What Are Your Values?

What Are Your Values?

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As any middle or high school student knows, the older you get, the crazier your life seems to become. When you were younger you could just spend time hanging out after school, but now you’re traveling to sports tournaments, running to club meetings, or trying to juggle a part-time job all while being bogged down with hours of homework.

So as you get busier, how do you decide what your priorities are?

A great way to get clarity on what you really want to spend your time on is to figure out what your values are, and then make decisions based on that.

Many people think of values being the same thing as morals, but really, values are the things that are most important to you. By defining your values and thinking about what gives you a sense of purpose, you’re better able to know when to say yes to something and when to walk away.

Knowing your values can help get you focused on pursuing what really matters to you — not what matters to someone else. And they can become a guide when you’re faced with thorny moral dilemmas as well.

How to define your values


If you want to define your values, start by making a list of things that matter the most to you and give your life a sense of meaning. Spend time thinking about moments or activities that bring you the most joy or make you feel proud of yourself. For example, you might remember a time when you volunteered at a homeless shelter or a time when you performed your own jokes in the talent show. Now ask yourself what it was that you liked about those things: helping others, performing, or being creative.

Next, take a moment to think about what kind of person you want to be in the future. What kind of positive impact do you want to have on the people around you, and what knowledge and abilities do you need in order to achieve your goals?

Finally, think about principles you think are important, such as integrity, honesty, being hard-working, or being kind. Keep these in mind as well.

Once you’ve brainstormed a bunch of words, narrow them down to the top five things that you value the most.

Write your mission statement

Once you’ve come up with your values, write a mission statement. A mission statement is a clear, concise statement that spells out how you hope to make the world a better place, followed by a list of phrases or sentences outlining the values that will guide you.

Putting your mission statement in writing helps you envision the type of person you’d like to become. You can revisit your statement throughout the year whenever you have to make an important decision or if you start to lose focus.

Here’s an example of one student’s mission statement: “With resilience and diligence, I strive to become a better version of myself. By helping others, being empathic and engaging, I plan to help shape the world everyone deserves to live in.”

Here’s another example: “I want to make a difference by expressing myself through music. I plan to be hard-working, compassionate and adventurous as I seek to become a professional musician.”

Not sure how to begin? Here are a few ways to get you started:

  • Find a quote that inspires you and write about why that relates to your mission.
  • Draw a picture or symbols that represent your mission and then explain what they mean.
  • Make a list of actions you could take to make a positive impact on your future.
  • Write your name and use each letter to state one of your values or goals.

Using Your Values to Make Decisions

OK, now that you know what values are, want to test out how you would use them to make decisions? We’ve come up with a list of hypothetical situations. Read each one and ask yourself what choices you would make based on your values. Remember, there are no right answers – just the ones that feel right to you!

  1. You told your best friend that you would go to a movie with him on Thursday night, but you just realized that you have a big math test on Friday. Should you cancel going to the movie?
  2. You’ve had a really long week of school and you were looking forward to vegging in front of the TV and binge-watching your favorite show, but your little sister asks if you can help her study for her Spanish test. Should you help her?
  3. You are in three different student groups – coding club, Amnesty International and yearbook – and you play on a sports team. You are feeling really burnt out with all of your responsibilities and schoolwork. Would you drop an activity and if so, which one?
  4. You have a science test, a history test and an English paper all coming up in the next week. A friend who took the same English class last year offers to let you copy her old paper to save you some time. Should you do it?
  5. Summer is coming and you’re trying to decide what to do. You could get a job at a retail store and make some extra money, or you could volunteer to build houses through your church (but you wouldn’t get paid), or you could just spend the summer hanging out with your friends. What would you choose?

We hope these questions helped clarify what some of your own personal values are. We’d love to hear more from you in the comments!