Decision Making - Using Personal Values to Make Better Decisions

Sara Healy

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There are some decisions we make in which the disadvantages may seem to outweigh the advantages. And yet, we still make the decision. Why do we do this?

Let me tell about a friend of mine. A lawyer with a very successful and lucrative practice, she dreamed of helping people solve problems in a more positive and cooperative way. To do this, however, she had to leave her law firm, choosing instead to work at a small agency that helps couples and young families. Making this decision wasn't easy. It meant giving up the comfortable salary and many of the benefits that came with her law practice. It meant living on a tighter budget, fewer vacations, and working even harder than she had before. But to her, it was worth it. She followed her heart and made a Value-Based Decision.

So, what is a Value-Based Decision?

It's a decision based on personal values, those deeply held beliefs about what's really important to us and who we want to be.

What are personal values?

Each of us has our own unique set of values, which serve as an internal compass guiding us in subtle ways. These values influence things such as the way we live our lives, what we like or dislike, the friends we choose and even our political and religious beliefs. Some examples of personal values include compassion, persistence, independence, fairness, wisdom, creativity, faith, empathy, curiosity, and love of learning.

As you learn about values, keep in mind it's easy to confuse your personal values with family or societal values. If you find yourself making a decision based on what you should or must do, you aren't using your own values. On the other hand, decisions based on what you need and want to do in your life are made using your unique values.

What are the steps to making a Value-Based Decision?

As you learn about your personal values, you can begin to make more value-based decisions. Here are some steps to consider:

Write down the decision you want to make and then ask:

  • Is this decision addressing a “should" or a “yearning"?
  • Which of my personal values are being met by making this decision?
  • What does my “gut" tell me about this decision?
  • Look at the impact of this decision from a values-perspective by asking:

  • How would this decision improve my well-being and happiness?
  • What would I have to give up by making this decision?
  • Are the value “gains" (being happier, more satisfied, less stressed) worth the costs?
  • Are you ready to make your decision?

    By taking time and thoughtfully answering the above questions, you are using your values to guide you in your decision-making process. But you're not done quite yet. Value-based decisions frequently come with some risks. You're choosing to make a decision based on what's really important to you, not society, your parents or even your existing community. Therefore, the last question you must consider is:

  • Can I commit to this decision and accept the outcome?
  • When your answer to this question is an unconditional yes, you will have made a Value-Based Decision.

    Sara Healy is a life coach who works with people to help them use their strengths and values to make changes in their lives. You can contact Sara, subscribe to her free newsletter and obtain more information about her coaching practice at

    Copyright 2007 - Sara B. Healy. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long as you leave all of the links active, do not edit the article in any way, give author name credit and follow all of the EzineArticles terms of service for Publishers.


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