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Aligning Your Values With Your Life

align your values with your life by doing what's important or not doing what's unimportant

❝Values cannot be taught; values must be lived.❞ -Viktor Frankl

Frank is reflecting on his life and his values, wanting to see if his life aligns with his values. He considers four values; authority, autonomy, fame, and family. He's happy to say that family is very important to him, and he prioritizes his family. This is one area where he is in alignment with his values.

He's less happy to realize that, even though autonomy is very important to him, he works for a micromanager who not only tells them exactly what to do but how to do it. It's frustrating for him not to be able to express his value of autonomy.

When he considers authority, he decides that being in charge of others isn't important to him and that he is not spending any energy trying to be. He's not wasting his time on something that's unimportant to him.

Then he considers fame. He tells himself that fame is not an important value. Yet, he's noticing that he's spending more time creating social media content, craving likes, comments, and followers. This induces some ambivalence because he has to either admit that fame is more important to him than he thought or spend less time trying to be popular.


Aligning your life with your values requires you to reflect on whether you are expressing your values, or not wasting time expressing things that are not valuable to you. It requires you to confront areas where you might not be able to express a value or where you are wasting time on things that are unimportant.


When you think about aligning your behaviors with your values, you can think about this in terms of a two-axis grid. One axis, the vertical axis, represents how important something is to you. This would be where you rank your values. The other axis, the horizontal axis, represents how much you are expressing this value or how much this value is showing up in your life. In other words, are you doing it or not?

The sweet spots are the upper right quadrant and the lower left quadrant. The upper right quadrant represents areas in your life where you are expressing your values. You are doing important things. The lower left quadrant represents areas where you're not spending your time, money, or energy on things that don't matter to you. You are refusing to do unimportant things.

The two quadrants we want to stay away from are the upper left quadrant and the lower right quadrant. The upper left quadrant represents values that you are not expressing. You're not doing things that are important to you. The lower right quadrant represents a waste of your time. This is where you spend your time doing things that don't matter.

values and behavior grid

This questionnaire is an instrument that taps into ten valued domains of living. It assesses the perceived importance of each of these ten life domains and the degree to which you are living in accordance with this perceived importance.


The first step towards aligning your life with what's important to you is to find out where you are. This is where you think about your most important values (and even your least important values) and plot where you are. First, tackle the vertical axis. You can use different shapes and colors for this, where each color represents a different value and, say, a square represents where you are now. How important to you is a particular value? Once you know where that you are on the vertical axis, you can ask yourself how much this value is showing up in your life. Be honest with yourself. If you have values but are under-expressing them, mark them on the chart. If you are spending your time and money in areas that you say aren't important to you, mark that as well.

Are there any insights you can glean from seeing where you are or are not expressing your values? Are there any insights from seeing if there are areas where you're using your time and money in ways that aren't important?

values and behavior grid showing where you are


Next, ask yourself where you want to be. Using the same colors to represent the same values, choose a different shape to represent your ideal state, like a circle. Most often, this will involve you placing your values in the upper right quadrant and placing things you don't value into the lower left quadrant. Values that are in the upper left quadrant are things that are important to you when you're not doing. You may tell yourself that you want to express this value more often and move it into the upper right quadrant. Values that are in the lower right quadrant are things that you are spending your life on but aren't important to you. Here, you have to decide whether you should stop doing this or if you have to admit this is more important than you initially thought.

What insights can you glean from seeing what your ideal state looks like?

values and behavior grid showing where you want to be


Next, connect the two shapes with a line. This connects where you are and where you want to be.

What does it mean to see a long line? What does it mean to see a horizontal versus vertical line?

What do you need to do to close these gaps?

values and behavior grid showing your gaps

Aligning your values and your life helps you live authentically. It helps you live in a way you'll be proud of as you look back on your life. The hard part is actually doing it. Spend some time thinking about what's important to you and how you use your resources to see if you can close the gaps to live more meaningfully.

You get one life; live intentionally.


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Related MeaningfulMoney Reading
References and Influences

Kinder, George & Mary Rowland: Life Planning for You

McKay, Matthew, John Forsyth, and Georg Eifert: Your Life on Purpose

McKeown, Greg: Essentialism

Millburn, Joshua Fields & Ryan Nicodemus: Essential

Miller, William: On Second Thought

Sinek, Simon, David Mead & Peter Docker: Find Your Why

Sivers, Derek: How to Live

Vos, Joel: Meaning in Life

Note: Above is a list of references that I intentionally looked at while writing this post. It is not meant to be a definitive list of everything that influenced by thinking and writing. It's very likely that I left something out. If you notice something that you think I left out, please let me know; I will be happy to update the list.



About the Author

Derek Hagen, CFA, CFP, FBS, CFT-I, CIPM is a speaker, writer, and coach specializing in financial psychology, meaning and valued living, resilience, and mindfulness.


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