How to Discover what Core Values you should Live By

Your core values are the beliefs that are most essential to how you view the world. Articulating your core values is a great way to help you understand yourself better, lead you to make better decisions, and give your work and home life direction. Specifically in the workplace, they can help you answer difficult questions such as:

  • What job should I pursue?
  • Should I accept this promotion?
  • Should I start my own business?
  • Should I compromise, or be firm with my position?
  • Should I follow tradition, or travel down a new path?

But how do you discover what core values you should live by? Here’s our five step plan to help you find yours and adopt them in everyday life.

1. Self-Reflect

Think about what has made you especially happy in your life. What experiences have you found meaningful? What was going on? Who were you with? What were you doing?

What makes you happy on a day-to-day basis? Is it spending time with friends and family? Completing a difficult task in the office? Helping others less fortunate than yourself? Or learning new things?

Alternatively you can think about the times when you’ve been angry or frustrated. What was causing the frustration? Was a value being suppressed? For example, have you been miserable in a job where you were micromanaged and monitored constantly? This may help you realise that you value autonomy and a sense of freedom.

2. Consolidate your Themes

Write down your findings from your self-reflection and come up with some themes you think are appropriate. You can certainly have more than one - it’s likely that you’ll end up with about five - enough to define your individuality and help you focus when working towards goals and personal development. For example, you may value having autonomy and freedom in the workplace so that you can support your children and their wellbeing. 

3. Identify your Core Values

Once you have your themes in place, you can use them to identify your core values. Here’s our nifty list of over 200 core values to help you narrow these down. Which values that you’ve listed are a fundamental part of your life? Which ones define your everyday actions and long term goals? Do the values you’ve chosen make you feel good about yourself? Do these values represent things you would support, even if your choice isn't popular?

Remember that your choices have to be right for you, as you know yourself best, and ensuring that you choose your personal core values can help you make decisions which will impact your future happiness and satisfaction.

4. Document & Revisit your Core Values

Create a document of your core values and even better write them in a place where you can see them on a regular basis. As your circumstances and stage in life changes, you may want to revisit them on a six-monthly basis. Regularly looking over them keeps them fresh in your mind and lets you make decisions that align with your values. You can also assess how you have used them in your every day life as per step 5. 

5. Use your Core Values

When you come to face a difficult decsiion, you can use your core values to help you make that decision. For example, if you’ve been offered a promotion at work which would mean being away from your family for long periods of time, but your core values focus on family life and your personal wellbeing, the promotion is unlikely to increase your overall happiness and life satisfaction. You can use this knowledge to turn down the promotion knowing that you have been true to yourself and that you’ve made the right decision.

You can also check in to ensure that you are living in line with your core values every once in a while. You can then change your behaviour accordingly. For example, if one of your core values was learning and you don’t feel like you have gained any new knowledge or experiences lately, you could choose to read two books per month until you feel like your personal rating begins to improve.

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