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What matters most is who you are becoming, not what you are doing.  When trying to figure out the important things in life we can get a little bit lost. In my experience, we are all set to a default selfish nature. Our first concern is often ourselves and our own enjoyment and happiness.
At least I was.
I used to only be concerned about myself and how I could get the most satisfaction out of whatever I did. And that is a philosophy that is still perpetuated today.
You’ve probably heard people say ‘do whatever makes you happy’. It’s advice most of us listen to without stopping to question whether our self-fulfilment is what matters most.
I’ll save you some time… It isn’t.
I’ll share with you 4 things I’ve learned about being Values-driven.
1) Listen to fear and let it inform your values – it will tell you what really matters.
2) Focus on substance and not superficial things.
3) Label your values so you have a set of words the guide your choices. 
4) Make your values matter during every moment by making choices based on the.

Be Values Driven

What matters most is not what you do but the quality of person that you are becoming.
For me, that answer was found in faith. The moment I took my belief in Jesus to a place of certainty, I could let all manner of material and selfish things be stripped away. You might not find yourself at a place of questioning faith or the meaning of life, but as you travel through the years, you really need to find out what matters most.
In my faith journey, I found myself becoming values-driven, rather than valuables driven.
When you’re valuables driven, you chase after shiny things like money, success and power. When your values drive, you chase after a better quality of character and virtuoso living. Values are personal lines that you will not cross. They act as the markers for keeping you on track. By definition, values are the things that matter most. If you can nail down your values, then you will have an answer to this question.
Here are four ways that you can begin to discover your own values.

Listen to fear

We are often taught that fear needs to be overcome, and that is true. But somewhere in that process, we can use fear to understand what matters most to us.
We are not afraid to lose things that are unimportant, what we fear is losing the things that matter. Listening to fear can teach us about the important things in life. It is worth mentioning that there is a difference between ‘healthy’ fear and ‘unhealthy’ fear, or even irrational fear.
An unhealthy fear might be something limiting on your life like the fear of arranging your own affairs.
Mark McConville in a podcast with Brett McKay noted in his therapy sessions that an alarming number of people moving into adulthood struggle to make their own appointments at the dentist, or get the bus largely due to a fear of not being perceived as an adult. It seems small, but that kind of fear is enough to stop you in your tracks and hold you back.
A healthy fear would be something like not wanting to step into oncoming traffic. You know it will harm you and the fear keeps you from aimlessly wandering into danger. The reason this is healthy is that it teaches you that your life matters and is worth preserving by not getting hit by a car. That same fear can be listened to for other things like the fear of losing a loved one. It enhances that powerful feeling of care and concern and confirms to yourself that this person matters. Fear of failure (to a degree) might keep you from being lazy. Fear of loneliness might keep you from isolation. Equally a fear of rejection might keep you from socialising. It’s up to you to listen to these fears and decide how you want to manage them.

Focus on substance

When thinking about what matters most, I would focus on substance. What are the things that will last a lifetime? It might seem obvious that I’m not talking about material things, but I want to make it clear (just in case) that ‘stuff breaks’. Stuff is cheap – even the expensive stuff! What are the things in life, and in particular your life that are everlasting?
The ancient writer Paul of Rome wrote that these three things remain; faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. Simple but powerful words.
Can I ask you a tough question? What loving relationship have you neglected over the years? I have no doubt that you are a good person. The very fact that your reading this means your looking to improve and do good. But are there any friendship, family connections and loved ones who – if you are honest- have been overlooked? It’s so easy to think to yourself that these people have not contacted you.
They’ve not been in touch.
Why haven’t they reached out?
But that’s not how the relational bank account works. If you’ve made ‘love’ something that matters most, then you make the first move to reach out to someone. The word is proactive. It means to not wait for something to happen, but go and make it happen.
To get to the answer to finding out what matters most, you need to dig deep and search within yourself. Look past the noise and try to see what is really important. What are the principles you find to be the most valuable in your life? You might find that they are already there, you just haven’t noticed them. Like the way, you respond when somebody needs help. Or, the way you encourage someone who is feeling down? Why do you do that? Well, one answer is that there might be a value of care and concern within you.
The kind of questions you need to ask yourself is what kind of person do I want to be by the end of my life and what were the behaviours and attitudes that brought me there? Sure, your work and career or whatever can play a role, but focus on the substance of your character. Doing and work can come later.

Label your values 

Okay, so maybe you spend some time at the end of this article writing down what matters most, but how might that look written down? I’m going to give you my list of values and how I got them.
Go nuts and get those thoughts on paper. Don’t stop there! I want you to take enough time to put them down into a handful of words or a phrase that will become your value statement for life. A sweet little collection of words that sum up what matters most.
For me, this was a ten-year process. You read that right! Ten years to synthesise and boil down the most important things to me. Call it a work in progress.
As you collect your thoughts they will probably be raw. Whatever you already have in mind is the best place to start. But I want you to review them every year or so. A new year tends to be a good time. You will refine them. Whitle them out and add new words.
When I began shaping a values-driven mindset it was aspirational. In other words, they were ideals rather than things I lived out. The collection I now have are true to my character (or at least I like to think so) and have helped shape my response to the world around me over the years.
My values are summed up in the acronym HISACE. It stands for Honour, Influence, Service, Attitude, Challenge and Excellence. In my world, some of these were once buzz words that would casually roll off people’s tongue, but for me they had substance and over the years I sought to define them so I could live by them. I’ll not give you the definitions here, but they actually form the decision-making process for pretty much my entire life.

Make your values matter during the moment. 

The way you make your values matter most is by allowing them to drive your decision making. If something happens – whether that’s a random event in the street or a big opportunity, I measure it against my six words.
Both honour and challenge have carried me into difficult conversations and they are words I use to stand by when somebody cuts across the grain of the meaning.
On many occasions, service and attitude have pushed me to do weird things. Like the time I went to Burger King and all the staff were ’not quite with it’. The tables were a mess and a ton of customers waiting to be seated. I could tut and complain, but they had left the disinfectant and cloth on the side so I seized a unique opportunity. While the staff were happily chatting away I grabbed it. Cleared the tables and wiped every dirty one clean.
Weird, huh?
I didn’t do it so much for them, but more because my values asked me to not whine and moan but set an example. The customers and staff were probably a little freaked out, but I like to think it left an impression that at the very least left their behaviour challenged. In Burger King, three to four of my values were executed in a weird way.
If you get your values right, they will take you into bizarre, fun and challenging scenarios. And hopefully, people won’t drift through the moments where the encounter you with nothing to remember. Use them to make every moment matter and every moment memorable.


Take 30 mins to sit down in a quiet place (the toilet if you have to in a noisy house) and write down everything that comes to mind about what matters most. Whether you scribble down words, sentences and/or draw pictures. Get it all on paper. Over this next week regularly look at it, add to it. You can cross things out or better to explain to yourself what you mean.

After a week, sit down for another 30 mins and try to put the most significant, aspirational values into a sentence or a phrase. This is your set of values. Try your best to live by them. Benjamin Franklin did a similar thing with his virtues. Refine them over the years and let them drive you. Be values-driven, not valuable driven. These are some of the things that matter most.

Discussion Rules: I’m not into thought policing at all, but I am big on honour and respect. Opinionated is fine, but if you’re ill-mannered or nasty, expect to see your comments disappear. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (All credit to Tim Ferris’ site who I totally took this idea from).

Julian Joseph

Author Julian Joseph

More posts by Julian Joseph

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