It’s quite common to hear people talk about wanting inner peace, or to feel calm inside, or that someone feels turmoil or ‘messy’ or conflicted inside, or is stressed or just generally unhappy. To be able to live by your core values is something that contributes to inner peace, to be authentic, or to being who you truly are. They are right at the very core of us, and they inform other parts of our life; our beliefs, our behaviours and choices. They also, therefore, impact on our views of ourselves, our self esteem, confidence and worth, our interactions in the world, our careers, our desires, our dreams and so many other things. This is why they are so key.
Values are a very personal and internal thing. They are individual and personal to each of us. There is no value ‘better’ than another, merely those that are more important to us, as individuals. Our values also affect how we view the world and what qualities we value in others.
To work out whether or not you’re living by your core values, the first part is obviously to work out what your core values are. For some people, this is really easy, some people instantly know exactly what they are, and for others, this may take a long time of reflection, trying, testing, mistakes, thinking and feeling what feels right and what doesn’t feel right. There is no time frame on this, it will take as long as it needs to, for you to reach that understanding.
A good way to do this is to find a website that shows a long list of values and then to read them all. Make a list of those that feel important to you (at least 10). All values are positive, so don’t judge what is on your list, just accept it. If you really don’t like them, that may be something you could work on at a later date. Remember though, all values are positive qualities, so if you don’t like them, consider why this is…
Once you have that list, grade them, starting with the least important, and then ending with those that feel like the most important (maybe on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most important, and then you start with the 1’s). To do this, you will likely have to really feel how they feel to you, how it feels to you to have that as your value, how important it is to you, what it means to you, how you would feel if you didn’t do this, where you feel it in your body; really connect to as much about that value as you can. This could be likely to take a long time, or it could be almost instant knowledge. For me, I knew my top one, straight away, and then everything else was hard. It took me months to work out the rest.
Then take your top five. The top five are generally those we live by the strongest (or we need to live by the strongest).
Now you have your top five values, you need to then think about how much they influence your life.
Are you living by them? How much of the time do you think you’re living by them?
Are there times when you might have acted in a different way? What could or would you have done differently?
Are there times when your actions (either by your own choice or something you’ve had to do, such as at work), have left you feeling uncomfortable? Was the discomfort caused by you having to do something different from what your values suggested you should?
Or times when you have had to make a tough choice but known it was the right choice. How did you know it was the right choice? What values did you use for that? Are they your core values?
Are some harder to live by than others? Why do you think this is?
Which ones impact on your life and choices the most? Is it your top one?
If we’re not living by our values, then it can cause deep conflict inside and this is something that is worth addressing, to move yourself towards a better connection to yourself and some of that much valued inner peace.
There are different reasons why people are not living by their values, and these can be not knowing ourselves and our values, to do with people in our lives and taking on their values, being taught particular values in childhood, work conflict, relationship issues and many other things. If you’re not able to follow what your values are, maybe think about what it is that is impacting and contributing to that difficulty.
As we journey through life, our values can change too, and this is why it is important to check in with them, every now and then, to see how we feel about that.
Just to finish, I want to share this quote. I stumbled on it, totally randomly, a few months ago, and it carries and important message. This is why we have to be true to our values.
‘Values are not like laws – you cannot break them.
You can only break yourself against them’ – Mark Wright