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When I first started out in coaching school, we spent a lot of time discussing values and how to live your life rooted in what you value most. At first, I didn’t really understand or appreciate why we needed to focus on values. But what I came to realize was if you’re not living life based on what you value, then you’re living a pretty mediocre life.
Unfortunately, there are millions of people just going through the motions.
Since money has so much to do with how we live our lives, it’s time to evaluate your values so they can be incorporated into your financial plan.
Do you know what you value?
Your values are the behavior and activities to which you are naturally drawn. Values are who you really are. This includes things like:
When engaged in these activities, you feel most like yourself: well, connected, excited, glowing, and most authentic.
Many of us spend our lives trying (consciously or not) to honor our values. When we’re not living according to our values, we find ourselves getting disturbed or frustrated, bored or complacent, wishing and hoping to have a better life.
Oftentimes discussing values throws people for a loop. We don’t normally think about how money and values are linked together. But your attitudes about money are what defines everything that matters to your personal financial situation: how much money you need, how hard you’re willing to work for it, how you’ll feel when you finally get it and more.
That’s why I can say with total confidence, that once you understand what money really means to you, you’ll be unstoppable. The process I am taking you through is the single most effective tool I know to help you create a plan that will lead you to financial security.
The process of understanding the what and why of money quickly forces you to evaluate your life. Understanding what you’re looking to accomplish in life is the foundation on which all smart financial planning is based.
Think about this – how could you possibly put together a financial plan unless you know what it is you really care about?
Let’s say money and the security it provides is important to you, but your current state of financial affairs has you living hand to mouth. Well, something is very wrong, isn’t it? Clearly, your financial behavior is out of whack with your deepest values.
Similarly, if money and the freedom it can bring you is important to you, but you are tied to a job working 60 hours a week to pay a mortgage on a large home, then something is out of alignment. Once again, your financial life is in conflict with what you’re really all about.
Money is not an end unto itself. It’s merely a tool to help us achieve some particular goal. If the way we handle our money conflicts with our personal values, we’re not going to live a happy and fulfilled life
What makes this super easy is the fact you already know what you value. Most of us have a pretty good sense of who we are and what’s important to us. These things may not be immediately apparent, but with just a little bit of digging around you’ll see them more clearly.
Print out the Values Worksheet and complete the following exercise.
STEP 1: Select 10 Values
Read the list of values and circle approximately 10 that resonate as a value for you. You are looking for a value, not a want, a should, a fantasy, or a wish. A value is a must for you to be yourself. Part of the first step is to tell the truth about what you actually value or love to do with your time. This may be the first time you have ever admitted this to yourself. Some of these you will know innately. Others require some straight looking. Please be willing to “try on” words you might normally skip over. These may be hidden values; if so, you may have one or more of the following reactions:
“No, no, no; that would be too much fun.”
“That’s a silly value; I should have a better one.”
“If that were true, I’d have to change my life a lot.”
“You flush, blush, or shake when reading the word.”
Got the idea?
Step 2: Narrow Your Values To 4
We all value a little of everything listed on this page. But we want you to pick the four values from the ones you circled. You may wish to compare each of your 10 values with each of the others by asking yourself, “Do I really prefer X or Y? Which ones aren’t that intriguing to me any more? Which ones, when honored, make the other ones not as exciting?”
Once you’ve identified your four values, you’ll have what you need to begin building your financial plan around those values.
Step 3: Create A Life That Honors and Expresses Your Values
Now that you have your values identified, you’ll want to create a way to be able to express them.
Honor Your Values
When you honor your values, you honor yourself. Values are those activities you naturally engage in when your life is in great shape. Until this time, you may have been expressing (e.g., doing) your values but not honoring them.
To honor your values means to create and live your life in such a way that there is nothing in the way of you living your values. This means a life of integrity, free of addictions or attachments, with all needs being met, free of unresolved past experiences, with a full and supportive community — it’s an ideal life.
People engage in this values exercise as a way to get their life in order and to live most authentically.
Align Your Goals With Your Values
- Make a list of 10 goals for this year.
- Make a list of your top 10 values.
- Match the goals with the values.
Note: The objective is to only have values-based goals this year. If you have a goal that does not fit with one of your top 10 values, either adapt the goal to fit the value or get rid of it and come up with another. Don’t adapt the value to the goal. And only have one goal per value. You are using your values as the reference point in your life — not your goals. And, that is what makes this process so exciting!
The above steps can be used for anything you want to tackle in your life, not just your money situation.
Your values, goals and plans all need to be in alignment and based on what you, not someone else, values the most. For those of you who are married, you and your partner might find after each completing this task that you don’t value the same things. It may become clearer and clearer why you can’t seem to get on the same page with one another. The key is to find how to balance your values with your partners so that your financial plan is in sync with what you both want.
Money and Values
You’ve identified your values, and you’re working at honoring and aligning your goals with these values.
Grab a journal or piece of paper and answer the following questions.
When thinking about the answers, remember your answers must reflect how you feel – not how you think someone else thinks you should feel. Whatever your values, they are the right ones for you.
- What’s important about money to you? Look at the values you’ve already identified. Is there a value on that sheet that helps you identify what’s important about money to you? If not, pick a value that bests answers that question for you. Remember to pick a value not a goal.
Let me offer some examples to help you as you do this exercise.
Maybe you’ve just gone through a terrible divorce and find yourself on your own with three kids to take care of. Maybe you value “security.” Or maybe you’re an entrepreneur who dreams of traveling, in which case your initial value may be “freedom.”
If you didn’t pick that value, ask yourself what’s important about that value to you? Did it get you closer to one of your top four or top ten values?
If not, keep asking yourself this question until you can’t think of any other value that is more important, even if it’s not one of your top four or top ten values.
If you choose a value that wasn’t on your top four or top ten values list, then I encourage you to go back and do the exercise again because something is off for you, and you might just need to reflect on your values a little more.
When you do this exercise, you end up understanding what is most important to you. Understanding this, you should be able to stop wasting your time, energy, and money on things that don’t really matter to you, and begin focusing your resources on the things that do.
A values based approach to handling your money and your life is not New Age Feel Good Stuff! Remember the Greek philosopher Socrates? He coined the phrase, “Know Thyself” for a reason. Don’t skip this step!
Some questions to help you go even deeper:
Ask, “Who am I when I am this value? How do I act? What do I think about? What motivates me?” Write down five specific examples on a piece of paper.
Ask, “Who am I not when I am this value? How do I behave? How do I feel about myself? About others? About life?” Write down five specific responses on a piece of paper.
Ask, “How well am I honoring or expressing this value? What am I doing in my life that permits this value to be free enough to express itself?” Write down five specific ways that you are currently honoring your values.
Ask, “Where am I not honoring or expressing this value? What I am doing that restricts, dishonors, or does not give my values the room and nourishment they need and deserve?” Write down five specific things you are doing that don’t serve your values.
Ask, “What three changes would I make in my life in order to fully honor and express this value?” Write down the three specific (and probably large) changes to make in the next 90 days. Examples of changes: change jobs, face and handle something tough, stop smoking, start fully communicating, let go of duties, get special training, let go of the future, let go of draining people.
A values based money plan ensures you are focused on creating an authentic and happy life. I encourage you to complete this exercise. Drop me a line at Maureen@ADebtFreeStreeFreeLife.com if you have any questions or need a little more guidance.