As an immigrant teen, I noticed something was different about American kids. They stand up to their parents. If they wish to eat pepperoni pizza, they fight for it. If they prefer to study music in college, they study it. I realized their value system is individualistic.
The individualistic society’s core value is well being of the individual.
Growing up in India, the set of values was different. I was taught to listen and follow the elders. The kids went to eat at whatever restaurant their parents wanted. They studied in college, whatever their parents picked. The Indian value system is described as collectivism.
A society with collectivist values is looking for the well-being of the family and society.
A value system is the foundation of our life purpose.
Oprah’s personal value system is to care for others so she helps people live a better life. It aligns with her life’s purpose to inspire others.
Kardashian’s personal value system is status. Their life revolves around social status games. They create guilty pleasure television and social media. Their life purpose is to entertain and gain status.
Once you understand your life value system, you can change your values in alignment with what you want. With an aligned personal value system, you will feel confident in your decision-making.
Value System Shows What You Stand For
Your individual values help you declare what is important to you. You make countless actions based on your personal value system. These values drive you forward in life.
Do you remember the last time you stood for what you believe?
You stood up for your values.
The 3 Primary Sources That Determine Your Value System
Over time, you pick your values one by one. There are three primary sources that create your own values.
- Family- Your values build at an early age. You mimic your parents and family. If you see love in your family, you mimic it. Family is the first source of most of your ethical values.
- Society- When you are a kid, you spend most of your awake time at school. You learn your communal value system from teachers and books. If you are born in California, you learn Californian social values. If you are born in Spain, you learn Spanish social values.
- Experiences- The most precious life lessons happen in the struggle. Your experience could be a tumble from your bike, first breakup, or getting fired from a job. The life lessons from failure help you pick your new values like persistence, empathy, and courage. They give birth to your individualism.
Different Value Systems Lead To Different Purposes
A dad and a son were walking down the street. Some random guy on the street started soliciting them about animal rights. He told them they need to be vegetarian so the animals don’t suffer.
Later, the son asked his dad, “Why would the guy lecture us?” The dad said, “This guy has every right to be compassionate to the animals. But thinking anybody who doesn’t see the world as he sees is wrong.”
The dad was right. Your values are your personal beliefs. They are not universally true.
Everyone has different value systems and outcomes in their life. Let’s look at some examples.
- Walt Disney valued creativity, imagination, and fun. These values defined Disney. They are still alive in his company long after his death.
- Steve Jobs valued simplicity, design, and quality. Apple still uses those metrics to delivers those values long after Jobs.
- Rosa Parks valued freedom and equality. She fought for equal rights for all. Parks is considered a symbol of equality.
These are prime examples of people turning their value system to live a purposeful life.
Why Value System Is the Roadmap to Where You Are Today
Imagine you want to get into Harvard. What value system will you need?
All these values and a few more can be a roadmap to land you at Harvard.
What would happen if one of those values were upside down?
Let’s say you didn’t value persistence in your daily life. You quit at every obstacle coming your way. You don’t make that fifth attempt to get a summer internship. You don’t work on your acceptance essay until it is jaw-dropping.
You can expect not to attend Harvard.
The magic in life happens when your individual values align with what you want. This could be getting your dream job, find the love of your life, or create the next unicorn startup.
You are on autopilot of decision-making when you follow your values. You are proactive. You are in control. Your personal value system becomes the roadmap to your life.
3 Steps to Realign Your Value System and Get What You Deserve
Let’s imagine your biggest individual values are freedom and peace.
You wake up early in the morning to check on the stock market and trades but you loath doing it. The minute you get to work, you have back-to-back meetings until dark. You feel flustered with no alone time.
Next, you walk down the street and don’t get a warm smile from anyone. You hate that everyone is on the hustle train.
Your whole day is a grind, and perhaps your set of values are around creating wealth. When values are not aligned, you feel stressed. Unhappiness will inevitably show up.
You could be living someone else’s core values. Let’s realign your values.
Step 1: Take Inventory of Your Current Values
It is easy to observe values by focusing on actions. If you love to learn new things [Value], you watch cooking shows and cook [Action]. It’s easy to notice you value learning.
Observing yourself takes patience. The good news is your values are already inside of you. You need to point them out in your daily life.
Be authentic in your values as we all have a different value system. Focus on individual values you can control. If your ethical value is truth, that is in your control. If the individual value is someone’s approval, then that is not in your control.
Some common values:
Have you ever felt uncomfortable to lie? Do you admire people who stand for what they believe? You value truth.
Do you get frustrated when someone gets mistreated? You value justice.
Are you obsessed about making money by giving society what it wants? You value wealth.
We mimic from an early age. What values have you picked up from your surroundings?
Where do you spend time in your daily life? Reading, watching sports, fitness or looking up fashion trends.
Reflect on your most memorable decisions. Observe what values you could tie to those decisions.
Questions I recommend to journal to find your current set of values:
What are my individual values?
What are my own values?
What core values I proud of about myself?
What individual values do I admire in others?
These questions will help you list most of your values.
Have a Clear Definition of Your Values
Our values can stay the same over time but, the definition of those values change.
I always valued love. My first definition was to receive love. My second definition was to give and receive love. My current definition is self-love and give love.
A definition of your individual values can serve you wonders.
Step 2: What Do You Want in Life?
Let’s say you just landed in Paris for the first time. The first question you would ask yourself is where do I want to go?
For you to visit a destination, you first need to know where you want to go. The answer could be the Louvre Museum.
The same is true in life. The real question you need to decide: What is the purpose you want to achieve over a long period of time?
Control the controllable: Getting wealth from society is not in your control, but living by your values is controllable.
To create wealth your value system probably can have persistence, creativity, honesty, and so on. Or let’s say you want excellent mental health. Then your value system needs to reflect that. You can use self-love, alone time, and positivity.
You will use your own values to drive you toward what you want.
Step 3: Put The Values in Order of Importance
In the early years of Apple, they were deciding on the warranty length for the Mac computer. The industry had a standard 3-month warranty policy.
Steve Jobs fought with his team to give a 1-year warranty. He stood for one of his top values of quality. And today, Apple is known for quality as its core value.
Keep your values in order of importance so you can automate many of your decisions.
“The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” Norman Schwarzkopf
How to Rank Your Values?
To decide the ranking of your values, battle them out.
Take a piece of paper or post-it notes. Write your top 3–5 core values. Now in one-on-one battles, pit them against each other. The last one standing will be your top value. Do this until you have ranked all your values.
After my own battles, I discovered that my top three values are: Truth, Accept, and Persistent.
After listing your values in order, I recommend posting your core values in your office or bedroom. As the saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Talk about your top values to people who are your supporters.
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know your values.” Roy Disney
Your value system will allow you to live in the flow. When you stand by them, people will respect you.
Once you align your values to what you want, micro progressions are inevitable. In a year or two, you will look back and connect the dots to the value system you chose.