Life moves along more smoothly when you live in alignment with your personal core values. Everyone has them, but not everyone has identified them. However, once you identify your personal core values, you are better able to evaluate your choices and activities, and bring your actions in line with your values.
Core values are person-specific, and they provide the basis for decisions, thoughts, the way a person interacts with other people and lives life. You can create your own list of personal core values by engaging in activities that help you identify what is important to you.
Defining core values leads to intentional living, says Marc Alan Schelske in his book, Discovering Your Authentic Core Values: A Step-by-Step Guide. Comparing personal core values to a budget and a calendar, Schelske explains how defining core values keeps life on track through intentional actions, rather than reactions. He goes on to say that awareness of core values is like having a compass in your pocket to find direction; a water filter, to facilitate making choices; and a homing pigeon, to always draw you back to who you are supposed to be.
Define Personal Core Values
To identify personal core values, think of five peak moments, or events in your life, one by one, recommends Anne Loehr in "How to Live With Purpose, Identify Your Goals and Improve Your Leadership."
- Write down or tell a friend about a peak moment or experience in your life.
- List three values represented by the experience.
- Select the most important value from the list of values.
- Give the value a name.
Loehr's example describes a safari event. Her values were being outdoors, working with people to develop their potential and being adventurous. Loehr selected being adventurous as the most important of the three values. She then names the value wind in your face. According to Loehr, she found the name more memorable and descriptive of her core value.
Do this exercise with four other peak experiences to find your top 5 core values.
Make a List
One way to identify your personal core values is to brainstorm, writing down every value that comes to mind. This can be an individual activity or a group activity; however, it is important to keep in mind that it is not a contest, and some people are more introspective, and better able to articulate thoughts than others, advises Dr. Scott Williams in "Clarifying and Applying Personal Values: Priorities and Integrity."
- Compare your list with others or compare it against published lists, such as Rokeach's.
- Refine your list.
- Select the top 5, most important core values for you.
Develop Core Values
Once personal core values are defined, they can be strengthened by putting them into practice. Test each decision by rating the probable outcome against your list of core values, recommends Loehr.
- Rate the alignment of the decision with each of the core values, giving a rating from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, on each of the top 5 values.
- Add up the scores from the five values.
- Divide the score by 5 to get an average score.
An average score less than seven indicates that the decision may not be in line with your core values.
Review your personal core values on a regular basis. Periodically ask yourself if your actions and decisions are in line with your values.
Use visual aids for inspiration and as a reminder of what is important to you. Posters, sticky notes, screensavers, photographs and various other media can help keep you on track and help you develop your values further. Music lovers might select a song that represents an important core value and listen to it frequently.