How to Determine Your Core Values

Dr. Purushothaman
December 12, 2013

Our core values are beliefs that are the basis for our ethical framework regarding our thoughts, behaviors, and comfort levels. These values affect us at work, at home and in daily life.

Core values affect our:

personal relationships
business decisions
work life
family life
essential tenets
life choices

These values are the foundation for how we live our lives. When we are mindful of and living in a way that is harmonious with our values, we feel at ease in the world.
We may be unaware of our core values until we actually consider what they are. When we are unfulfilled at work or uncomfortable in a situation, the discomfort may be an indication that what we are doing is not congruent with our core values. For instance, perhaps you are taking a break at work and are in the company kitchen with a group of people who are gossiping. The gossiping makes you feel uncomfortable. The discomfort may be a sign that you value kindness and privacy and you do not feel that those values are being honored in this situation. Or perhaps you are shopping and you hear a woman yelling at her child. You may feel saddened by the woman's lack of respect and caring for the child because respect and caring for children are two of your core values.

In order to gain an awareness of your personal values, you can start by looking at the following list, and jot down some that are most important to you:

achievement, altruism, appreciation, authenticity, autonomy, choice, collaboration, community, compassion, contribution, creativity, excellence, freedom, friendship, happiness, honesty, independence, kindness, learning, loyalty, privacy, respect, self-expression, service, spirituality, tolerance and tradition.

Add values that are important to you but are not on the list. Then, choose several values that are most important to you. For each value, consider what it means to you. Why is it important? Next, prioritize the values on your list. Then consider how you are affected by your values in your work and personal life. For example, if you value altruism and are a Social Worker, then your work and your value of altruism are consistent.

Another way to examine your values is to consider someone who inspires you and think about what characteristics that person has that you would like to emulate. Perhaps the person is honest or compassionate and those are values that are on your core list.

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