Knowing your core values: Why does it matter?
Cores values. What are they and why are they relevant? Core values are by definition principles or beliefs that a person views as being of central importance. I personally see values as the fingerprints of our own core essence.
Are we defined by our values or do our values define us? While growing up we are exposed to what we learn from our parents, teachers, peers, culture, society. Some of these values become our own, often without we even realize. Along the way, we kept moving forward with a set of principles and beliefs we never thought of questioning.
What you should know is that your values influence your decisions and actions, most of the times without you even noticing. Every single day you wake up and make a thousand of decisions from what clothes to wear to the next step in your career development or business growth. From small to big decisions, from micro to macro actions, your values are always in the backstage, guiding you throughout your journey.
When was the last time you felt you made a bad decision? Or perhaps that your actions on the past months or years have led you in opposite directions of where you want to go? I dare to say: Perhaps they were not bad decisions or wrong actions; they were not in alignment with your values.
Here one of the risks of being disconnected or misaligned with your values – you start slowly losing yourself. You may have a set of values acting as a basis to your decisions, but how do they speak to you? Do they represent who you are? Do they reflect your truest, most authentic self? If not, where are they leading you eventually? They are a basis indeed, but are they your inner compass?
It may be that you have never stopped to think about what matters to you the most. No need for despair! You are always in time to explore and discover your core values. Going through this process can be quite creative and enlightening.
Let us try a small exercise. First, grab your diary, notebook or a piece of paper. Find a comfortable and tranquil environment, emptying your mind from preconceived ideas or thoughts as much as you can. Take a few deep breathes if helpful.
1) Listing: Making a list of values can sound quite overwhelming. Try one or more of the following approaches. A) Experiences: Think about a meaningful moment in your life. What was happening? How were you feeling? What values spoke to you? B) Repression: Think about a moment when you got angry or frustrated. What was going on? What values were you repressing? C) Conduct. Beyond your basic needs and morals, what fulfills you the most? What can you not live without?
2) Compiling & Highlighting: From the list above, look at those values and group them into related categories. For instance: compile learning, growth, development under the same group. After this step, pick one value for each group that represents its central theme.
3) Defining: Now comes the time to define your personal core values, the ones from the long list that matter to you the most. Here a few questions to guide you: What values are essential to my life? What values reflect my inner self? What values represent my strengths? Your short list should have a reasonable number of values, enough for you to see yourself reflected in them and do not easily forget them (recommendation: between 5-8).
4) Enriching: You can rank your core values according to their importance. Look at each value you have defined in your short list and write a sentence (creative and captivating!) giving them context. These value statements can include words from the groups you have compiled in step 2.
5) Assimilating: Once you have completed this list with your personal core values, put it aside and revisit it a few days later. Read them aloud or in your head and check-in with yourself. How do these values make you feel? Are they consistent and representing who you are? Do they speak to your core? Feel free to make any necessary tweaks.
You may be wondering if this list is for life. Will it stay crystallized no changes at all? Probably not. As you continue your personal development journey, as you grow and change, your values can be adapted as well. Being values a reflection of who you are, as long as you stay true to yourself your values remain truthful.