How many of us live our lives always doing what is expected of us? We choose the typical path and do what we “should” do instead of what we truly, deep down, desire. Wouldn’t you rather live a fulfilling life of your dreams on your own terms? Well, that is where knowing and living by your personal core values come in.
Here, we discuss what personal core values are and why they are so vital to your success. Then we give some examples and explain how you can uncover your own core values list and live in alignment with those values.
What are personal core values?
Personal core values are your core beliefs. They are the guiding principles that you live your life by. All of us have core values that are innate to us. While everyone has personal core values, the thing is, we don’t always know what they are. It takes real intentionality to uncover these values as we develop and grow.
Why are personal core values so important to have?
What’s the purpose of knowing your core values? Think of them as guidelines for how you show up in the world. Whenever you are faced with a decision or a choice, your core values should help guide you to the right decision. Only by living in alignment with your personal core values can you be true to yourself.
Identifying your personal core values and living up to those values can change your life. These are just a few of the reasons why having personal core values is so important:
1. They help you set and reach meaningful goals
When you use your core values to create goals, you are much more likely to actually achieve those goals. Have you ever set a goal that failed before you even really started making progress toward it (haven’t we all)? Chances are, that goal was out of alignment with your core values. When your goals align with what you truly value, you are more likely to work toward them and make the changes necessary to achieve them.
2. They provide you with a sense of fulfillment and contentment
If you live your life based on what other people value, it will hard to ever be content. We all know that stressful feeling when we agree to something we don’t actually want to do, or the frustration we feel when we don’t speak up for what we believe in. If you live according to your personal core values, you will make decisions for yourself. More often than not, you’ll avoid those stressful circumstances, leaving you fulfilled and content.
3. They give you greater confidence in your decision-making
Life can get overwhelming at times. We make what seems like a zillion decisions every day. Your core values can cut out some of the stress and indecision that often accompany decision-making. If you know your values, it is much easier to make decisions because often only one choice is in alignment with your values. And that is the one you should choose.
4. They make you realize what is important in life
We only have so many hours in a day. Without core values, you might have trouble deciding where to spend that time. But with a personal values list, it is easier to understand what is truly important to you, and therefore, where to spend your time. For example, if you value family relationships but not ambition, choosing to spend time with your family is always going to be more fulfilling than spending your time climbing the corporate ladder.
5. They help you realize where to spend your money
Lastly, just like we only have so much time, we only have so much money to spend. Knowing your personal core values means you know what will bring you the most fulfillment when it comes to spending money. For example, if one of your values is prestige, buying a designer handbag might be quite fulfilling. But if that is not one of your values, spending your money on something else (or saving it!) will bring you more satisfaction.
Example of a personal core values list
There is no set rule on how many personal core values you should have. Ideally, you’ll have enough to cover all the facets of your complex self, but not too many. You don’t want to feel torn in too many directions. Most people settle on about five.
Before you go ahead and work on defining your own, let’s take a look at an example of a personal core values list. Here are five common personal core values (along with a brief explanation about what each one means):
There are times in life when you need to go a mile a minute, and there are times that call for rest. Someone who values balance believes in maintaining a healthy balance in all aspects of their life, whether that’s work/life balance or how to balance togetherness and alone time.
A value of discipline means you respect yourself and your time. You set goals and you stick to them. Ultimately, someone who values discipline also values the freedom that such discipline brings. (If you are someone who struggles with discipline, check out this article for tips on how to improve your self-discipline).
Family is one of the most common core values. It is the belief that family is of utmost importance and that quality time spent together creates a meaningful life.
Freedom means different things to different people. To value freedom might mean that you want to choose your daily schedule, to love who you want to love, or to live where you want to live. It also might mean you value financial freedom.
Someone whose personal values list includes wonder is always dreaming about what is next, what is possible, and how they can get there. Those who value wonder are dreamers who are guided by the idea that there are endless possibilities in life.
How to create your own core values list
By now, you’re probably ready to tackle your own personal core values list. The good news is that your core values already live inside of you. The bad news is that you need to put in some work (but the work is fun!) to discover them. Remember that you’re coming up with a core values list of what you truly value, not what you think you should value.
Here are three easy steps to take to uncover your own personal values list:
Before you take ideas from anyone else, begin with a brainstorming session. Grab a notebook and write down the answers to the following questions:
- What do you value most in life?
- What is most important to you?
- How do you make (or wish you made) what’s important to you a priority?
2. Pick out values that resonate most with you
After you’ve brainstormed, you’ll probably have uncovered some values already, or at least what looks like the beginnings of a core values list. The next step is to put those concepts into succinct words. Scan this list of core values and write down those that resonate the most with you (for now, this can be five or it can be fifty, so don’t hold yourself back).
3. Narrow down your list
Lastly, take your list and narrow it down to about five. You’ll likely have circled some values that are similar to others, so choose which one you relate to the most and cross the other ones off the list. Work your way through your list until you get to a number that feels right (remember, there is no right number, but don’t pick too many or you’ll get overwhelmed). This is your personal core values list.
Living in alignment with your core values
So, you’ve identified your core values and have a personal values list of your own. Now what? While knowing your core values is a great start, the real work begins when you start to change your life and live in alignment with those values.
To do this, take a step back and look at where you are already living in alignment with your core values, where you want to make a change, and how you can set some new goals for success. For example, if you value financial security, do you have a solid financial plan in place for yourself? Do you have an emergency fund? Do you have life insurance in place in case something were to happen to you?
Once you evaluate your current situation through the lens of your personal core value (in our example, of financial security), you will be able to see where you should set some new goals. If you don’t have a robust emergency fund, but it would bring you a lot of peace if you did set a goal to get yourself there. By actively aligning your life and goals with your core values, you’ll be on your way to living a more content, stress-free, and joyous life.
Personal core values unlock a power already within you
We all have core values. Most of us just can’t name them because we haven’t deliberately spent the time to uncover them. But once you do, and align your actions and goals with those values, it’s like unlocking a secret that’s been within you all along. If you want to fulfill your dreams and succeed in all aspects of your life, then figuring out your personal core values and living life according to those values is a guaranteed way to get there.