two palms facing the camera with yes / no written on each palm

Finding your life values: the secret to decision making

Personal values are the foundation behind the decisions you make in life, the goals you set, and help you determine what priorities you want to focus on. Most importantly, reflecting on your values can help you to find what truly matters to you in life.

Have you ever found yourself wondering any of the following thoughts…?

  • “Is this the right degree for me?”
  • “What career do I want to pursue?”
  • “Are these the people I want to be friends with?”

You aren’t alone.

Our personal values change as we grow, meet new people, and experience new things.

So how do you find what your values are? The following steps have been inspired by Mind Tools’ blog What are your values.

Identify times when you have felt fulfilled in life 

Look back over the past few years and think of the moments in your studies, career, and personal life when you felt joy, and ask yourself:

  • What were you doing?
  • Were there any people with you during these moments? Who?
  • Can you remember any other factors that contributed to your feelings of joy?

These don’t need to be extravagant moments, it could be as simple as a movie night with your family, hiking through a national park, receiving a good mark on an assessment – just to name a few!

Decide on your top values based on those experiences of joy and fulfillment

Can you find any relation to those moments discussed above with the list below? An example might be that you feel fulfilled when you’re playing sport – this could be linked to values such as community, friendships, or health.

Get out a notepad and write down the top ten values that stand out to you from the list below.

Achievement Determination Integrity Love Sincerity
Adventure Friendships Intelligence Peace Spontaneity
Balance Health Justice Perfection Success
Courage Happiness Kindness Security Understanding
Creativity Honesty Learning Simplicity Wealth
Community Independence Leadership Spirituality Wisdom

Prioritise your values

Now go through each value and pick your top five. It might help to go through the list by looking at two values at a time and asking, “if I could only satisfy one, which would it be?” This step does require self-reflection, which can be tricky, so you may find it will help to compare your chosen values by imagining how you would respond to a real-life situation.

An example might be deciding between achievement and balance. A real-life situation could be that you need to decide whether you will study four units next trimester so you can get closer to completing your degree, or whether you want to cut down on the number of units you want to study so you can have more time to focus on other commitments. There is no right or wrong answer – rather, this activity will help to illuminate what you value from certain personal experiences over others.

Reaffirm your values

Look over your top values and ask yourself if they make you feel good about yourself?

Are you proud of your top three?

Put them into practice

Now that you have your top values listed, keep them close by. You might write them on a sticky-note and place it next to your mirror or have them in your notes on your phone.

Reflecting on your values next time you’re deciding on something can help you to approach the decision with clarity.

Identifying your values can be challenging, but it is an important exercise to consider throughout the different stages in your life. You might value success and opportunity right now, but in ten years’ time those values might change to family and relationships – and is just a sign that you are growing and leading your life in a way that is unique to your personal values,


You are never alone at UNE.
Our team, here at Advocacy and Welfare are independent Advocates, here to help you through any study or personal issues.

Student Success has confidential counselling for students, you can find them here.
Lifeline is also a 24/7 hotline and you can call them on 13 11 14

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