Do You Understand Your Core Values?
Updated: May 7, 2021
Your core values are a part of you; they act like an internal compass and guide your behaviour and decision making, even if you’re not aware of it. Core values are usually expressed in words as abstract nouns, for example: love, happiness, freedom, autonomy, security, creativity. Some of your values will remain fixed throughout your life, and others will change as you change and grow.
Most of us don’t know our values. We don’t understand what’s most important to us. Instead, we focus on what our society, culture, and media tells us to value. It’s easy to speculate and idealise what you should value. But knowing and accepting what you truly do value takes conscious effort, effort that is definitely worth it!
"Values are like fingerprints, nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do." - Elvis Presley
Why should you care about your core values?
We tend to feel most fulfilled when we live and act in alignment with our core values. When one or more of our values is missing in a part of our life, such as our career or relationship, we can often feel unfulfilled, dissatisfied and unhappy without realising why. Having a greater awareness of our values can help us understand where our frustrations are coming from, and therefore take action to do something about them.
Understanding and reflecting on your values can immediately give you the power to increase your sense of fulfilment in your life, by allowing you to take action and make adjustments to increase the things in your life that give you more of those things that drive your fulfilment, and reduce or remove the things that drain you of it.
As an example, freedom and joy are two of my core values, and I know that going for a walk in the fresh air (and ideally sunshine!) increases my feelings of freedom and joy. So if I’m ever feeling a bit stuck or down, I know that all I need to do is go for a walk and I’ll feel a lot better!
Have you ever felt really torn when trying to make a decision? Like you were being pulled in opposite directions, or like you were “stuck between a rock and a hard place”? This was most likely because two or more of your values were in opposition as you tried to make your decision. Or perhaps you felt overwhelmed because there were too many options to choose between? Knowing what your core values are can give you much needed clarity and structure when making a difficult decision.
How do I discover my core values?
Doing the reflective and exploratory work needed to get clear on your core values is usually best done with another person, for example a coach, but you can definitely have a good attempt on your own.
Start by listing the activities, people, objects and situations in your life that make you feel most fulfilled. Next, ask yourself what each of those things gives you a sense of (remember we’re looking for those abstract nouns like belonging, connection, choice, etc).
Once you’ve had a good brainstorm, take the list of values words you’ve written down and pick out the top ten or twelve that you’re really drawn to (don’t think too much about it!). You can then play a game to pitch each one against another and pick a winner in each pair (for example, is Love or Freedom most important to me?). The six that “win” the most matches are your top six core values. If the six you have don’t feel quite right, you can repeat the whole process a few times to see which ones continually come up! And of course six is a bit of an arbitrary number, so if four or seven feel better to you, then go for it!
The final, and key, step is to write down what each of those top core values means to you. How do you define it? We will each mean a slightly different thing by the same word, and it’s important to have an understanding of what each value means to you personally.
If you’d like to know more about getting clear on your core values so you can make decisions with confidence, and would like to find out how I can help you with that, please get in touch to arrange an informal chat; I’d love to hear from you!
P.S. If you haven't downloaded my FREE guide: "Four Secrets to Creating Work You Love!" yet, grab your free copy here!