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  • Writer's pictureSophie Drechsler

What are core values? How do you set values? Why are values important?

Do you ever feel like you spend so much time looking after the needs and happiness of others you’re not actually sure what you need anymore? Or do you ever feel frustrated that you’re not where you want to be in life or that you’ve lost your way a little? If so, now is the time to identify your values.

What are values?

Before we talk about how we can set our values, we need to understand what they are. Values are part of the foundation of understanding who you are at your core. They are shaped by your childhood, your upbringing, your culture, the things you experience and those around you. They are the things that are important to us and that motivate our behaviour.

Everyone has different values that are personal and unique and these can change over time. For example, as a teenager you may value friendships and freedom, however as a young adult you may value challenge and creativity.

Similarly, you may share similar values with your friends or family but may prioritise them in different ways. So how do we discover our values?

How to define your own values

Grab a pen and paper, find a quiet space and think about the following:

  • Someone you admire

  • Your favourite film, book, tv show or play

  • A peak moment in your life

For each one, write down the different qualities you associate with them and what it is you love about them. These are your values starting to unfold.

You may notice that some words appear more than once across these examples and some may evoke strong emotional reactions. Words that appear more than once or lead to stronger reactions are likely to be your core values.

Next, try to look deeper into some of the words you have written down. Common words that often come up when exploring people’s values are ‘family’, ‘friends’ and ‘holidays’. But to truly understand your values we need to go a level deeper and ask: what is it about these things you really value? Is it security? Fun? Laughter? Adventure? Try to be specific so you can work out how to bring those values into what you are doing, making it more meaningful.

It’s also worth clarifying what each value means for you. ‘Fun’ for one person could mean hiking up a mountain at the crack of dawn on their own, for someone else it could be playing scrabble by a fire. Again, be specific.

Be aware that values are constantly changing and new ones are being discovered as we grow and develop. It’s therefore a continuous piece of work and worth revisiting regularly.

Why it’s important to define your values

Identifying your values helps you make quicker and more rewarding decisions whether that’s ‘bigger picture’ goals such as what you’re wanting from life to smaller decisions such as changing jobs or even what to do on Friday night!

Consider the transition moving out of lockdown into a hybrid working model or going back to the office. If you’re deciding how to adapt to a new work routine, have a think about what you valued about working from home and how you can continue to honour those values back in the workplace.

You may have started to value taking a walk at lunch and could bring this into your daily routine. Alternatively, if you have valued autonomy or space then see if you can book a meeting room or find some space at work to create this.

When you are struggling or feeling conflicted it’s often because one or several of your values are being stepped on. A greater awareness and insight into your values will make it easier to realise and rectify this more quickly. An insight into values can also improve your personal and professional relationships.

Acknowledging that other people’s values may not be the same as yours gives greater empathy to the fact their actions may therefore be different to yours. For example if a friend or colleague often arrives late when you arrange to meet up and leaves you feeling frustrated, this could be encroaching on your ‘time’ as a value. Even the act of acknowledging that this is stepping on your values and they may not recognise that may alleviate the frustration, if not it may be time to talk to them about how it impacts you!

Ultimately, defining your values can lead to a more fulfilling and happier life. In a world where we have limited time and resources, they help you prioritise the things you really care about instead of the things that bring you down, get in the way or hold you back.

As well as individuals, businesses can also greatly benefit from defining their company values. We’ll explore the importance and benefits of values within businesses in a future blog.

If you want help setting your values, putting them into practise or help with accountability to stick to your values then click here.


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