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Finding Your Core Values

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Many things in life are fluid, but your core values generally remain the same throughout. That said, circumstances can change over time, and another value may rise into your core values list. Either way, core values are less changeable than goals, visions, and missions, whether personal or organisational [1].

The Importance of Self Awareness

Self-awareness is a critical skill that all leaders require. Unless you know who you are, you have no insights into what you bring to a conversation, a meeting, a social encounter or a personal relationship. Self-awareness is the first step in becoming an effective leader and is essential for developing leaders. [2]

Improving your self-awareness will not only help you establish your core values but with every other aspect of your leadership.

How to Determine Your Core Values

When considering this exercise, it is worth remembering that you may well have many values you consider important. So what is needed here is to get these values down to somewhere between three and five. Of course, three to five is not an arbitrary figure, but I would suggest that you will probably have a much easier task in remembering them as opposed to fifteen.

There are several ways you can go about determining your core values [3]. You may wish to make an extensive list of all the values you can think of and then start eliminating until you reach three to five. You can also do a search on Google for lists of core values. There are a number online that you can download or print out and go through the same process of elimination. These are somewhat subjective methods where you consciously think about the values.

An alternate way of going about this is to take a core values test. There are a couple of these online that you can do. The benefit of this method is that you are answering questions or choosing between the importance of two values. Doing so forces the decision and the core values to rise to prominence. One of these that appears particularly useful is at Personal Values and another at Life Values Inventory. Please don’t feel you have to be limited by their suggested values. If you have a personal value you think is essential, add it to your list. After all, they are your core values. For example, one of the sites did not have Integrity listed as a value, and I added it because it is critical to my leadership and life.

Are Values Ranked?

Once you have established your core values, I don’t take the view that you rank them from one to four, for example. Once you have been through the exercise of determining your core values, you will have gotten to the stage where it is difficult to separate the importance of the values you have listed as your core values. Below are my core values set out in a diagram linked by a chain.

Core values image.

Aligning Your Values

Once you have completed the exercise for yourself, it is a good idea to look at the values of the organisations with which you are involved. A review like this includes your work and community organisations. Do the values align? Are some of the organisation’s values high on your list but don’t quite get into the core values? That may be quite acceptable. However, if you find no alignment whatsoever, then perhaps it is time for some introspection as to where you belong in life. You will always be much happier working with and involving yourself with organisations whose values are synergistic with your own.

Conclusion

Determining your core values can be either the first step on the road to self-awareness or, at the very least, a critical one to learn more about yourself. Knowing your core values and then those of the organisations you are involved in will allow you to make decisions that will create harmonious relationships and a fulfilling life.

References

  1. Starr, JP 2016, ‘Values: Why do we believe what we believe?’, Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 98, no. 3, pp. 72–73[]
  2. Ellevate 2018, Great Leadership Starts With Self-Awareness, Forbes, viewed 13 March 2022, <https://www.forbes.com/sites/ellevate/2018/02/15/self-awareness-being-more-of-what-makes-you-great/?sh=3818a40640dd>[]
  3. Selig, M 2018, 6 Ways to Discover and Choose Your Core Values | Psychology Today Australia, www.psychologytoday.com, viewed 13 March 2022, <https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/changepower/201811/6-ways-discover-and-choose-your-core-values>[]
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