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There are at least five related ways to help you clarify your personal values:

1. You can accept or be predominantly influenced by the values shared and applied by your family, social, religious, cultural or political group.

2. You can accept universal values to which most of humankind subscribe regardless of their race or creed, such as the WEF-Facebook study, or the doctrines of the major religions, or the secular Universal Declaration of Duties (not to be confused with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

3. As a general non time-limited exercise in values clarification the following novel exercise from the psychotherapist Richard O’Connor in his book Undoing Perpetual Stress: The Missing Connection Between Depression, Anxiety and 21stCentury Illness  is worth doing:

List up to ten things that make living worthwhile. Do this quickly and without any thought. Allow these ideas to emerge directly from the nonconscious mind. Put the list away, wait for a week and do the exercise again and then wait another week and do it a third time. The second and third times do not look at your previous lists. When you are finished compare the three lists and identify common trends. Then put the combined list in order of importance based on what you feel is most important. The first four or five will most likely form your core values.

4. Start with a long list of general values, and pick those that are important to you. This may allow the nonconscious to select values you think you should have, rather than those really important to you so when you have a list of 5-10 values start to assess them consciously. There are many values lists on the Internet.

5. Assess which value is the best choice by how complete it appears, how well it fits together from all perspectives and after considering all inputs and angles. A good rule of thumb is the way the particular choice seems to come together as a whole. The choice is not just the sum of its parts but it fits together and holds together more or less successfully as an orderly and reasonably logical whole.

You may form your values in your mind but you can only realize them when they are tested in the world. You may accept your values from the world but you will not truly believe them until you internalize them in your mind. It’s a totally interconnected self-sustaining process.

Values may be conveniently divided into personal and universal:

Personal values arise from a process of values identification and clarification. They do not emerge from a vacuum. They will be informed by your education, formation and social interaction. But to become yours, for you to own them and live them, you must clarify which values resonate with you at the deepest level of your being, and then honor them.

Universal values exist for the common good and to advance the welfare of all humankind. A Worldwide poll in 2010 for the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Facebook found that most people consider honesty, integrity and transparency the most important values in their private and professional lives. Over a quarter reported that respect for the dignity, rights and opinions of others was the next most important value, followed by just under a fifth who viewed the impact of their actions on the well-being of others as a key value. Environmental issues also surfaced as a new element in what is considered of universal importance with seven percent identifying the preservation of the environment as a universal value.

To act rightly and promptly means that you have a clear inner perspective on what you value and what universal values you esteem. You have worked it out in your own mind to your own satisfaction after a thorough analysis and tested it out in practical experience.
A free, authentic and successful life is not a values-free zone. Realizing your highest potential is not achieved at any cost or without respecting the rights and needs of others. It requires the maximum of self-assertion and the minimum of selfishness. It needs to be grounded in your own freely determined values, implemented with honor and integrity and based on your natural disposition towards what is right—and what is right is what is good.
Values are principles that guide your interaction with others and with the world. Since the primal driving force in human nature is towards goodness it follows that your nature is basically values-based in the broadest sense.
Values describe the fundamental essence of the human desire to seek its own ultimate being. They don’t limit freedom, they define it. They are about accepting responsibility for your actions and accepting the consequences of those actions.
Freedom and authenticity arise from acting in a way that is consistent with your values—acting from the best part of you in a way that leads to harmony rather than conflict with your inner nature and with others.
The idea that freedom is the origin of value is a key element of Adaptive Freedom. In fact there may well be only one truly universal value—freedom itself—all the rest we need to discover or clarify ourselves.
This implies that you do not accept your values solely from the cultural or ethical standards of society, or your religious, political or moral beliefs. What you hold as truth in your life comes both from universally accepted standards and what you discover through experience, observation and experiment to be true. You glean these from the choices you make, the actions you take, the responsibility you carry and the consequences you accept.
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