written by Anne Bolender
What is a ‘Core Value’?
Basically, personal core values provide us with an internal reference on how our authentic self wants to feel. ‘Core Values’ can also be referred to as ‘Core Desired Feelings’.
Okay, so let me try to explain that first sentence a wee bit: our authentic self is that “centre” that Lao Tsu refers to in his quote: “At the centre of your being you have the answer, you know who you are and you know what you want” When we strip away everything we believe we have to do or should do; when we stop participating in activities that do not bring us joy or light us up in every way possible; when we challenge our assumptions of who we should be; and when we throw away everything that does not feel good or feel right, then what we are left with is our authentic self, the “who you are” in Lao Tsu’s quote.
Our core values are indicators that point to, or show us, who our authentic self is.
Core values are indicators of what lights you up and what makes you feel alive, fulfilled, exhilarated, on top of the world. In this sense, a specific set of core values is fairly unique to each individual although shared core values can often be found at the centre of strong partnerships and relationships of all kinds. And often, the larger the number of core values that are shared, the stronger the relationship or partnership that forms.
You know you have built your life around honoring your core values when your life is easy, full of joy, and when you know that there is very little, if anything, that you would change that could possible make your life any better than it is right now.
You can also tell fairly easily when your core values are not being honored in your life from the negative feelings that will often show up. Even individuals who have amazing lives can still feel restless and unfulfilled if any of their core values are being ignored.
How do I Know What My Core Values Are?
Determining your core values is not a difficult task, but it does require a bit of time and some concentration.
One way to determine your core values is to go through a list core values and ask yourself how that specific value makes you feel. Make note of any core value that you react positively to and discard any values that you either have no reaction to or you feel negatively to. For example, the value “accountability”, when you think about that word and what it means, how does it make you feel? Does it excite you, or does it make you cringe? If it excites you, make a note of it.
In case you are struggling to find words to use to express your core values I have included a rather largish list of Personal Core Values for you to explore. Plenty of other, perhaps smaller, lists can be found online by googling “Personal Core Values”.
Most people going through this type of list will still end up with a rather large personal core values list. This list should be reduced further to a final list of between 8 and 12 core values (this is an approximate number, feel free to include whatever number of core values that light you up).
There are several ways to reduce your list of Personal Core Values to a manageable-sized list. One way is to live with your initial list for a while and explore what each word means to you – for example, what do you mean by ‘Freedom’. For some people ‘Freedom’ is the lack of worry they feel by working for a large company and receiving a paycheck every week. For others ‘Freedom’ is being self-employed. How do you feel when you think about bringing more ‘Freedom’ into your life? If this makes you feel really excited, then keep ‘Freedom’ on your list. If it really doesn’t draw much of a feeling from you, or makes you feel anxious or stressed, then eliminate it from your list.
What Do I Do With This List Once I Have Created It?
Your final list is a strong indicator of how your authentic self wants to show up in your life. Of the activities, experiences and feelings that will light you up and make your life easy and enjoyable.
Bringing your core values into your life is as easy as:
- select one of your core values, for example ‘Freedom’
- list 5 activities or experiences that will give you the feeling of your core value, for example the feeling of freedom could come from spending one hour a week doing something just for you (taking a walk, reading a book, visiting an art gallery, sketching a flower, taking up a hobby…), or it could come from starting to create your own business
- do 3 things this week that generate the feeling you get from this core value.
- repeat this exercise for each of your core values.
So, do you know what your core values are? And are you honouring your core values in the activities and experiences you are having in your life?