What are core values?
Businesses have them. Non-profit organizations have them. You find them marketed at leadership conferences. Core values drive decisions, unite groups, and clarify a company’s brand. You have them too, whether you are aware of them or not. Have you been feeling discontent with your life, work, relationships, finances, health, and/or daily habits? Knowing your core values and living in alignment with those values is a critical part of having a secure identity and satisfying life. Sometimes, issues in our lives stem from disconnect between what we deeply value and what we actually do. Knowing and living from your core values will help you experience less conflict – within yourself, your relationships, and the things you fill your life with.
I’m going to walk you through a series of five exercises I often do with my clients in the therapy room that helps us identify your core values. By the end of these exercises, clients often find that by clarifying their values, they also feel more secure in their identity. Try it out! Go at your own pace and listen to your heart as you move through the exercises. In order for it to be effective, you must commit to be as honest and judgment-free as possible with yourself.
Exercise 1: CLARIFY
The first step is to draw these values out into the foreground of your heart and mind. You can’t live them out if you don’t know what they are! Look at this list & pick 10 words that stand out to you as most important for your life. Don’t think too hard or take too long. Pick 10 that matter the most in your “ideal life”, even if it’s not the way your life looks today. (Realize this list is not exhaustive).
Achievement Accountability Adventure Artistry Assertiveness Athleticism Authenticity Beauty Boldness Charity Cleanliness Comfort Commitment Community Connection Consistency Courage Creativity Curiosity Dignity Education Equality Exploration Excellence Faith Family Freedom Fun Generosity Hard work Harmony Healing Health Holiness Honesty Honor Hospitality Humor Influence Integrity Intensity Joy Justice Kindness Leisure Listening Logic Love Maturity Marriage Meditation Modesty Nutrition Openness Optimism Originality Peace Perseverance Power Prayer Purity Privacy Productivity Recognition Rest Respect Research Reverence Sacrifice Safety Self-reliance Simplicity Silence Solitude Spirituality Stewardship Sustainability Toughness Travel Transparency Trust Unity Wealth Wisdom Worship
Exercise 2: ASSESS
Next to each of your 10, “score” yourself from 0 – 10 in how much you live that word to its fullest. Try to be as honest as possible. Zero would be not at all (but maybe you’d like to), while 10 would be living it to its fullest potential. As you score yourself, remember to be kind to yourself. We all have room to grow and get more in sync with our values. This exercise is meant to help you gain awareness and assess to what extent you live out what matters to you.
If you’ve scored highly anywhere, that’s awesome! It’s a great feeling to discover that you are living true to what matters most to you. Anywhere you scored not so high, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, speak kindly to yourself. You could say, “I’m proud of myself for becoming more self-aware. I did well in being honest about where I am, and where I have room to grow.”
Exercise 3: ORIGINS
This is a very important exercise. Understanding where your values originated gives you powerful insight and awareness. For each of your 10, ask yourself:
Where did my value for ______ come from?
Why is ______ important to me?
Who taught me / modeled ______ as important?
How do I feel about that?
Exercise 4: KEEP, DISCARD, DEVELOP
Look at your 10, then look at the full original list.
This is your list. What surprised you? What would you like to change?
Create three columns: Keep, Discard, Develop. Place your 10 words where you want them, and add 1-3 you’d like to develop in your life. There are no firm rules to this exercise; it’s okay if you end up with a few more than 10 that you want to cultivate in your life. It’s okay if you want to discard a few as well!
If you’re not sure, or just want to dig deeper into this topic, here’s a few journal prompts to help you out.
- What would you do if you were 10x bolder?
- Think of someone you admire. What values does that person embody? What is it about them that inspires you or attracts you to them?
- What would you do differently if you had unlimited resources?
Exercise 5: ACTIVATE
This is often the hardest part, but most essential. Reflect on the following two questions & write freely and honestly. Challenge yourself to live out your values a little bit more today than yesterday. Small changes over time lead to transformation.
- What important / difficult situations, relationships, or decision(s) are going on in my life?
- If I were to live fully aligned with my core values, what would I do in this situation / relationship / decision?
- (Take some time to visualize yourself walking that out in life). How does that make me feel?
These exercises can be explored on your own, but it can be really helpful to process and engage in these exercises with someone else. If you are in a place where you would like to dig deeper into your core values and process how to apply them in your life, we would love to go on that journey with you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to someone at Optimum Joy today!
Written by Advanced Clinical Intern Jessica York
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