Budgeting / Credit Cards and Debt / Personal Finance

Fix Your Finances in 30 Days

Day 1: Your Five Main Values

Some of you expected this course would start with you creating a budget, or writing down all your debts, or reviewing your finances. It will actually be a couple of days before we start dissecting your finances. Why? First things first! We need to identify the things that drive you, the things that really matter in your life.

We all have a reason why we work and it is seldom because we like who we work with or where we work. You co-workers might be nice and fun to be around, but if you won the $40 million lottery, would you really want to show up each day at your job? Likely you would find retirement a better option. So, why do you work?

Do we work hard for the money? Or do we work hard for what we can do with the money? Money is just a means to an end: a good life for your family, an occasional new gadget, or that nice car you drive to work each day. Throw in some essentials like a roof over our head, electricity, and water, and you get to why we really work hard. But do we just live for all the stuff we can buy?

The real truth is that we live according to a set of values. We continually perform actions based on values: our values mixed with the values of others. Some of us have our family as a top value. If you’re not married yet, your personal time might be a value. We each have a set of values that governs how and why we work – even values that define where we work. For example, my top value is my family. I want a good, fulfilling life for my wife and my children so that they can easily define and follow their own values.

Every person has a set of between four and six primary values that underline their life (we may have other values, but those values are secondary to the primary ones). Financial problems occur through distortions of those values: we come to believe that some things are vital to these values when they really don’t matter. Generally, this is what advertising seeks to do: it tries to express a core value that some people have and make their product seem essential to achieving that value.

So, our first step is to define exactly what our values are. We are not defining goals here! Goals are specific actions, like “retiring at age fifty five” or “paying for my girl’s wedding.” What we are looking for are values. Friends. Love. Freedom. Truth. What are the fundamental items that make you tick? At the end of this post is a list of thirty potential values that one might list; you can look at these if you’re an example-oriented person.

At first, this seems pretty difficult, so here’s a procedure that will help you get in the right mindset.

First, get calm and relaxed. What relaxes you? What do you escape to when you are stressed out? For some, it might be watching a movie, playing a video game, reading a book, or drinking a nice, cold beer. Whatever calms your spirit and puts you at ease is ideal. Do whatever gets you relaxed: have a massage, lay down in bed, or anything that increases your calmness.

Second, be honest. No one has to see this list, so write down what really comes from inside of you. You might write down things like “power” or “excitement” that you might not want to show other people, or you might be tempted to write down “family” because your significant other would expect it – but it’s not really important to you.

Third, close your eyes and ask yourself what is really important in your life. If nothing comes immediately, don’t worry about it. Think about the moments where you feel most whole and fulfilled and that feeling stays with you, not a temporary, passing feeling.

As you discover values, write them down. Just make a list on a sheet of paper. It doesn’t have to be ranked in any way. Once you’ve discovered a value that’s important to you, just add it at the bottom of the list. You’ll know when you are done; don’t worry too much about how many you’ve written down.

If you have more than six values, ask yourself if any of them are the same value. Quite often, if we get above six values on our list, we’ll realize that two of the values are actually the same thing. If they are, just combine them, or cross off one of them.

If you have fewer than four values, think about them some more. Most people have at least four central values in their lives, so spend some more time to make sure you’re not missing anything.

Once you have this list, save it. We’ll not only refer to it in later steps, but it will probably be valuable to you. See you tomorrow!

If you need some help getting started, here is a list of thirty values that you might have in your life. Note that this isn’t a list of all possible values, just a selection of some values to help you get started.

Creativity (music, film, food, etc.)
Making a difference
Peace of mind
The environment

Today’s Assignment

Create a list of at least five values that you hold in life. Remember, these are values, not goals, the two things are distinctly different. Values are the things that boil up excitement in your belly; the things that make you who you are, do the things you do, and get excited about life.

Have your list? Let’s explore your goals and move on to the next day.

Next: How to Define Goals from Your Values >>