How to define your core values

Originally posted in September 2020

The other day, or rather night because of time differences with the USA, I was interviewed on a podcast about our emotions, managing them, responding to them and how they influence us.

I talked about how often our emotions are showing us that something is out of alignment with our core values and beliefs.

But what about when we aren’t clear on what those core values and beliefs are. How do we identify them to bring everything back to them?

Firstly we need to recognise a few things. Values are not resolutions, goals or to-do lists. Those things are doing, having, our behaviours. Values are about being.

Think about what is important to you. Go deeper. Look beyond the first instance. For example if you say friendship is important to you then perhaps your value is honesty or loyalty. Relationships? Maybe love or connection. Fair trade? Perhaps Ethical treatment and justice. The environment? Maybe it’s peace, freedom and  creativity.  Literature and books? Maybe it’s spirituality.

The list could go on. There’s no right or wrong, no judgement. Take some time over it. Bring your awareness to it as you go through different experiences in a day. What is motivating you? What is making your feel content, happy, saddened, energised? Why? How are you filling the space around you, your time? Noticing all these things will tell you what is important to you.

Look for commonalities between your list and what you are noticing about yourself. Themes that may be occurring. Narrow your list down to roundabout 5 keywords. These should be at the core of what makes you tick.  

These values then offer a truly valuable insight into who you really are and can help form the basis of your decision making. They can also help you understand your emotional reactions and feelings. When something resonates and feels “right” it usually aligns with our values and beliefs. When we’re frustrated, angry, overwhelmed or even feel guilty, it’s often because we have acted or something has happened that is not in alignment with your values and beliefs.

Disclaimer: it may not apply in every instance but it is a great place to start.

Think of it this way, most of our emotions are signposts directing you to areas of your life that you need to pay attention to. Unless you know what your core values and beliefs are, the path you choose in response, can easily misdirect you. The presence of your emotions are an invitation into personal growth. Don’t miss the opportunity because you were stuck somewhere else.

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