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5 Life-Changing Benefits of Discovering Your Core Values

July 27, 2020

Small building with artwork on it

“Until you make peace with who you are, you will never be content with what you have.” —Doris Mortman


What are core values?

Core values are guiding principles that give our life meaning and direction. They reflect what is most important to us, clarify what is right and wrong, what is good and bad, and provide guidelines for living a fulfilling life. Think of it as an internal compass. 

We tend to adopt the values of our family and the people we spend the most amount of time with. However, major life events, personal experiences, education, religion, exposure to different cultures and people can also influence our values.

Although they tend to be stable, they are not set in stone. We can make a conscious decision to change these values at any time when they longer reflect who we are or who we want to be. 


Benefits of identifying your core values

Simplify decision-making  

It’s no surprise that emotions can often get in the way of making difficult decisions. They tend to over-complicate things. When you know what your values are, and where they rank in your hierarchy of values, you can use them as a logical guide. You can ask yourself, “what would someone who values X do in this situation?”

When you use your values to make decisions, you make a conscious choice to focus on what is important to you, and you can feel more confident about your choices. 


Prioritise what’s important 

We have a tendency to keep adding to our already full schedules instead of simply “subtracting” to free up space. It comes from this inherent desire to do it all. The thing is, it’s not about doing everything, it’s about doing the right things. Striving for the former just isn’t sustainable because everything we do comes at a cost.

Having a clear set of values can help you declutter your schedule and set boundaries so that your time and energy is spent on what matters most to you. Think of it as a set of criteria for prioritising your time and living more mindfully. 


Get to know yourself 

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” —Aristotle 

Taking time to discover your core values is part and parcel of getting to know yourself on a deeper level and feeling confident in your own skin. Filling in the gaps of your identity allows you to take better care of yourself. It can also give you the courage to stand up for what you believe in and make lifestyle changes that align with your values, so that you’re consistently living a life that is true to you. 

You’re more likely to trust your decisions than second-guess your every move. It reduces the potential of regret and internal conflict which tends to happen when your actions aren’t aligned with your values. 


Build stronger relationships 

When you can clearly articulate what is important to you, you can connect with others on a deeper level. You don’t need to hide who you are—you can be your authentic self. You’ll also know when someone’s values aren’t lining up with yours, which can save you a lot of heartache and confusion. 


Pursue meaningful goals

Your values provide a framework for living a meaningful and fulfilling life. Since we all have different definitions of success and fulfillment, your core values can be a valuable asset when deciding whether or not to pursue a goal. 

Instead of being swayed by what everyone else is doing or what you feel you should be doing at a certain age, your values will reveal what deserves your time and attention.


188 Values to Draw Inspiration From  


How to prioritise and rank your core values

Compare the pair

  1. Take a minute or two to rank your values intuitively, without thinking about it too much. You might be starting with an initial list of ten values or you might be using this exercise to simply rank the five core values you’ve already identified. 
  2. Once you have a list, compare value #1 with value #2. If you had to choose between living by value #1 or value #2 for the rest of your life, which would you choose? For the purpose of this exercise, you can only choose one to live by.
  3. If value #1 wins, compare it to value #3 on your list and ask yourself the same question. Which is more important to you if you could only choose one and had to compromise on the other? Value #1 or value #3? 
  4. Keep going down the list until something beats value #1. If value #4 is more important than value #1, then compare value #4 with the rest of the list. If it wins against all other values on your list, then it takes the #1 position on your list of values. 

Repeat this process until you have an order for your values. 


For each value, ask yourself:

  1. Why is this important to you? 
  2. Does this value represent how I show up in the world?
  3. Is this value something I consistently stand up for?
  4. How would I feel if this value wasn’t present in my life? 
  5. How would I feel if I had to compromise on this value? Be mindful of strong emotional reactions to the thought of compromising on certain values. These are clues as to what matters most to you.

The Core Values exercise is included in the Pledge to Stay Well Journal. Purchase your copy here.


How to live by your values


Use it as inspiration for setting goals and building new habits

Set goals or build new habits around your core values. For example, if one of your core values is “learning” then perhaps you might set goals around upskilling in a certain area or you might decide to build the habit of reading every night before bed. 

It can be helpful to ask yourself: what does it mean to live by this value? 


Keep your values visible

Keep a list of your values in your journal, on post-it notes, in the notes section of your phone, on your phone background, to remind you what matters most. Seeing your values and reading over them regularly will keep them top of mind and help you live more mindfully, with intention. 


Use it as a guide for decision-making

When you use your values as a guide for decision-making, you're making a conscious choice to focus on what is important to you and live by the principles you've personally defined. It reduces the potential for regret and internal conflict because you're living in alignment with your values.