It’s happened to all of us. We go through phases in life where we just do things without purpose and wander a bit aimlessly. That’s all fine and well for short phases. But if you are serious about wanting to create a life you truly love, defining your personal values can be as handy as having a compass when you’re lost in the woods.
Personal values determine what you stand for at the core of your being and what’s most important to you in life. Taking the time to choose these core values consciously will help keep you oriented in times of confusion and consistently taking steps in a direction that nurtures your soul.
What are core values?
First things first, let makes sure we’re all on the same page about what values are.
Values help us determine our priorities in life. They are the pillars from which the essence of our true selves is build.
We can have certain values for our work life, then other different values for our home life, but our core values are the morals and guidelines for all areas of our lives. They are the deepest and truest pillars that guide our way.
To give you a better idea about what values are, here is a list of 100 different words that can be used to define your own personal values. These aren’t the only words you can use, but they are a good place to start.
List of personal values
Why take the time to discover your personal values
You might be wondering why it’s so important to figure out your personal values. And many years ago, I would’ve wondered the same thing. How is choosing a few words from a massive list gonna help me in any way?
Well, the thing is, whether we take the time to define them or not, we all have personal values. And without knowing it, they determine how satisfied or disappointed we are with the path that we walk on.
For example, if deep down in my core, I deeply value honesty, and yet find that I have to be quite dishonest at work to be success that will inevitably cause some internal conflict.
My actions aren’t in line with the core values that I use to define myself. And so, unconsciously, staying on this path might make me consider myself a fraud and a liar.
If you unconsciously think such negative things about yourself, you can throw self-love and self-compassion right out the window.
On the flip side, if you deeply value sharing, and have recognized this as one of your main personal values, then you can build your life around fulfilling this inner need.
Basically, the more clearly you have your personal values defined, the better you can make choices to create a fulfilling life for yourself.
- Not sure whether you should accept the new job you’ve been offered? Consider your list of personal values. Will the new role bring you closer or further from the pillars that hold up your inner structure?
- Doubting whether to move abroad for a new relationship? Consider the list. Check the words, analyses the contexts and ask yourself whether this new opportunity brings you closer or further from the values you most seek to feel fulfilled.
Steps to figure out your own personal values
I hope that by now you’ve realized how important it is to sit down and figure out what personal values hold up your structure and guide your way.
If you have, but still need a bit of guidance to figure all this out, here it is: a step-by-step guide to discovering your personal values.
Pre step – Breathe and connect within
I know, not everyone is into meditation. That’s why I put this as a pre step.
But if you are, or a willing to give it a go, take a minute to sit and bring your attention inward before you do this exercise.
Not sure how? Check out this article about meditation to help you get started.
1 Think back
Identify times in your life for each of the following situations:
- When you were happiest.
- When you were most proud of yourself.
- When you felt most fulfilled.
Now, think back to a few times in your life for these more unpleasant situations:
- When you felt unfulfilled.
- When you felt most lost and dissatisfied with your life.
- Phases when you were especially sad, mad, annoyed and/or frustrated.
Write these moments down.
2 Analyze the situations
Look back at the situations you chose from the first list. Consider why each of these situations was so memorable for you. What made you feel so great in these moments of your life?
Write down words that come to mind. For example, in these moments, were you being especially creative? Did you feel especially at peace, or free? What values do you notice when you recall these experiences. Check the list above if you need help.
Now, think back to the negative moments in your life you wrote down. Consider which values were absent, suppressed or denied during these times.
Write these words down too.
3 Organize the list of personal values
Now, with your mega list of values, put them into groups that have similar ideas.
For example, these could be potential word groupings:
- growth, development, progress and learning
- creativity, uniqueness and boldness
- adventurous, change, diversity and exploring
Group them as you see fit. You understand better than anyone what these words mean to you. So, listen to your own
4 Identify the core values
Look at the groups and choose a main word for each one.
Take some time to check in with yourself and see what each one of the words truly makes you feel (I don’t mean feel as an emotions, I mean feel as a sensation in your body).
Once you have your title words for each group, put the words in order of priority.
To help you, ask yourself:
- Which of these values are essential parts of my life?
- Which of these values most accurately represents my true inner essence?
- Which of these values is most important to me?
- Am I proud of these values? Would I support them even if they weren’t popular choices?
The top 4 to 6 words on your list are your core values.
Are these personal values in your actual life?
Now comes the scary part; checking to see how present these core values are in your day-to-day life.
To do that, I suggest you do the following:
- For each personal value you’ve listed as one of your core values, take a moment to consider how present it is in all aspects of your life.
- Score it, by giving it a number from 1 to 10, 1 being that it’s not present at all and 10 being that it’s very present.
- For any value that has a score lower than 7, take a moment to consider how you can improve this.
- For scores 7 and above, indicate how you can keep validating the importance of that personal value.
You can end with something that looks like this:
I would recommend repeating this exercise every now and again. Or at least have a look at your action plan and follow up with yourself to see if you’re moving closer to living more truly in line with your values.
For me, figuring out what my core personal values are created beautiful and immensely revolutionary changes in my life, in the best possible way.
Knowing what I stand for, and taking action to live by those values, has made me feel more empowered than ever to be true to myself.
It’s only by knowing these values and the words I use to define them that I can feel so strong within myself. So sure of each step.
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