For most if not all of us, we have been in a situation where we have not spoken up even when we disagreed with the prevalent opinion.
As a result, we may have felt ashamed of not speaking up. The actions we take are often a choice between what we ought to do and what is practical to do. This is indicative that in those situations where you did not live consistently with your core values.
So, what are these core values? Blackman (2018) defines them as the things that you hold in high regard and the characteristics and behaviors that motivate oneself and that underly our decisions. For instance, if one values kindness they will be motivated to support causes that support others. Hence, one will be generous with their resources and time in support of these causes. This goes to show that values matter to a great degree. One is poised to live a much better life if they are living according to their values compared to if they are not. This is for both the most mundane to life-transforming choices.
Identifying core values
After having outlined the importance of core values, it is evidenced that values influence how one lives and works, how one determines their priorities, how one evaluates if their life is unfolding as one would want it to, and if one’s behavior aligns with them. When all of these check out, what results is a life filled with happiness and overall gratification. This is the reason why one should make a conscious decision to identify their values. But the main concern is how will one attain this, especially because the definition of values is not specific enough. The following are some of the ways one can use to identify their core values.
As aforementioned, the identification process is a conscious one. Hence, this typifies the first step one should take. That is, it is important to begin paying attention to all the choices you routinely make questioning the motive behind any action (Sime, 2019). This way, it is possible to identify some underlying values you subconsciously use. When undertaking this mindful exercise, it is important to pay specific attention to how specific values are reflected in one’s daily life. from this, it is possible to identify some patterns, the situations that cause satisfaction or dissatisfaction, and finally, what you are not willing to compromise.
Consider the people you admire
As posited by Seidman (2018) we are usually to people who are like us or those we perceive to be like us. In the same way, this can be extended to show that the people we love and admire are personifications of the values close to us (Selig, 2018). To do this, you can think of a couple of people you admire or love, say six of them, outline the values they embody and select those that resonate with you which will form a framework of what you value.
Reflect on your experiences
The past is also a good point to start. Typically, there are those moments in our past that are largely ingrained in our memories, they are usually both positive and negative but we consider them formative to what we have become. Therefore, thinking back on these moments you will be in a position to identify the authentic and inauthentic values you have lived by in the past (Sime, 2019). A good exercise would be to evaluate the choices based on how comfortable, satisfied, at ease, and genuine they felt. What is more, these key moments are important as they help one identify these values since it is times like this that we discover whether we are in alignment with who we really are and what we sincerely value.
List your top values
From the identified exercises, one may choose to use one or all. In either case, this will result in a list of values that you can use to describe oneself. Depending on the triggers from which an understanding of values was drawn, one will develop an understanding of their values in regards to the context (Selig, 2018). This way, it is then important to categorize these values into groups that resonate with you. For instance, your values for growth will be different from those you consider for stability. Then after this, it is important to focus these values to your current reality to determine the values to prioritize, compromise, and those that are largely unmet or conflicted (Sime, 2019). With this understanding, it will be possible to understand oneself and adapt this understanding to one’s life.
Impact of values on behavior
As it has been established so far, our behaviors are a product of our intentions. In the same way, it can be extended to assert that our values shape our intentions or motives. Think of a time a work and family appointment collided, which one did you forego? Such a decision is a clear indication of what you value. Life is largely characterized by such dilemmas where a choice is accompanied by a tradeoff whereby the context is defined by several factors. For instance, even though you chose either work or family in the earlier instance, this is not to say that every time you are faced with such a decision you will default to either. This is because there are other factors at play that affect our judgment as we value among alternatives or competing interests. Another example is deciding the career to pursue. It is plausible to outline that the decision we took revolved around what we would be most comfortable doing.
This comfort may have quite to do with the pay, but there is an intangible aspect to it. For instance, if you value helping out, there is a chance a career in the helping professions appeals to you. If you are competitive, the same course will follow. As such, it is evident that our values are at the core of our decision-making approach whereby, they will influence how we live our life by underlying every decision we make (Sime, 2019; Blackman, 2018). Hence, values will impact what we prioritize in life and charting out the direction we should take regarding the goals and objectives we live by.
How to define core values
Up until this point, the focus has been on identifying one’s core value. However, this section will focus on getting deeper through the definition of one’s values to themselves. This is making sure these values mean something and that you embody them to alleviate risk while accelerating success (Daum, 2013). Hence, in the same way, that you had to think of situations to determine your values, the process of definition works in reverse. That is, using the identified values to guide one’s behavior and choices. As such, one should use these values in daily decision-making both as a way to apply them or test them. therefore, defining one’s values involves consciously using them to select relationships, business partnerships, friendships, managing one’s resources, prioritizing tasks, among others (Daum, 2013). Therefore, after identification of one’s values, it is then important to deliberately use them as guidelines in every decision we make, and this way, one can live true to themselves while also staying out of trouble.
Risks of not having behaviors not align with one’s values
Let’s think back to a time where your behavior was not in line with the expectations of your parents, you probably got punished for it. The same happens when we lead our lives in a way not aligned with our values. When we look at the influence values have on behavior, it would be difficult not to understand why. As such, while living in line with our values confers a sense of direction, leading our lives devoid of our values will confer a lack of direction and life purpose (Daum, 2013). Therefore, it will result in one getting themselves in situations that are not as ideal, for instance, getting into a career they do not find fulfilling, getting into something without adequately weighing the costs and benefits, getting into the wrong relationships, unable to know what one wishes to do with their life. Consequently, one is likely to live a life that is largely unfulfilling and full of regrets.
Benefits of Identifying Core Values
Our experiences have a chance to either be fulfilling or stress-inducing. While some situations are somewhat inevitable, there are those we have control over. Therefore, by determining one’s values, we will consciously avoid situations that do not align with who we are, and going with those that serve our innate needs (Mandel, n.d.). This can be in making friends, choosing our careers among others. As such, by continually making choices that embody who we are as a person, it is possible to avoid the mess that comes with making wrong choices. In the end, this will spare one from the associated stress of making bad decisions.
Circumstances will differ from one situation to another even if the expected outcomes are different. In each of the cases, we will make different choices based on different contextual factors. The ability to do this is inherent in understanding our values. This is because, with an understanding of our values, we have an innate understanding of when to compromise and when not to. As noted by Selig (2018), while we do learn most of our values externally, for instance, family, society, and religion, we will usually rebel against some or restructure some as we develop an understanding of ourselves. Therefore, this is one way of prioritizing by actively figuring out what means what in your life.
Quite a big majority of people are living without a clear direction of who they are. Mainly, this results in conforming to certain ideals that we have an understanding are not aligned with our innate values. As such, most people lack the conviction needed in life. However, having an understanding of core values serves as a meaning-making mechanism that orients one’s interaction with the world (Mandel, n.d.). Therefore, it orients one with who they are, from where one figures out what they should do in pursuit of meaning, gratification, and success in life. In the same way, one will identify the systems in the world that are best suited for their journey. Hence, by having an understanding of oneself, it is possible to live a happy and content life.
We hope that this article provides the needed information and motivation to begin the journey to self-awareness and self-actualization. However, we heavily advise you that finding oneself and getting to understand oneself is a slow and ever-changing process. Therefore, we advise you to be patient with yourself and keep on the path to ultimately unlock your full potential and live a much fuller life. In the same way that an organization has to have core values and professions should have a code of conduct, you also need to identify and live by your values.
List of References
Blackman, A., 2018. What Are Your Personal Values? How to Define & Live by Them. [Online]
Available at: https://business.tutsplus.com/tutorials/what-are-personal-values–cms-31561
Daum, K., 2013. Inc. [Online]
Available at: https://www.inc.com/kevin-daum/define-your-personal-core-values-5-steps.html
Mandel, A., n.d. 8 Benefits Of Identifying Your Values. [Online]
Available at: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/8-benefits-identifying-your-values.html
Seidman, G., 2018. Why Do We Like People Who Are Similar to Us?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/close-encounters/201812/why-do-we-people-who-are-similar-us
Selig, M., 2018. 6 Ways to Discover and Choose Your Core Values. [Online]
Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/changepower/201811/6-ways-discover-and-choose-your-core-values
Sime, C., 2019. Please Get To Know Your Values. [Online]
Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/carleysime/2019/01/25/please-get-to-know-your-values/#2e5d601f49d2