Have you even spent some time thinking about your own core values?  Whether you have or not, you likely do have core values and you most likely live by them in a lot of ways.  My question however, is "Do you share those core values with your friends and colleagues?"  If you do, "What are they?" and if not, "Why not?"

The core values I live by are Integrity, Honesty, Spirit, and Service . They are the foundation of everything I do and no matter what happens, those are the values I continue to hold strong no matter what the circumstance.  I’m happy to share them and I invite you to share your own in a comment below.

I want to explore some methods to developing and knowing your own core values if you don’t have them already.  Also then why and what they might be useful for.

Exploring Your Values

Your values are the core beliefs you have that you never waiver from.  They are not the character traits or personality traits that you have or want to have, they are your beliefs.  I’ve written before about sharing your opinion to reinforce your beliefs and this is true in living your core values as well.  The things you do and say will in part, show what your core beliefs are.  You can use this to discover them since looking at your behaviors and asking others what they see in you will help answer the question of what are your core values. Write down all the items you can think of and what others tell you in a big list.  Leave no exceptions!  You may not like or want all of those items on the list, but capture anything you hear from others.

Next, consider the things that you find your self doing without any effort.  Are these activities related to work, friends, family, strangers or what?  You definitely have core values around the areas you do effortlessly as they are ingrained into you.  Explore those actions and think about all the things you would do in life, if you had NO other influences from anyone else.  What are the things you just can’t stop doing?  Would you do those things even if you were not paid to if its work related?  These are the types of things that are or relate to your core values.

Here is a list of values that might help you get started as well.  Circle any that seem to match for you and add them to your list of values.  Write down any others as well, just make sure you keep the list for values.

Peace Integrity Power Wealth Joy Influence Happiness Love Justice Success Recognition Spirituality Friendship Family Career Fame Truth Status Authenticity Wisdom Acceptance Health Passion Risk-Tolerance Risk-Adverse Motivated Enthusiastic Optimistic Critical Caring Compassion Excellence Innovative Balance Teamwork Fun Alignment Comfortable Open-Minded Pride Results Achievement Fairness Respect Decisive Honest

If you are having trouble knowing or identifying your values, think about how you would describe yourself and how someone you know would describe you as well.  Not a physical description of what you look like, but a description of your character, how you behave and what you are like.  These are all indicators of your core values.  Put some ratings with each of the items on your list to narrow it down.  What items do you disagree with?  Which ones are inconsistent?  Those are not as likely to be core values for you.  However, the ones you always live up to, the ones you are consistent at and the ones that others consistently describe you to have or be like, are quite likely your strongest values.

Put Your Values to The Test

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of core values, there are a few more things to help ensure they are truly core values.  They should be something that hold strong no matter what.  That includes the two most difficult strains and temptations we all face, stress and money.  Would you sacrifice any value on your list for money?  Do you care what outcome that would have on you and others if they saw you trade in for some money?  If you would trade it for money or disregard what that does to your image, that may not be a core value at all.  Go through your list and give them all this simple test.  Also, do the same with considering stressful situations.  Have you ever lost these values when under stress?  More or less than the other values in your list.  Your core values are likely the ones you have lost hold of least or least impacted by stressful times.  Use all these factors and tests to narrow down your list to just 3 or 4 core values.

Living Them Consistently

Knowing your values makes living them far easier.  As I mentioned in the tests above about money and stress, they are strains that often prevent us from holding strong our core values.  This can happen frequently and allows a terrible cascading downward spiral to occur without oneself.  Someone who doesn’t really know their core values consciously can more easily be affected by stress or temptations to sacrifice them than someone who is well aware of them.  And anytime core value is ignored or "turned off" for some event, it deeply affects us.  It lowers our self esteem and makes us question those values which just continues to weaken our strength with them.  This can happen completely subconsciously and is a contributing factor to people who suffer from low self esteem.

However, knowing your core values and paying attention to hold true to those does the opposite.  It builds confidence in our ability and adds strength to those core values every time there is evidence that they are true and work.  So, living them has a profound impact on our lives, thoughts and feelings.  It helps you make the best choices you can, spending your time and money on things most important to you and those in your life.  It also helps you know what you stand for, who are are as a person and what are the things you believe in.  So,  don’t you think its useful to know your core values?  I sure do.

Sharing Your Values

So, I think that values are so important, they shouldn’t be internalized and trapped.  Its best to share these with others and make them well known.  If you are concerned what people think, have a lot of resistance about shared values or have any shame whatsoever, those values should be questioned if they are real.  Anyone who has a true core value that they deeply believe in and care about, would NOT experience those problems when sharing their values with others.  Its an excellent test of your values beyond your own eyes.

Another thing that sharing your values does is it helps you recognize when you are off course and makes it easier to get back on track.  Having others know your values keeps you more careful with them.  No one likes to be seen saying one thing and doing something else, so it helps us to practice what we preach and actually put our values in place and visible to others.  If we get off track, those people can question us, give feedback or simple silently and unknowingly pressure back to following and living our values consistently.

Sharing your values also helps make decisions and choices about your actions easier.  You can use them to steer your activities, priorities in life and even your goal setting since you’ll know well the areas that have the most significance in your life and work.  Don’t ignore that, use it to your advantage!  Share your values with others and know that it helps you to live them more consistently.

Learning the Values of Others

Taking steps to learn the values of others is hugely important.  Its important in developing relationships and it gives opportunities to you and them to understand each other better and to help each other live by that standard as well. People do behave differently (even if its ever so slightly) around others who they know have different values.  You don’t ask someone to lie for you if you know honesty is a core value and you certainly don’t expect someone to put their work or pay far above all else if their core values family to them.  There is a unspoken adjustment that everyone makes when communicating with others with similar and differing values.  Knowing those values helps you be far more likely to communicate successful with them and much more likely to be liked and have a strong relationship build.  Its along the same lines as Dale Carnegie said in his classic book How To Win Friend and Influence People , that the number one way to build a relationship with someone is to learn about them through questions and treat them how they want to be treated.  Knowing their core values is an excellent way to achieve this and discuss things with them that are most important in their lives.

If you can avoid putting others in conflicting situations by knowing their core values you can quickly earn their respect.  This is critical to become a leader, as it will be far more difficult to gain people’s trust if you disregard their values.  You don’t need to have the same values of others, you simple need to share your values with each other and treat each other with respect for those values.  When someone says that they are not respected or that an individual doesn’t respect them, its really that they don’t respect their values.  Think of someone who you’d consider not to have respect.  That doesn’t really mean anything on its own and its different respect for each person.  That’s because the respect is earned only in relation to the values of those interacting.

So, let me challenge you.

  1. Find out what your core values are.
  2. Be consistent and enjoy living those values.
  3. Share your values with others (please comment with your values below!).
  4. Learn the values of others.

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