Your core values are your driving force – they’re behind what motivates you and how you live. They’re the essence of your beliefs and your measures of integrity.
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.
You then ask questions to identify why you do what you do. And you repeat them replacing the initial behaviour with the first answer, and then the second answer, and so on.
So taking our example of working hard, ask: “What does working so hard give me that’s important for me?”. Perhaps the answer would be, so I can make money.
The next question would be: “What does earning money give me that’s important?”. It could be so that I can provide for my family.
Then ask: “What does providing for my family give me that’s important for me?”. The answer could be so that they’ll be happy and secure.
Next ask: “What does having a happy and secure family give me that is important for me?”. A possible answer for this would be, it gives me peace of mind.
In this example, peace of mind is what’s really important and is, therefore, a core value. By recognising this you can avoid any unhelpful feelings around working hard such as fear and overwhelm and reinforce what working hard gives you – peace of mind, which is far more useful.
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 act upon it, 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 calmer 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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