I used to believe that in order to improve my life, I had to come up with a plan or a dream-like image of the life I wanted. Though there is some truth to that notion, I discovered that my life changed for the better when I stopped trying to change myself and instead identified who I actually was.
This is more difficult than it sounds. We're weighed down by layers of false beliefs and social conditioning. With the perpetual noise and visuals that come from social media, it's tough to differentiate between what's inside of us and what's been injected from the outside. For ages, I always believed that I wanted certain things, but in reality, those wishes were projected onto me by strangers over the internet.
We all want success. We all want happiness. The problem is happiness and success mean something different to everyone. But when we see one version of it presented by society, it's easy to adopt that as our own.
Setting goals isn't enough. To cut through the noise and distractions, we need to use something more powerful: values.
I know values sound kind of lame, but they have a huge impact:
- they give you a stronger sense of self
- they help you stand for something
- they help you set more clear goals
- they give you integrity
- they allow you to build healthier relationships
- they define your boundaries
- they guide everything you do
Values are the atoms that make up our soul. When you act in alignment with your values, that’s when magic happens. You have an unmistakable sensation that you’re truly living life. By recognising your values, you get closer to your true self. Here's how I recognised mine.
1. Audit your current self
Don't overthink your values straight away. Instead, go about your day and week as normal and as you make decisions, reflect on what drove you to make them.
- How did you spend your morning?
- What drove you to call your mum after work?
- Why were you able to make progress with that specific goal but not any of your others?
- Why did you stand up for yourself in that situation but keep quiet in another?
Bring a sense of awareness to your choices and try to understand what was in the driving seat. Journal during this audit period and highlight any words that stand out.
2. Ask yourself the big questions
Disconnect from the outer world and carve out some alone time. Take a step back and look at your life from the outskirts, asking yourself:
- what does a meaningful like look like to you?
- what does success mean to you?
- what have you done in your life that most felt like you?
- When have you felt the most alive?
- Consider any moments you’ve felt lost or trapped. What was missing?
Again, write things down and highlight any key words that feel important.
3. Use the core values list
Scan this list of core values and circle any terms that stand out to you. Don't take too long mulling it over; just go with your instinct. It's not important how many values you choose or what they are.
When you're done, look at the words you highlighted.
- Group together any words that have a similar theme e.g. values like caring, kindness, thoughtful, and generosity
- Choose a word that best represents each group to you.
I had a few values at this point:
These are my priorities. They're what I consider whenever I set goals or think about my life. But it's difficult to keep them all in mind at all times. So, to simplify things, I narrowed my values down to 2 core ones.
4. Finding your core values
Go over your reflections from the first 2 exercises and next to each response, jot down which of your chosen values apply. If one or two of your values keep reappearing, chances are those are your core values. If it's not obvious, don’t worry about it for now. Put this exercise away and go about your day and week as normal. See if any words keep coming back to you. Your core values will present themselves to you over time.
My core values are joy and authenticity. When I act with them in mind, I know I'm not acting. Everything I do becomes a reflection of me.
The world can be superficial at times. We focus so much on how things look. But with values in mind, we can focus on how things feel. And there's no better feeling than living a life that's true to you.