors who maneuvered over and around a massive rock garden in their custom-built buggies. A championship rock crawling title was on the line.
I looked across the ravine at my brother, who was having a powerful experience. He gazed all around at the boisterous gathering. The look on his face? Pure satisfaction. This was his world, where he belongs.
My brother and I don’t speak to each other about concepts like life values, but it was too obvious what was going on in that moment. His value of community (defined by this particular group of folks) or adventure was being fulfilled to perfection.
My brother and I find happiness in wildly different ways. We place importance on very different elements of life. Still, we do share one value – a commitment to independence and living life on our own terms.
I’d never give up what’s important to me, regardless of other compelling opportunities. And neither would he. We’ve both proven this many times over the years.
That moment when everything is right with your world happens when you are fulfilling your life values. Most people would probably suggest such moments of perfection are rare. They don’t have to be.
What are life values and why is it so critical to do a life values inventory?
If you don’t know your life values, you don’t know who you are.
Your life values represent what is most important to you as a person. They are expressed in simple terms that in the NLP Meta Model we call nominalizations: words that portray broad concepts.
Life values are vague, one-word concepts that we each (hopefully) define in our own, individual way. Life values serve as a way to filter opportunities and decide which of many paths to follow. They (hopefully) guide your decisions, behavior and overall direction in life. You cannot live a conscious life without consciously understanding what you value.
Amazingly, this is what many of us do:
Without consciously exploring what’s really most important – without any life values inventory whatsoever – we make huge decisions. What do we commonly choose careers, spouses, and friends based on? Impulse. The desire for instant gratification? Fear of loss? Peer pressure? Lack of perceived options?
The trainwrecks are inevitable. Don’t feel bad. Who was taught how to do a life values inventory by family or a school system? Who knew that it is nearly impossible to know your life lasting adult values at the age (18-25) when most people make life-defining decisions?
It’s not your fault if you’ve wrecked a few trains. I certainly have.
Still, the truth remains….
You simply cannot know who you are or what you stand for without learning what is most important to you in a deep and consistent way. This is where a life values inventory becomes essential to your happiness as a person.
A life values inventory done well enables you to consciously manifest fulfillment because your major decisions can now be made to support the very top of your list of priorities as a person.
Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.
~ Ayn Rand
Without a life values inventory of some sort, fulfillment is a hit and miss phenomenon.
You cannot pursue happiness consciously without knowing your values. You’re as stuck as someone who only experiences periods of deep satisfaction as happenstance. You have to get lucky!
When you go through life haphazardly, you cannot consciously determine if and when you’ll be fulfilled. You’re leaving your personal happiness in the hands of fate. And ‘fate’ doesn’t seem to care if anyone is particularly happy or not.
If fate were the only option we had, fine. But the one characteristic that sets human beings apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is precious self-awareness. We can become aware of our life values. We even have tools like life values inventories to help. Why not take advantage of tools that can make or break the very quality of your existence?
If you don’t take responsibility for your own happiness, who will? Doing a life values inventory is how to do just that.How to do a life values inventory the right way. You can’t do it alone.
How to do a life values inventory the right way. You can’t do it alone.
It’s shockingly rare to take a break from the daily rat race and reflect on the beliefs and life values we unwittingly allow to determine our happiness.
Most exercises that claim to be a life values inventory are sadly ineffective at revealing actual life values. Here’s why: A typical life values inventory will ask you to do some thinking and write a list of words that seem important to you. Or perhaps you’ll be asked to choose words that stand out to you from a list of life values.
This is the worst possible way to do a life values inventory because most people simply cannot sort out what’s deeply important to their own soul from what they have learned ‘should’ be important.
Parents, friends, mentors and popular culture at large supply tremendous pressure to value certain things. Again, it’s nearly impossible to sort out your own inner truth from socially inherited ideas about what’s important.
Any worthwhile life values inventory must bypass the social influences and go straight to the source of your life values – your unconscious mind.
And now this brings us to a HUGE problem with this article.
I cannot extract your deeply held (unconscious) values through writing this post. With my clients, I use a hypnotic process to learn their values, without them consciously knowing how they are contributing to the life values inventory.
UPDATE: Since the original posting, we’ve developed a unique method of eliciting your own life values! This method involves a recorded, guided meditation and requires a voice recording app. Imagine. We training our life coaching students in this method.
This is the reality of a life values inventory that actually works. You can’t do it alone because you’ll fall prey to so many social influences that have invaded your consciousness since the day you were born.
This is why so many people find doing a life values inventory somewhat blah. Ok…so these are my values. Alright…now what?
A life values inventory should be a true revelation – a major aha-moment that makes total sense out of you. It’s like recovering a lost piece of your soul that completes your identity. When this happens, needless to say, it’s not blah.
Three Major Problems a Life Values Inventory Solves
Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.
Assuming you’ve done an accurate life values inventory, here are three (of many) major issues that should no longer cause you to get stuck.
After a life values inventory, goal-setting takes on a whole new purpose. You’ll use goal setting to create specific targets in life that fulfill your values.
Reaching goals – and even working toward them – becomes a truly fulfilling process.
Long-term relationships, careers, long-term hobbies, long-standing social relationships and involvement with communities should ALL be a reflection of your life values if you want to experience fulfillment along the way.
Set long-term goals based on short-term desires, social influences, peer pressure, or lack of knowing what else to do and you are setting yourself up for disappointment in one way or another.
After a life values inventory, you can know your goals are aligned with your deepest sense of self.
When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.
~ Roy E. Disney
It’s not a stretch to realize decision-making becomes so much simpler and easier when you know what’s most important to you. Right?
After a well-done life values inventory, important decisions still require deep consideration and weighing of options, but now you have a scale with which to measure!
How many of my values does option A hit? How about option B? This fills an incredibly important gap in making successful decisions.
Decisions made in accordance with true life values can much more effectively bypass social pressures and reactionary impulses. Your decisions can now become a true reflection of who you are. And regret becomes rare.
One more thing: Life values are both a statement of what’s most important and a revelation of what is NOT important. If you’re offered a job that offers huge opportunities for accomplishment and success, but not personal space and freedom….well? What’s important and what’s not?
3. Boundaries and Personal Independence
Knowing your values is a crucial step in becoming your own person.
Life values are boundaries in and of themselves and encourage personal independence. Here’s how it works.
Not everyone values the same things, nor should we. It takes all kinds, does it not? If we all valued the same thing, life would lack its most interesting spice – variety.
After a life values inventory, you’ll understand where you fit in the rich and varied tapestry of life. And you’ll know where you don’t fit. This is the key to boundaries and independence.
When presented with opportunities and new relationships that compete with your life values, you’ll be clear how to proceed.
It’s ok to refuse to be involved with things that don’t match your values.
Without a life values inventory, you cannot draw the line based on your inner values because you don’t know them! This leaves you hanging – to fall prey to peer pressure and all kinds of social influences that will dominate your life if you let them.
The result? You will:
• Not know who you are.
• Make decisions based on what other people value.
• Miss out on your chances for daily fulfillment.
• Allow others or pop culture to run your life.
• Feel completely lost as to your life purpose.
• Feel empty and resentful or confused on the inside.
• Be clueless as to why all this is happening.
Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasures for long-term values.
~ Joshua L. Liebman
Life values inventory is part of the iNLP Center Life Coach Certification Training in 2017.