Uncovering Your Core Values
Your values represent what is important to you in life. They shape your priorities. Knowing your values helps you understand what drives you, what you enjoy, what inspires you and what you’d like more of.
The advantage of becoming consciously aware of your values is that you will be able to check if your behaviour is in alignment with those values. The underlying idea is that when we make choices that are in alignment with what we value, we will be more satisfied with life than when we feel out of alignment.
While your tastes and preferences can be quite changeable throughout life, your core values will be relatively stable. Uncovering what your core values are takes some time and self enquiry but it begins with awareness and willingness to explore.
My core values are authenticity, mindfulness, compassion, integrity and creativity. Once I decided to get clear on my values, I took opportunities to think and write deeply about the topic. Once I was clear, I communicated my core values to others to increase my accountability.
Values are aspirational in nature, meaning that they are something to strive towards rather than a destination. I’m not sure I’ll ever reach 100% authentic but I know that I value authenticity very highly and that helps me be as authentic as possible. If I’m faced with a choice, I will choose the most authentic option despite other discomforts because I am aware how important authenticity is to me.
It can be very difficult to come up with values off the top of your head, so viewing a long list of possible personal values is a great way to recognise things that are important to you.
Ensure that you are in a space free from distraction where you can connect your heart to your head. Perhaps some deep breaths or a grounding meditation will help you prepare.
As you read through the list, choose any words that deeply resonate as meaningful to you. Say aloud, "I value..." and insert each word. Tune in to how it feels. Remember that these words are representations of what is meaningful to you and their definition is your choice. Feel free to add words if they don’t appear.
Once you have your initial list, it’s time to start prioritising and streamlining down to your top 5-10 values.
The first thing to do is to see if any two or more words mean (or could mean) the same thing to you. If so, choose the most appropriate word and know that it covers both aspects. For example, my I value of “integrity” includes “honesty”.
The next step is to rank the values in order of how meaningful they are to you by systematically comparing two values at a time and choosing between them. I suggest that you do this next part of the activity with no more than 20 values. Write the selected values down in a list.
The way that you can determine which of these is your top priority is to Ask yourself, “which of these two values would I choose if I could only have one?” Sometimes the choice is easy and sometimes it’s quite difficult.
Begin with the first two values on your list and continue comparing the selected value to all the other values until you reach the bottom of the list. There will be one value that ends up being chosen as a priority over all of the others and this is your number one priority. Move that value to the top of your final list and go through your short list again, comparing pairs of values until you have decided upon your second priority. Keep going until you have the desired number of values that you hold most dearly. I recommend between three and ten values.
Once you have a list of your core values, you can begin to check in with your behaviours to see when you are more and less in alignment and how this feels. This awareness is a fantastic tool for self exploration.
I am a rational, secular, humanist, personal developer. I am a semi-spiritual, men’s work advocating, feminist, musical, meditative man. I am a work in progress. I tenaciously strive towards my authentic, ideal self, seeing it as a compass point rather than a destination. I compassionately accept the perpetual gap between my actual and ideal self as I appreciate how far I have already travelled. I take opportunities, appreciate my virtues and own my flaws and shadows. I am committed to a deep sense of purpose to create a world of safety by helping people improve their relationships with themselves and others