3 Steps to Identifying Personal Core Values

07/09/2014     

Since Zappos HQ is based in downtown Las Vegas, we’re no strangers to Elvis sightings, and the King himself had some wise words about more than just hip shaking. “Values are like fingerprints,” he said. “Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ‘em all over everything you do.” Personal core values are intrinsic beliefs that affect how we interact with the world around us. In a previous post, we talked about the benefits of identifying core values, but how does one go about it? 

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, our core values influence our behavior every day, so knowing what they are can act as a guide both professionally and personally. Putting them into words may sound daunting, but is easier than you think. Read on for some exercises on how to bring your core values into focus and share your own tips with us in the comments below!

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” - Buddha

Identifying personal core values isn’t something you need to do in one sitting. Just starting the process can help you notice things about yourself that you haven’t before. It’s like car shopping: when you know which one you want, you start seeing that car everywhere. Observing your own behavior and reactions to different situations will help pinpoint the underlying core values at work.

Write down situations that evoked a really strong reaction in you. List what happened, how you felt, and what principle coincides with it. Did you see some form of injustice imposed on someone else? Then you may possess a strong sense of justice. Did someone lie to you? Then honesty may be a driving force for you. Did a positive performance review put you over the moon more than a raise did? Appreciation and a sense of being valued may be at play. This exercise also helps find patterns in reoccurring core values that may be more deeply rooted, as well as common themes between values such as justice and mercy or compassion and service.

List your highs and lows. Recall several situations when you were the happiest and why. Then list when you were the saddest and why. This exercise establishes not only what helps you feel fulfilled, but what might be missing that you may not have been aware of before. And again, the more common denominators there are, the more weight those particular core values carry.

Identify moments of pride and disappointment. While the previous step is more influenced by environment and situations, this one helps reveal strengths and weaknesses in our character. Acknowledging when we have let ourselves down can be uncomfortable, but is also the most helpful because it shows us where we are most out of alignment with our core values. It’s easier - and more fun - to list our personal successes, but it is our failures that provide the most opportunity for growth.

Once they’ve been identified, the key to core values for both individuals - and companies - is committing to them. Practicing them and living them is what gives core values their strength and their ability to provide insight into even the most difficult situations and decisions.

Author: Erica Spelman

Tags: Core Values

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