How Values Affect Decision Making

When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier. — Roy Disney

Decision making is what separates successful people from unsuccessful people.

The truth: really successful people make decisions quickly and change them slowly.

But to get to the place where you’re making really good, fast decisions, you have to understand your values.

Values have an enormous effect on your decision making and you may not even realize it.

Check out this podcast episode on a similar topic— Decision Making.

How Values Affect Decision Making

Values drive all your decisions. They drive all your actions. And they’re typically running in the background and you don’t even know it. Until now, of course!

Let’s take a look at what values are so you can see how this is playing out in your life…

What Values Are

Most people are confused about what “values” are.

A value is defined as: “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.”

Basically, it’s what you think is the most important thing.

For example, I think growth is incredibly important. It’s a main value of mine. I make decisions through the lens of the value of growth.

Of course, growth isn’t the only value I have. I have many values, and so do you. Here’s a list of just some of the common values people have…

Examples of values:

  • Love
  • Responsibility
  • Family
  • Health
  • Growth
  • Connection
  • Honesty
  • Fun
  • Trust
  • Commitment

I used to think that I “picked” my values. But really, it’s the opposite. Your values pick you. Growth was a core value of mine before I identified it that way. This doesn’t mean I can’t change my values, but it doesn’t mean that I would have to change who I am to do so.

Your values are formed by your thoughts.

But not just any thoughts. Thoughts that you’ve programmed in your brain since you were born.

For example, I was encouraged at a very young age to pursue a meaningful career and to continue to work hard and achieve. That experience growing up formed my thoughts (i.e. my subconscious beliefs about growth).

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Why You Need Your Own Values

If you haven’t identified your own values, you have a problem.

Without identifying your core values, you won’t be able to see how and why you’re making decisions. Meaning, you won’t see the root cause of indecision.

If you want to become a better decision maker, one of the best things you can do is to identify your values.

So, for you… what are your values?

There are pros and cons to having certain values, but the truth is, you have to identify your current values before you go about trying to change them.

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How To Create Your List Of Values

I like to say that you don’t really create your own values—you identify the values that already exist.

For example, Steve and I have a lot of values in common that we didn’t need to say. We both value family, health, and responsibility as three of our top values. It’s really in who each of us is and in the type of marriage we want to create.

So you may have not articulated your values yet, but they already exist.

Now you just need to identify them.

Write down your list of core values.

If you’re stuck, start noticing how you live. What is driving your actions.

I can say personally that I wouldn’t have thought “responsibility” was a sexy, worthy value when I first learned this concept, but the truth is it’s one of my best and most precious values.

So, as you make your list of core values, start with a list of five, then be willing to adjust and change them as you bring more awareness to what you really value (i.e. as you pay more attention to the values driving you).

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Values And Goal Setting

Your values aren’t just words you write down.

They’re not simply there to help you decide faster.

Values are so much more than that.

Values are part of the step by step process you use when you set and achieve goals.

For example, if you’re problem solving and deciding whether you want to work harder to achieve success, and one of your main values is work life balance, you’ll likely choose the best course of action to be work less.

There’s no “right” choice in this example. It’s your decision making process through the lens of the work life balance value.

Someone else without that value and with the value of ambition would choose the opposite.

Knowing that your values are affecting your goal setting (and achieving) brings so much more awareness to your life. You get power from this knowing.

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Using Your Values To Make Better Decisions

One of the biggest misconceptions is that there is a “right decision” or a “wrong decision.”

We all want to make right decisions and avoid making the wrong decision.

But the best news I have for you is this: what makes a decision right or wrong is your thought that it is “right” or “wrong.”

Truly this is life changing.

There’s no such thing as an “effective decision” or an “important decision” or a “good decision” until you decide it’s effective, important, or the best.

So if you got in a bunch of credit card debt, you don’t have to think it was the wrong decision. You can decide it was the right decision in the moment, and you’re having your own back on that choice. Now that you’ve learned more you’re doing things differently and going to get out of the debt.

The power you get from knowing this is incredible. You are your own decision maker.

You want to avoid group decision making. When you look to other people to help you make decisions, other people are getting better at decision making not you. Remember you can make your own decisions on what is best for you.

It means you get to decide that you’re making the best decisions for you—even when you decide differently in the future.

You never have to beat yourself up and think you are a bad decision maker or that you make wrong decisions.

You my friend are a great decision maker. I know this.

I know this because you’re reading this post. There’s some evidence for your brain!

You’re the ultimate decision maker for your life.

You can learn more, get informed, and then use your decision making strategies to make informed decisions… all while having your own back, being willing to fail forward, and loving yourself along the way. It’s the best way to live in my opinion.

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Thinking Faster

I’ve talked a lot about my journey to think and read faster and better (more on this here and here).

Daniel Kahneman, Psychologist, thought leader, and author of the book Thinking Fast & Slow, is a powerhouse when it comes to this topic.

What he teaches is the difference between our “fast thinking” brain (the day to day decisions) and our “slow thinking” brain (future focused, planning), and how we must utilize each part to our advantage not only to succeed but also so we don’t have errors in judgement (that our fast thinking brain is prone to).

As humans, we love what’s easy. So naturally we spend a lot of time in the fast thinking part of our brain.

What we need to do in order to design our dream lives is to spend more time making decisions in the slow thinking part of the brain.

It’s harder to do this but it’s oh so worth it.

And one of the best ways to get started is to get clarity on your values and pay attention to your brain. This is where your increased awareness will change your life. I promise!

  • If you’re interested in taking this work further, check out Grow You, my life coaching program!

A Final Note!

Until you get clear on your values, you’ll struggle to make quick decision.

Not only that, but your day to day life will seem so much harder because you’ll lack the awareness of what’s driving your actions.

To solve for this indecision, start by writing down your values (using the process above). Make sure they feel good to you. Not good as in “happy” but good as in right. They feel like “Yes! That’s me 100%.” That’s how I feel when I think about my values.

Decision making is one of the fundamental life skills that will help you create the results you want most.

For more on making better decisions, take the How To Live An Intentional Life free course where I show you exactly how to make better decisions and design your life intentionally, from the inside out.