When we are living and working in alignment with our core values, things feel good.
What are my core values?
Well, firstly let’s define what a value actually is. Values are a set of beliefs that are important to us and will influence our decisions, our actions, our behaviours and how we show up in the world. Our core values are those that are most important to us and really guide us. For example, my core values are freedom, compassion, honesty and fun and my choices are influenced by the presence, or lack of, these values. When we know what our core values are, the world makes more sense. Knowing our core values can also really help guide us to make the best decision for us. When we are living and working in alignment with our core values things feel good. They feel easy. Fun. Light. However, when we are working or living against our core values it can feel very uncomfortable.
But how do we know what they are? Well, you can find many lists on the internet, some that are hundreds of words long, that you can scroll down and choose from and then decide which is the most important to you. However, I wouldn’t suggest this is the best way to go about it. It certainly won’t be the most thorough. You see, when we see a list of words we might feel like we ‘ought’ to have certain ones as our core values. For example being a mother I could feel like I ‘should’ have family as one of mine.
A better way to establish what our core values are is to uncover them in action! To start, take your time to answer the following questions. You might not find them easy to answer, but give them some thought and try to answer in as much detail as possible.
1. Think of a time when you felt really proud. Write down what was going on at the time. What were you doing? Who was there? What was it that you felt so proud about? Give as much detail as possible.
2. Think of a time when you have felt really frustrated, angry or resentful. (These are when you are working against your actions or not honouring them.) What was happening in these situations? What specifically about them contributed to those feelings of regret/anger/frustration?
3. What are you doing when you feel most joyful and energised? Make a list and see if there is a common theme or a link to the experiences.
4. Who do you admire and look up to? Who are your role models? What is it about them, the way they behave, their qualities that you admire the most?
5. Apart from meeting your basic needs, what else do you NEED to have in your life to feel fulfilled? Eg. Do you need to have a creative outlet? To travel? To be with friends and family? To read books and learn? To be near nature? Making money and feeling successful?
6. Reflecting on what you have written down, make a list of about 20 values that are your top ones. Here is a list (source Scott Jeffrey) but you are welcome to make your own if none of these words quite pinpoint what you need.
Note: You may be drawn to similar words- group these together to start with and then decide which one you will use out of those words. For example you might want to choose authenticity, honesty, integrity, trust- you can chunk these together and select the one that you feel strongest about.
7. Once you have your list of about 20 values, you want to prioritise them so you get your top core values. These are the ones that are MOST important to you. They will be secretly driving your behaviours and guiding your decisions. Once you become aware of them you can check in with them and consciously use them to help you with making difficult decisions.
The easiest way to work out which ones are the most important is to write them out in a list and compare the top word with all the other words asking the question: ‘If I could only live with X or Y, which one would it be?’ Put a tally next to the winning one. Go through the whole list, then start with the next word down until all the words have been compared with each other. You will then see your top values and you can write them in order.
Now you have your top 3-5 values. How do they feel? Are you proud of them? Do they make sense to you when you reflect on your life and the choices you make?
Knowing your values can bring a clarity and a certainty to who you are as a person. What you stand for, what you represent. It can make life a little smoother, because you know that if you make decisions based on meeting these needs then you won’t go far wrong. And if something feels uneasy, you can check in and see which one is being compromised.
Of course these can change over time as different things become a priority at different stages of our life, but in general, our core ones remain pretty core throughout.
I hope you have found that a valuable exercise. If you have any questions or of course if you wanted to work through that exercise with me in person to explore it more, by all means get in touch and we can arrange a time to talk.
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