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Do you know how to define your core values and how to use them for decision-making?

Defining my core values: who am I?

"Who am I?" You've probably heard this question before, but did you manage to answer it? For most of us, the answer will be "Yes, I know who I am", but when it comes to putting words together to describe ourselves, it becomes way more challenging.

When trying to answer the question "who am I?", you might be thinking about different elements such as your goals, your choices, your values, your personality, and your story. Let's focus on your values for now. What values are important to you? To define core values, we could say that values are the moral principles and beliefs, or accepted standards, people consider important in their life. Your core values are the 6 to 10 values that are driving factors which steer you in life; they usually don't change over time, only their importance to you evolve.

The identifying process

I've only been fired once in my life, and, honestly, I couldn't care less. I was planning to quit 2 hours later. Can you guess why? I was working against my values. I was in charge of selling expensive and unreliable cosmetic products, and I just couldn't do it. It felt to me as I was lying to the customers and ripping them off. After three days and zero products sold, I couldn't take it anymore and started to have this attitude that got me fired before I had the chance to finish the day and quit.

When working on your values, you soon realise that your best moments in life are when your core values are respected, and your worst moments are when your core values disrespected. When you're aware of your values, making decisions becomes easier. Once you know and respect your values, you'll recognise why your core values are important, and it becomes impossible to disrespect them.

Personal core values summed up in a word cloud
Examples of core values

Your foundation and navigation system

A self-awareness tool

Working on your values will engage you in a self-awareness journey. To define your core values, you'll need to start thinking of your drivers and motivations in life; you'll need to gain awareness of what matters to you.

By respecting your core values, you're living with more intention. Since your values act as a guide, you can stay true to yourself and reflect on your inner self in every situation.

A decision-making tool

Do you often struggle with decision-making? Good news! Once you've defined your values and as long as you respect them, making decisions becomes a straightforward activity. Because your values will guide you in decision-making, you'll no longer struggle with choices; you'll know exactly what is right for you and what isn’t. This amazing decision-making tool will assist you with daily decision-making as well as with difficult and important life decisions.

A relationship and communication tool

The law of attraction states "like attracts like", we often get along better with people sharing similar core values. If you start looking around you, there are big chances that the people you like and respect the most share some interests and beliefs. When you first meet someone, you'll like this new person better if you've shared values, you'll not appreciate this person if you don't share any core value with him or her. Colleagues, business partners, friends, lovers, all share similar core values to get along well with each other.


4 easy steps to define your core values

Step 1: ask yourself the right questions.

You're now having an understanding of what your core values are and how they can assist you in life; it is time to list and classify your values.

As an introduction, take a piece of paper and start answering the following questions. Note that there are no right or wrong answers, only yours; focus on what matters to you, not what others think or say.

Initial questions

What is important to you? What are your priorities? Do you live according to that? Do you let things happen, or do you make them happen? What is your purpose in life/what is your life mission? What do you value in life? What drives you to take actions? (Glory, money, self-pride, respect, fun)

Your heroes

Think about people you admire; it can be someone famous or your relatives. What values do they embody? E.g. You might admire your colleague for his determination, your manager for her patience, Mother Theresa for her unconditional love and generosity.

Your achievements

Identify moments where you've been the proudest, really fulfilled and satisfied, in your professional and personal life. Why did you feel this way? What did you accomplish? To which value(s) can you link these moments?

You should now have a pretty long list of values that seem important to you. If this list is still quite short, write down the story of your last holidays with as many details as possible. When reading your text, you should be able to highlight additional values to complete your list.

Step 2: Structure your thoughts.

Once you've your list of values, gather them and choose the best words to illustrate your core values. E.g. If you come up with "family, friends, help, love, assistance" you can define it as the "love" or "family" value.

Step 3: Classify and prioritise.

You've your final 6 to 10 core values; it's now essential to prioritise them to find out the one that is the most important to you in any situation. This step shouldn't be too hard; if you struggle to prioritise, ask yourself alternative questions. For example, if you don't know how to classify your two main values: freedom and happiness, ask yourself questions like "would I prefer to be stuck somewhere, having all the fun I can imagine, or be free in a world with no fun and happiness at all?"

Step 4: Double-check and challenge.

Now that you've ordered your list of values, you might want to check them one more time to be sure that you haven't forgotten an important one. Go back to your worst memory, could you tell that at least 2 to 3 core values weren't respected then? Now, go back to your most pleasant memory, could you say that at least 2 to 3 core values were well respected then? If the answer to both questions is yes, congratulations, you've your list sorted. If the answer to both questions is no, you might want to start the process again, perhaps with someone to help you reflect on your responses.

Knowing your values isn't enough; you now need to respect them in your decisions, actions, and behaviours.

Amandine Vivier and Maud Vanhoutte

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