Between the covers of the plethora of self-help books – relationship, professional, psychological – in the marketplace, there exists some really great advice about banishing negative thoughts, boosting self-confidence, or ridding yourself of the habits that negatively impact your life. In this age of self-help, you are empowered to proclaim your own worth, to rate your own value to society.

But what is the end result of that work? In your mind, you have assigned yourself a value rating, but you have not done anything more to earn it.

History books, on the other hand, are not filled with stories of people known for their self-confidence or ability to overcome negativity. They are filled with stories of people with achievements. And the fastest route to those achievements is what we want to discuss right now.

You want to be valuable to other people, right? To be worthy of respect or admiration? To be of considerable use or importance? If you’re reading this article, it is highly likely that you do, and that you want to know how. Let’s dive in.

What Does it Mean to Be “Valuable”?

To be valuable, you need to contribute to something (or someone) in a way that adds value to something (or someone) else. You are the value added.

But you need to know what you’re measuring and how you’re measuring it. A realistic view of the world holds that there is perceived value and actual value. Perceived value is only valid to the person or entity holding the perception. Actual value is a permanent contribution to society at large.

Whether it’s your job or your social life, your family or strangers, when you are more productive, you are adding actual value by accomplishing more.

Your personal estimation of your own self-worth (value) may be very different from society’s perception. To operate in the real world, we have to recognize that it is not solely our own estimation of our value that matters, but others’ perception as well.

Are You Valuable to Others?

A celebrity’s value is measured by box office sales. The value of an artist’s skill impacts the price at which s/he sells paintings. Your value, as perceived and rated by those you know – family, friends, co-workers, employers – matters.

Gauging your own self-worth (as perceived by others) is a difficult exercise because it involves serious self-examination, and that can get uncomfortable. It’s also inherently problematic, because there is virtually no way to know what someone else is thinking unless they tell you and you are sure what they are saying is sincere. And finally, it traverses potentially dangerous psychological ground because you don’t want to over-scrutinize and wind up with a negative impression of yourself. There will always be someone more talented, more beautiful, or wealthier. When we are sure we can handle the examination, we can look at some things in our life that make us valuable to others, and why that is the case.



What do you value?

We have discussed how you bring value to others, but what brings value to your own life?

Hobbies and Activities. Reading, skiing, running, woodworking, hiking…all of these things require your spare time. Feel like you don’t get enough leisure time? You’re not alone. The daily tasks we don’t necessarily enjoy doing – but that need to be done – can prevent us from doing the things we really enjoy. You have to make your own leisure time.

Family and Friends. Do your spouse or children complain that you work all the time? How many social engagements do you turn down because you’re too busy, or because you’re just too tired? Maintaining good relationships with other people requires time, and if you don’t have any spare time to devote to them, your personal life can suffer.

Getting Ahead. Somewhere between your day-to-day responsibilities and your play time you have to find some time to pursue those activities that are going to propel you further ahead in life. Your definition of “ahead” may be different from someone else’s, of course. Some common measurements include level of wealth, income earned, career level achieved, and the like.

Work. The flip side of dreading your “day job” is when you really enjoy the work you do every day. Perhaps you work for a nonprofit, and you get great fulfillment from your job. Or you’re an entrepreneur, and you are energized by the thought of creating a business from the ground up. Or you’re a river guide and you seek a thrilling sense of adventure every day. You may enjoy your work, but you need to make a solid distinction between work and play. You need to know the threat of being a workaholic is very real, and can prevent you from a well-rounded life of business and pleasure.

Joy. This is the ultimate goal, right? You may find joy in those things listed above, or your list could be completely different. Sometimes we feel stuck in a rut and feel like we don’t have any time to pursue the things that bring us joy. Or we are trying to work in a 21st-century office with 20th-century tools.

If we lack the time, skills, or tools to work efficiently, every day can be an uphill battle. In such a case, you are the proverbial hamster on a wheel, always running furiously but never getting ahead.

That’s where productivity comes in.

Value and Self-Improvement

The quest to add value to your life and that of others feeds your desire to strive to be better. This results in a perpetual mission of self-improvement, which is not a bad thing.

A desire to please others and have them think you are valuable is a very natural and common trait. From a basic animal-instinct perspective, it serves us well when we get along with others and make ourselves useful to others. It keeps us safer in the herd. From an evolutionary standpoint, a continuous drive for self-improvement makes us smarter and safer. You’re less likely to get voted off the island if you can build fires with sticks.

In today’s world, this quest for self-improvement can be constructive. It can motivate you to make the changes you need to make to increase your value to yourself and others. Putting that motivation to work for you – in a productive manner – can make all the difference in the quality of your life.

How Productivity Affects Value

Contribution = Value. And the best way to contribute more is to be more productive. Achieving a high level of productivity is a skill, plain and simple. It’s a skill that you can learn, one that gets better with practice and with applied techniques for improvement, and one that you can lose if you do not adapt to changing times. And, like other skills, it makes you more valuable in the marketplace.

In the workplace, your value is determined by current and potential employers, past and present co-workers, clients, and vendors. If each one had to rate your value, what would they say? Are there any themes that jump out at you? Is there anything you could improve? Nothing makes an employee more valuable than results, and nothing achieves greater results than working efficiently, thus increasing productivity.

At home, your value is determined by your spouse, your child(ren), and your neighbors. How would they rate your value? Do you have time to spend with your kids’ homework assignments? Does your honey-do list grow longer each week? Do you keep your lawn tidy? If you maintain productivity at home, you will produce results that increase your value to others.

Are you valued at your church? In your knitting club? At your local animal shelter?

Chances are people will value you more if your productivity level is high and you produce results for them – every accomplishment you attain because you have been able to manage your resources effectively is another result for which your value increases.

Our goal here is to be productive on a daily basis, in all aspects of our lives. Establishing better habits of productivity when seeking your own goals will make you a happier, more self-satisfied person. You will succeed more at everything you do and with everyone with whom you interact. This, in turn, will increase your confidence and contentment, which is exactly what all those self-help books are trying to achieve in the first place.

Evaluate Your Activities

Let’s face it. Not everything you do makes you more valuable, nor should it. Everyone has some level of monotony or drudgery in their lives, whether it’s a dead-end job or unpleasant obligations. You need time to pursue those things outside your normal routine that add value to your own life or to others.

That’s the whole point of productivity – to create the time you need to do what you want to do. In the end, what you decide to do with your time is up to you, but without the right tools to evaluate, prioritize, measure, and adapt your time to achieve your goals, that time is wasted.