Choosing a Value Driven Life

September 27, 2014

Choosing a Value Driven Life There is a powerful attribute housed within all of us: we know it as self-confidence. We all have it. Some to a greater or lesser degree than others. If you look closely enough, you can see it at work in the decisions or choices we make.

Lacking Self Confidence

Depending on self-confidence, people can lead their lives in one of three ways. You can see self-confidence at work in those who live their lives without doubt and questioning. Then there are others for whom life is filled with an abundance of self-doubt. They seem never to be fully comfortable with any decision. That leaves a third group, a majority those living day to day, often in doubt while at other times very clear about what they should do or how they should behave.

Although this first group is smaller in number it is a force to be reckoned with. Its membership is made up of those with high levels of self-assurance. So much so that they can seem at odds with others; arrogant, rigid, always right. Within this group you will encounter those driven by purely altruistic motives and a handful who are diagnosable as sociopaths.

In our second group are those people who never seem quite sure about their interactions with the world. More often than not they are very capable of making good decisions, although they falter as though they haven’t a clue about their decisions.

Which brings us to the last group. These are people who, for a multitude of reasons, seldom are confident in their own decisions. Life is experienced as many forks in the road and they are there without a map. Much of their time spent is spent in self-doubt, wondering if the choices they have made are right or wrong. Questioning the past and asking, how would the outcome be different if only I had chosen differently?

The Value Driven Life

What I missed was what I call a value driven life. A life where the choices we make are decided by what it is that we most value. For example, if you were to take a values test you might find that the top three areas of most value to you are family life, recognition, and helpfulness. After determining what it is about these three values that is so important to you, you are ready to put them to use.

There are many forms of values clarification material available. Many are available at little or no cost. The most helpful information I can offer is to find one that shows you the range of values measured. Below are several values taken from one such clarification tool. My only criticism is that they may be too generic for some.

Let’s say you are invited to attend a much desired workshop in another city. The problem (dilemma) is that it falls on the same weekend as your son’s birthday. Plans have been made and he and the family are highly invested in them. What is your response? Go to the workshop because it will help your career or your son’s birthday because you value family? We’ll get back with an answer in a moment.


Both telling and scary the values driven life encompasses all that we hold as important. They are the sum of our life experiences, what we were taught, modeled, or appreciated. Values can be divided into categories (the order is not important) as shown below:

life values


Back to our dilemma. If you choose the workshop you know you will feel terrible. Most likely you’ll be angry with yourself. It will be like you went against your family. Should you decide to stay home and celebrate your son’s birthday there may be a part of you that will still have wanted to go, but you will live with that. The difference? Going to the workshop will result in guilt and estrangement. Staying home may result in some disappointment, but the reward of having a happy family will far outweigh any disappointment.

In this scenario you made a value driven choice, a decision based on what you believe to be the right thing to do. With a small investment in time and the ability to focus on the moment this same principle can be carried over to all of your life decisions. Don’t just decide and then let it go.

Think about your decision. Keep in mind that what you value will determine how you respond. Each of us has those persons, places, or things that we value. What is meant here by the term values are those overarching things of the greatest importance to us. If you pay attention it is often all too easy to recognize what a person values.

Another way to know if you are in tune with your values is to apply the three questions below to a situation: If you answer yes to any of these, you may need to re-examine your values.


  1. Are you unsure of what you should do?
  2. Every time you look back on your action you find yourself saying “I should’ve.”
  3. Other people are hurt by your actions.


It is important to recognize the benefits of living a value driven life. Let’s take aim at some other areas of life where the best decision may not always be the decision you want to make. Someone hurts you, by telling a secret. Your human response is to get angry and then get even. But, your values expect you to act differently. An important project you are working on is due tomorrow. The very same time you have a date with that special someone. What to decide?

Choosing to live a value driven life is an amazing act of liberation. Gone are doubts. Along with the doubt, you will soon find that the need to explain or apologize for a decision is no longer important because you chose to act based on your values.

You did the right thing!


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