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  • Steven Sutton, LCSW

On discovering your core values

Discovering your own core values is a crucial step in personal growth and self-awareness. It helps you understand what truly matters to you and what drives your decision-making process. Knowing your core values can guide you through life, provide clarity in uncertain situations, and help you make meaningful choices that align with your beliefs and principles.


So, how do you discover your own core values? The answer includes investing in self-reflection.


Start by taking a few moments to reflect on your life experiences and identify the moments that made you felt a clear sense of meaning or purpose. These may be moments that align with your core values. For example, if you feel proud of yourself for helping others, your core value may be altruism. If you feel fulfilled when you’re learning new things, your core value may be personal growth. Feelings aren't the only indicator of what matters to you. You may also wish to just look up a list of values and begin by writing down 4-5 that resonate with you even if you're not sure why.


Another helpful exercise is to consider the people you admire and respect. What qualities do they possess that you value? What values do they embody that you aspire to? This can help you identify the values that are important to you and that you want to incorporate into your own life.


Additionally, ask yourself what you stand for and what you won’t tolerate. What are the things that you’re passionate about and that you’ll fight for? What are the things that you find unacceptable and that you’ll speak out against? These answers can reveal your core values and give you a better understanding of who you are and what you believe in.


It’s also helpful to think about the areas of your life that you prioritize. Is it your career? Your family? Your health? Your hobbies? Your relationships? By identifying the areas of your life that are most important to you, you can better understand the values that guide your choices and actions in those areas.


You may wish to ask yourself what you would tell your younger self to prioritize. If you could go back in time and have a high quality conversation with yourself what recommendations would you? How do those recommendations help reveal what's most important to you?


As you reflect on your core values, it’s important to be honest with yourself and not judge your answers. Your values may not align with societal norms or expectations, and that’s okay. What matters is that your values are true to yourself and that you live your life in accordance with them.


When you’re discovering your core values, it’s important to remember that this is a personal exercise. Coach yourself that no one else will know what you decide, so you're free to be completely honest with yourself. This means writing down your values, even if they may seem unconventional or unpopular.


As you write down your values, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and ask thought-provoking questions. For example, why is this value important to me? How does it guide my decision-making process? What are some examples of how I’ve lived in accordance with this value in the past? What are some examples of how I can continue to live in accordance with this value in the future?


By coaching yourself and asking these types of questions, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your core values and how they impact your life. You’ll also gain more confidence in your decision-making process, as you’ll know that your choices can now be intentionally guided by your personal beliefs and principles.

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