Do you find yourself making poor decisions even though you know they’re not good for you?

You skip heading to the gym because you don’t feel like it…

You choose work or staying at the office over getting home for dinner with your family…

You make poor food choices even though you know they’re not good for you…

Why in the world do you continue to do it? It all comes down to one item: your values. Deep down, you’ve created a values system that has ranked everything in your life based on the importance of it to you, and even more so, the pleasure or enjoyment it provides. Our values truly guide our behaviors and the decision we make every single day, many times at a subconscious level.

In order to change your behaviors, you must change your values to properly align with those desired behaviors. For example, if you want to get to the gym instead of skipping it, you need to establish strong values regarding why it’s important to stay healthy and exercise. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to necessarily love going to the gym everyday, but by establishing the importance of being healthy as a core value of yours you will take action and carry out the desired behavior on a regular basis because deep down it’s extremely important to you and you realize the long-term benefit of it.

Now, you might be in the weeds with most everyone else where you really don’t even know what your true values are and what’s most important to you. Don’t be ashamed, the large majority of people have never even given a ton of thought to it. So, where does one begin when trying to figure out what their core values are?

1) Look to Learn First – When first examining and looking for your core values, keep an open mind. Don’t go into it with preconceived notions about who or what you are. Look to deeply examine what it is that makes you tick and brings you happiness and fulfillment. It’s in self-awareness and self-reflection that we discover our truest selves.

2) Conscious Examination – Start asking yourself important questions to begin to unveil those core values and beliefs and write them down as words or phrases. What is most important to me in life? What brings me the most happiness and fulfillment? What gets me excited? Also examine the flipside of those questions to see what value was being gone against. For example, if you get upset or frustrated when having to work late and you’re missing time at home in the evenings, quality time or family are probably fairly high up on your core values list.

3) Streamline – Once you’ve collected all those values, begin grouping them based on commonalities. For example, if part of your list included relaxation, vacation and hobbies, you could possibly summarize that list with a word such as Self-Time.

4) Prioritize – Now that you’ve classified your groupings, look to order those based on level of importance. To do this, ask yourself: Which of these is absolutely vital to me? If I could only pick one item from this list to have forever, what would it be? Once you’ve ordered these, continue to look at them each day for a few days as you refine your list.

5) Define Your Values – Add detail and definition to your values to bring a higher level of meaningfullness to them. For example, if Health is one of your top values, add meaning to it with a statement such as Feeling energized and vibrant through being healthy.

6) Self-Evaluate – Ask yourself if you’re currently living the values you just created? If not, how can you better do so? What will allow you to align more closely with it? Do you need to add items to your life or let others go in order to more fully live that value?

7) Focus – Once comfortable with the streamlined and prioritized list (hopefully you have 10 values or less total), keep your focus on the top half of the list, but be cognizant of the others as well. Put your time and energy toward the top items in your list to ultimately bring you the most fulfillment and happiness. Failing to stay true to these values will eventually bring stress, anxiety and a feeling of emptiness and being unfulfilled into your life.

Keep in mind that every decision in your life is either consciously thought about and performed or else it is automatically performed out of pure habit. Take the time to examine what you’re doing throughout the day. Think about where you’re spending your time and energy and placing your focus. If your decisions don’t take you closer toward your values that you’ve developed and taken ownership of, then you’re probably making the wrong decision or else your values need to be realigned.

In conclusion, let your values be a roadmap and your compass toward greater health, happiness, balance and fulfillment.