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How a Values Audit Can Keep You On Track

Most people do not spend much mental energy on self-evaluation. We simply act. We trust our instincts, stick with proven routines, and move doggedly through life toward what we hope is progress, growth, and success. 

But how do we know we are moving in the right direction? Who or what defines which direction is best for us? If you keep moving in the direction you are headed now, will you end up someplace you want to be? When did you last consider your destination? Where are you going? 

Are you moving towards:

  • Retirement? 
  • Better Physical or mental health?
  • A stable, happy family?
  • A successful career with regular advancements?

Does the route matter if you don’t know where you’re going?

We tend to shy away from these big questions, mostly out of fear or discomfort. We’re not sure how to self-evaluate. And besides, the future is uncertain, a fact more obvious and accepted now than in years past. How can we plan for a future that remains unclear?

What if you could press pause on your daily whirlwind a few times a year, ask a few simple questions, and know how to move forward in the best possible direction? We’re going to focus on a value audit, but a broader Self-Assessment may be a good tool as well. 

Key Questions:

  1. What are my values? 
  • What causes inspire me toward generosity or activism?
  • What visions of a possible future excite me?
  • What are the qualities I admire most in others?
  • What are the characteristics I least admire in others?
  1. Does my lifestyle reflect these values?
  • Review habits and decisions from the past two weeks. Write a list of daily activities.
  • How much time do I spend reading? What type of content do I read? 
  • How much time do I spend browsing online – social media, youtube, blogs, etc.? 
  • What sites, subjects, or people show up repeatedly in my internet history? 
  • How much time do I spend watching television? 
  • What types of programs catch my interest? 
  • How do I spend my money? Outside of living expenses, where does my money go? 

Mind The Gap

The answers to the first set of questions are set next to the answers to the second. Look for discrepancies, a gap between your stated values, and the real-life choices you make. 

For example, if you admire people who live simply and do not spend on extravagant items, but you recently spent $1000 on accessories for your new outfit, there may be a gap between your stated financial values and your actual financial choices. Or this example: you value physical health and want to be in good shape as you age, but you do not see “exercise” on the list of your regular habits. There may be a gap between your stated health values and your actual health choices.

This brief values audit can be conducted in a few minutes of focused thought. The results give us a target. Choose one area from the audit where you discovered a values gap. In this area, what is one habit you want to drop because it does not reflect your values? What is one habit you can start that more accurately reflects your values? Then form a plan for incorporating the change into your daily life. 

No one arrives at their desired destination by accident. And we can’t get there overnight. Keeping track of our values will ensure that we aim for a worthwhile destination and help us make progress in the right direction daily.