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HOW TO DEFINE YOUR CORE VALUES AND BELIEFS
Living a purposeful and fulfilling life only happens when we live according to our core values and following our personal beliefs. But then, how can you align your actions to your core values and beliefs? It all begins with knowing how to define your personal values and core beliefs to live true to yourself.
A lot of times, we struggle in decision-making and finding direction in our day-to-day life situations. This murky dilemma clears out when we have our list of values and beliefs clearly defined. They are like the needle in a compass, pointing in the direction of a meaningful and fulfilling life, full of passion and purpose.
Rather than being extrinsically influenced by media, pop culture, and trending habits/activities, you can choose to live true to yourself.
HOW TO DEFINE YOUR CORE VALUES AND BELIEFS (WITH 120+ EXAMPLES)
While this world is ever changing oh so rapidly, (and we have to adapt to the changes) your values should never change. They are the one thing that keeps you grounded while everything else is like shifting, sinking sand.
In this article, we will be discovering how to define personal values and beliefs and some examples of these values and beliefs to get you well on the way to finding yours.
What Are Personal Values?
Personal values are the things we hold important to us, the behaviors and attributes that guide our decisions and motivate us to action. Personal values serve as personal guiding principles to our actions and decisions.
Personal values differ from person to person and can be shaped by such factors as culture, life experiences, and other experiences, including those while growing up.
Let’s take an example: you may value honesty. You believe you should be honest in any and every situation, and you believe it is critical always to express who you are and what you think without fear or compromise, and when you do compromise and fail to speak your mind, you may feel disappointed in yourself.
Perhaps your value is kindness. You’re keen to help others at every opportunity you get, and you consider generosity as a way of life as you give your time and resources to worthy causes, family, and friends.
Now, these are just two examples of personal values, and there can be limitless possibilities.
By the way if you’re a business owner, you want your business values to flow from your personal values. When we are working with clients we begin with personal, because your business should be the vehicle by which to achieve your personal goals in life.
Now, you may be wondering, do I really need a personal value statement? Well, let’s talk about that for a bit.
Why it matters to have a value statement
When you live according to your values, you’re more likely to feel better and fulfilled. It also means you’ll likely feel bad about yourself when you fail to live according to your values. Thus, personal values help us live a life of fulfillment and purpose, being able to enjoy our lives when we live according to our values. It applies to both the micro day-to-day decisions as well as the significant life-altering steps we take.
For example, if you value adventure, then you’ll always feel unsatisfied, compressed, and caged up when others pressure you into taking paths that lead away from adventure into the “safe” route. It can apply to being pressured away from a life of travels to a desk job or settled home life, etc.; with such a value statement, paths that involve risks, new ventures, and challenges will accrue fulfillment and satisfaction.
But if your value statement takes the polar opposite of security, as opposed to adventure, then the reverse is true. Taking on the life of travel and risk in starting your own business and being your own boss may leave you feeling insecure, disappointed, and craving a more settled existence.
Each individual is different, and what excites one may leave another feeling wanting and anxious. It is, thus, essential to define your values and live by them to have a meaningful existence, one full of happiness, fulfillment, and peace, even when those values don’t seem to ride well with others.
Types of personal values
There are universally ten distinct types of values, motivationally distinct and applicable in cross-cultural spheres, as presented by Schwartz (1992):
- Achievement, e.g., determined, successful
- Benevolence, e.g., forgiving, loyal, responsible, supportive
- Conformity, e.g., politeness, restraint, respect
- Hedonism, e.g., indulgent, pleasure
- Power, e.g., wealth, authority
- Security, e.g., social order, cleanliness
- Self-direction, e.g., freedom, originality
- Stimulation, e.g., exciting life, daring
- Tradition, e.g., devout, respect for traditions, modest
- Universalism, e.g., equality, wisdom, the world of peace, social justice, protecting the environment
The list of personal values can be numerically indefinite but would each fit into one of these ten categories. There is no universal list of values from which to reference, as each individual will develop his/her list of values, assigning a unique degree of priority to each.
What are Core Beliefs
Core beliefs are generalized and fundamental beliefs held about self, the world, and the future, on an individual level. Core beliefs are absolute and instrumental in understanding the world around us. Core beliefs guide an individual in making decisions and responding to events as they happen. Beliefs are usually constituted from childhood or at any other formative experience in life.
Sources of Beliefs
- Association: beliefs can be synthesized as we interact and associate with other people.
- Authority: Beliefs could be developed from an authority figure in the life of an individual, usually a parent, religious leader, school teacher, etc.
- Evidence: Beliefs could be logically and rationally synthesized from evidence or proven axioms.
- Revelation: Beliefs could also be based upon revelation – divine or a hunch.
- Tradition: Beliefs could be developed from traditions, family, and society.
Categories of Beliefs
As seen from the definition of beliefs, they can be categorized based on self, others, the world, and the future. They can either be positive or negative.
“I am strong and able to do it.”
“I am weak and incapable of succeeding.”
“People like me for who I am.”
“People are disloyal and not to be trusted.”
“The world is full of opportunities and adventure!”
“The world is a dangerous place.”
“The future is bright, and success awaits me.”
“There is no hope – things will keep getting worse.”
Types of Beliefs – Enabling vs. Limiting Beliefs
Enabling (Positive) beliefs
Enabling beliefs generally portray optimism and good self-efficacy – the self-belief that you can achieve something. Enabling beliefs portray positivity.
Some examples of enabling (positive) beliefs include:
- I am able
- I am intelligent
- I always try my best
- I am hardworking
Limiting (Negative) beliefs
Negative beliefs are limiting beliefs that can hold an individual back from attaining personal potentials. People with limiting beliefs usually regard these beliefs as absolute, even though they are largely inaccurate and unhelpful to the individual. Individuals with such negative beliefs can be judgmental of themselves and others.
Some examples of limiting (negative) beliefs include:
- I am not smart
- I am weak
- I am a disappointment
- I am unlovable
- I always fail
- I am worthless
It is important to note that beliefs, whether enabling or limiting, aren’t always accurate and can sometimes mislead into making poor decisions due to their inaccuracy. At the same time, people with inaccurate enabling beliefs can sometimes make decisions based on inaccurate beliefs that score them a better life. People with inaccurate limiting beliefs can sometimes easily suffer from depression and anxiety.
Defining your personal core values
The key to a lasting house is the strength of its foundation. No matter how beautiful a house is, it will sink to the ground without a study found. The same holds for your values. As a foundation is to a lasting house, core values are instrumental in our decisions, actions, and behaviors.
Without a base, you lose a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and direction. You may appear to be a success but still feel empty and lost. Until you clearly define what success means to you, you may end up chasing empty accomplishments and never be truly fulfilled.
What you don’t define, you may violate inadvertently and end up feeling guilty, ashamed, and not knowing why.
When people have a clearly defined list of personal values, the following holds true for them:
- It’s a lot easier for them to make the big decisions and steps that have macro-consequences on their lives regarding passions, careers, and relationships.
- They are less likely to indulge in destructive thought patterns, especially when the going gets rough.
- They have a greater tolerance for physical pain.
- They are more self-disciplined and focused.
- They quickly establish stronger social connections.
To define your personal core values list, start to look inside to uncover what matters to you. It may take some time and a lot of digging deep to find what works for you.
One size does not fit all when it comes to core values, as each individual may have a different set of core values. So, it may not just be as simple as looking through a list and picking some values to go by; spend some time in personal reflection to discover yourself.
Here are some questions to start you out on this self-discovery journey. As you think about them, be sure to write down answers as they’d serve as clues to identifying your unique personal core values.
Who do you admire?
It is helpful to identify real-life examples of people you admire and look up to. Carefully consider and write down some role models you admire whose meaningful lives inspire you. This could be people you know, characters out of a book/movie, etc.
Specifically, you’ll want to note down
- What, particularly, about them inspires you
- The admirable qualities they possess
- Specific behaviors you would like to emulate
What inspires you to act?
Most often than not, personal core values often manifest through actions and behaviors. Was there ever a situation where you took a stand for someone or something? Why did you feel so strongly to act?
Have you thought about starting your own business? If so, when will you take the leap of faith?
Try writing down:
- the feelings that pushed you to act or speak up
- the risk you were willing to take at that moment
- the consequences of acting — what you gained or lost
When do you feel most like yourself?
When the situation presents itself that permits you to react with external influence/pressures, it clarifies your values. And when you do betray your core values, the feeling of shame and guilt sets in, and you feel defiled.
In situations you feel wrong, guilty, or ashamed, you should write down:
- who you’re with
- the exact feelings being triggered
- emotionally and physically cost of the experience
In situations you feel authentic and genuine, write down:
- who you’re with
- the exact activities involved
- positive emotions as a result of these experiences
If you find it hard articulating the words that describe the qualities or emotions you feel from the exercises above, it may be helpful going through a list of values. Here are some examples.
List of Core Values
- Be True
- Giving People a Chance
- Good humor
- Love of Career
- Personal Development
- Pride in Your Work
- Service to others
- This-too-shall-pass Attitude
- Trusting Your Gut
- Work Smarter and Harder
With these 120+ examples, you can begin to pinpoint and create your list of values that best describe your beliefs, forming the basis of your core value system.
Examples of Core Values
Example #1: Freedom
If you value freedom, then you value the ability to speak, think and act as one without restraints or hindrances. Some corresponding actions that will prove alignment with the core value of freedom are:
- Be open and free to express yourself.
- Be bold to create your own schedules and programs for activities.
- Foster relations with people who support the path of freedom you’re on and give you the necessary freedom to be yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to be your own boss.
- Have enough free time for yourself in your schedule.
Example #2: Wellness
If you choose wellness as a core value, then you value the active pursuit of health as a priority, and the following day-to-day actions follow suit:
- Pay attention to consume nutritious foods.
- Commit to regular exercise to stay healthy.
- Pay attention to your mental health by taking regular breaks, having enough rest, and spending quality time with loved ones.
- Avoid self-destructive habits.
Example #3: Security
The core value of security depicts choosing a life path of safety, with little room for the unchartered waters and the unknown explorations. This core belief will restrict activities such as:
- Frequent travels to new places for the spirit of adventure.
- Seeking to set up a new business/company.
- Experimenting with new ways of going about existing tasks/actions.
Example #4: Excellence
If you uphold excellence as a value statement, then it implies every action and output must meet a minimum standard to be considered be-fitting if you, which will reflect in tasks handled, assignments, and decisions made.
How to Prioritize Personal Core Values
After developing core value statements, it becomes necessary to prioritize those values. This goes to identify better and define what weighs more critical to you.
Perhaps after going through the extensive list of values, you find that you noted over 5-7 different values, e.g., Excellence, health, love, compassion, honesty, wealth. These disparate values necessitate prioritizing to highlight which values you uphold more than the others. This will help you to determine what to uphold and execute first.
True, the list of values is essential, but constraining time and energy factors means one must be prioritized above the other. This will ensure you’re investing the most energy and attention on what matters most to you – first things first.
So, take time to re-classify the list of values you’ve identified. By asking yourself which one of the values you’d work on if you had only one value spot to fill in can really help along this sorting process until you end up with a final order, you’re happy with.
How to Live Your Core Values
Penning down a list of values on a piece of paper is excellent and all, but it really doesn’t change anything. To see a difference, those values must translate from written words to practical application – you need to start living your values, which is easier said than done.
Use Your Core Values for Goal Setting
Consider the big picture. Is your life as a whole conformed to your core values? Are your values reflected in your career choices? How are your activities outside your work schedule? Are you spending appropriate time on the things/ones that matter the most?
It is pretty easy for our lives to deviate from our core values, and we must be careful to ensure our goals align with those values.
Make Decisions According to Your Core Values
Living out your values doesn’t just emphasize the big major life-altering decisions but also includes the micro day-to-day decisions. In our daily lives, when faced with a choice or experience, do you react in the heat of the moment, or do you live up to our values?
For example, if your core value is compassion, do you regularly express motions of compassion to others, or are you sometimes judgmental and critical of others? Perhaps you value health; do you always watch what you let into your body, or do you sometimes indulge the cravings for junk foods?
It may not always be easy aligning your actions to your core values, as old habits and cravings can sometimes cause you to lose sight of your core values, causing you to speak, act or respond in an unintended way.
There are helpful tricks and techniques to ensure you reinforce your core values into your conscious and subconscious thought to overcome this. You could:
- Habitually read aloud to yourself your list of core values every morning as you awake.
- Mentally visualize the day, picturing how it’ll unfold and how you’ll live your values throughout the day.
- Keep a print copy of your list of values close for easy reference in the day.
- St your values as backgrounds for your mobile phone, ensuring that your eyes fall on them each time you check your phone.
- Set reminders that pop up on your phone, reminding you of your core values.
Whenever you find yourself straying from your values, analyze the situation afterward and ask yourself what you could have done differently.
How to Adapt and Change Your Core Values When Needed
Although your values are typically unchangeable, the prioritization of your list of values isn’t engraved in stone. Though some core values may remain unchanged throughout your life, some may change with changes in circumstances, seasons, geographical location, etc. More so, there may even be the need to re-order and re-prioritize the list of values.
As an example, the advent of a family and children may necessitate esteeming values like financial stability and security above adventure, which may have been your core value when you were single.
As such, it is essential to regularly revisit your list of values to deduce whether or not the values have changed. You may have to repeat the process of thinking, listing, and prioritizing values. It is good to do this once a year and after a significant life-altering experience like grief, sickness, divorce, etc.