Let’s Define Your Core Values

Your core values are those deeply held beliefs and qualities that dictate your behaviour and help to clarify right and wrong in different situations.  They determine your priorities and give you an indication of whether your life is turning out the way you expected it to.

Remember that while core values are usually stable, they may change as you journey through life.  As you enter the career market as a newly qualified worker your values may be focused on material success, as you mature and have a family you may find that your values have shifted to focus on family and a balance between work and home life.

It may be a good idea to review your core values if you start to feel unbalanced and aren’t sure why – possibly things have developed that you aren’t fully aware of.

Why The Emphasis on Core Values?

Identifying and understanding your core values is a demanding but crucial exercise. Your core values are an extremely important part of who you are and who you would like to be in the future. When they are understood they can be used as a guide to make the best choice in a given situation.

When your actions and words are aligned with your core values life is usually good – at least to the point of being content. When what you do and say clashes with your core values, you may start to notice a feeling of unease… that somehow things just don’t feel right. This discontentment can grow into unhappiness and depression if not attended to. BUT, how can you make sure that what you do is in alignment with your core values, if you are not clear on what those core values are??

How to Choose from a LONG List of Potential Values

When you define your core values you are actually identifying what is truly important to you, but the question remains, how do you go about choosing your core values when there are hundreds to choose from?

Firstly, look back at your life asking key questions, to promote balance in your answers be sure to identify situations from both your personal and professional life:

1.     When was I most happy?

Ask yourself what you were doing, who was involved and what contributed to your happiness.

2.     When was I most proud?

Ask yourself what made you proud, who was involved and what contributed to you feeling proud.

3.     What satisfied or fulfilled me?

Ask yourself what need or desire was fulfilled, how or why did you find the situation meaningful and what contributing factors were there?

Secondly, review a list of core values (for a free list of core values click here) to identify which core values resonate with your experiences identified above. Try and group those that are similar to identify your Top 10 values.

Next, you need to prioritise your Top 10 values.  Look deep into yourself and don’t rush this step. Knowing which value you prioritise over others allows you to know which core value to turn to first in decision making.

A simple method to do this is to review your Top 10, taking two core values at a time.  Ask yourself if you could only assuage one of the two when making a decision, which would it be? If you get stuck try and visualise a situation and pit the two core values against each other. For example if I were looking at honesty and loyalty I would prioritise loyalty.  In my mind, I can deal with someone telling me a little white lie, but a lack of loyalty is a deal breaker.

Review your core values to make sure that they suit your life and the future you see for yourself.  Ask yourself:

1.     Do my core values give me a sense of pride?

2.     Do my core values add to my self-esteem?

3.     Would I be willing to share my core values with people I look up to?

4.     Do I believe in it enough to stick with it, even in the face of adversity?

Although making choices in alignment with your core values isn’t always easy, you can rest assured that you will be able to uphold your integrity and do what is right. Making a decision based on your core values also means that you are doing what is best for your current and future happiness and fulfilment.

By Debbie Taylor