A version of this post was originally published on January 1, 2016 under the title How to Clarify Your Values and updated on January 17, 2023.
In addition to practicing self-love and knowing you are worthy, honoring your core values is key to creating and living a happy, satisfying life.
Identifying your values helps you get clear on the essence of what you want and will serve as your compass for living a happier life.
“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” - Roy Disney
What Are Core Values?
Values represent what matters to you in life and your core values are those things that matter the most. They are the beliefs or convictions that guide your behavior and support your purpose and vision. Your core values define who you are. They highlight what you stand for and represent your unique, individual essence.
Some examples of values are freedom, harmony, growth, connection, family, fun, integrity, humor, independence, adventure.
Why Core Values Matters
Your values play an enormous role in shaping your life. As you were growing up, many of your values were passed on to you from your parents. Others were picked up from influential people in your life, environmental influences, personal experiences, and everyday conversations.
When you have an awareness of what is really important to YOU, it’s much easier to gravitate towards projects and relationships that bring you joy. Choosing your own personal core values will help to guide you in making decisions and staying focused on your path. Your values relate to your purpose in life and act as a compass to keep you on course. They take you in the direction of living your very best life.
Your Core Values Help You:
- Navigate your priorities to make decisions easier
- Stay in alignment with your intentions
- Avoid confusion and inner conflict
- Be clear on relationship compatibility
- Live a more satisfying, fulfilling life
Having an understanding of why establishing your core values is important is just the first step. The next step is to spend some time actually identifying and defining what your core values are, and writing them down. It may be challenging to hone in on your top core values, but it is worth taking the time if you want to live a more joyful, satisfying life.
How to Identify Core Values
There are different ways to identify what your core values are. I'll share two of my favorites here.
The first, and most common method, is to pick them from a list. This is where you review a long list of potential values and make note of the ones that jump out at you or that you resonate with. Make a note of whatever words get your attention, and then narrow them down to a list of six to ten words that feel most important.
You’ll find a values list at the end of this article or you can download a PDF values list here.
One challenge with this method is that some people end up choosing what they think their values should be, rather than what they really are.
For example, if you're a parent you might feel like you should choose 'family' as a core value. “After all,” you might think, “what kind of parent would I be if I didn't think my kids matter most?”
Let go of judgment here. Be honest with yourself and choose authentically.
My second favorite method is The Value Test. This is an automated online tool that helps you decide what is most important to you.
Tips To Remember
1. You aren't limited to the words on the list. If you have a word that resonates with you that is not on the list, use it.
2. When you have multiple words that are similar, choose the word that best captures the essence of what matters to you. For example, I chose Freedom and Independence in my first draft. I decided that Freedom encompasses Independence so that became my final choice.
3. This isn't necessarily something you do in ten minutes so take your time with it. Reflect and let your choices percolate for a few days until it becomes clear what your core values are.
4. It's worth reviewing your values and redoing the exercise from time to time in case your values evolve. Updating your list every 6 to 12 months is ideal.
What To Do With Your List
Once you've identified your core values, write them down somewhere where you can see them regularly. Your ultimate goal here is to have daily experience or expression of each core value on your list. Let them be your compass for making future decisions. When you honor your values you will enjoy life more. You will feel more fulfillment and satisfaction. It will allow you to be your best self.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Core Values List
Being the best
Making a difference