Your core values, for example, compassion, integrity and fairness are your driving force – they’re behind what motivates you and how you live. They’re the essence of your beliefs and guide you throughout your life.
Whilst your values are individual to you, your culture, upbringing, beliefs etc. will have played a role in creating them. Your values will affect the way you operate at every level from your sense of right and wrong to your preferences.
Recognising your core values will help you to understand and act in accordance with what drives you. This will help you to achieve a balance in your life that is both fitting and fulfilling.
Identifying Your Core Values
The starting point is to identify what’s most important to you – follow this question-asking strategy to find yours.
Start off by choosing a behaviour or something you do regularly, for example, working hard.
Then start asking yourself questions to identify why you do what you do. And you repeat the question, replacing the initial behaviour with the first answer, and then the second answer, and so on.
Using working hard as an example:
- Question: what does working so hard give me that’s important for me? Answer: so I can make money.
- Question: what does earning money give me that’s important? Answer: so that I can provide for my family.
- Question: what does providing for my family give me that’s important for me? Answer: so that they’ll be happy and feel secure.
- Question: what does having a happy and secure family give me that is important for me? Answer: it gives me peace of mind.
In this example, peace of mind is what’s really important and therefore is a core value. Recognising this would help you avoid unhelpful feelings around working hard such as frustration and overwhelm, and reinforce what working hard provides you – peace of mind.
Go through this strategy for yourself on different behaviours and examples from your life and with every answer ask “What does having X give me that is really important for me?”. Do this until you aren’t able to find any further answers – at this point, you’ve identified a core value.
What You Value Most
Another useful exercise on values was developed by business coach John Assaraf which will help you to connect to what you value most in your life. Start by writing down all the things you value in your life, some examples could be things like health, time, freedom, creativity, love, fun, wealth, connection or peace. Select your most important ten and put them in order from one to ten, where one has the highest value.
Then ask yourself: “What must I do today to act upon my number one value?”. If for example, you have health first, you would be asking yourself what you could do today to ensure you’re looking after your health, so that could be anything from eating healthily, to doing exercise, or taking time out to relax.
When you take care of your highest values and the most important things first, your life overall is more meaningful and you will generally feel calm and balanced.
Try these exercises for yourself to understand your values and what makes you tick. It will help you to make sense of some of your habits and behaviours. Now you understand your core values, what are you doing today to act on them?
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