What are your core values?

Let’s start strong this October and launch straight into your value and belief system. Why is it important? Because your values are the things which you believe to be important in the way that you live and the way that you work. Your values affect your behaviour and act as an internal navigation system guiding you along your journey.

If you are not being true to what you believe in then your authenticity and happiness may feel compromised. This is because when you live your life according to your values things slot into place and generally, you feel happy and content. The opposite is true when your values are not being met or lived.

Understanding your values

Your values come from your upbringing, your social, cultural and political beliefs, from your parents and their parents before them. They can be helpful or unhelpful and they shape the way you act or feel in a situation.

Imagine this scenario: you love spending time with your loved one(s)…but there is a big project going on at work and you’re having to put in the hours. The project timelines keep slipping and the goalposts keep moving and it’s taking up more of your time than you would like – it’s stressing you out and causing you internal conflict. What would you imagine your values might be telling you here?

Let’s take another scenario:  you really don’t value status but your new boss does and wants to create a competition within the team to see who is the best and put that person on a leaderboard. What effect do you think that might have on your motivation?

Or what about this one: if authenticity is one of your values how would you feel working in a place where everyone gossips, backstabs each other and hide behind a mask?

By understanding your values you can make decisions about your life, work, relationships more effectively.

Defining your values

You will have many values but between 5-10 will be core values. Your values may change throughout your life, especially if you have a major life change. They aren’t bound by boundaries or limits and may change priority e.g. having a family may mean that work-life balance might become more important.

The tool I use most for defining your values is a timeline – this can be for your career or life (or both). Begin by looking back on your life and reflecting on when you were happiest and answer the following questions:

  • what were you doing?
  • who were you with (if anyone)
  • what made you happy?

You can repeat the exercise for when you felt most fulfilled and ask yourself what about the experience gave your life meaning.

Then you need to determine your values. You can use a list like this one to choose about 10. You may some naturally combine e.g. community, contribution and growth to give you leadership. Alternatively, you can choose other descriptors not on the list if you like. It is also worth thinking about values you admire in others.

Finally, you need to prioritise your values – choose two and ask yourself if you could only have one which would you keep? Continue until they are in order from most important to least important to you.

Shine a spotlight on your values

Looking at your list ask yourself:

  • How do they make you feel?
  • Are they things you can stand up for?
  • How would you feel telling others about them?
  • How do they fit into your life and your vision?

Embrace the ones which serve you and let go of those which don’t. Looking at your values is worth re-visiting regularly, particularly if you are feeling unbalanced, stressed or indecisive about a decision which you need to make. It can be a challenging exercise and for some people can be uncomfortable but by understanding your values you can be your best and most authentic self in all situations.

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