When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier. – Roy E. Disney
If I asked you to tell me your top 10 core values right now, could you do it? What would you say? Do you know what they are?
If you’re unsure, don’t panic! We’re going to work on them during the course of this article. By the time we’re done, you’ll know your top 10 values like the back of your hand. I’ll share my top 10 values with you as well, so stay tuned.
Before you continue reading this article, make sure you check out the previous installments of this series:
Now, back to core values. Have you ever set aside time to think about yours? Do you know what’s important to you? I’m not talking about what your parents, friends, or society thinks you should care about. I’m talking about what matters to you, and ONLY you, deep down.
It’s time to honor what you find meaningful and come up with a list of core values that will guide you throughout life.
Which is better?
- Acting authentically from your core values, doing what you love, and striving to fully express yourself to the world.
- Following “tradition” to earn approval, even if it’s not what you really want. By tradition, I mean what the vast majority of people do, which may not be what you truly desire.
Too often we live our lives the way those around us would like us to. Do you realize that many of your decisions weren’t truly yours and were instead the result of social conditioning? Compare and contrast the two options I just mentioned and think about which will make you happiest.
Notice that, in the first option, the focus is on giving back to the world, whereas the second option involves trying to get something (such as approval) or attempting to fit into a certain mold.
I encourage you to ask yourself the following question: Would I rather give or get, and why?
What do you think your answer says about you?
Your core values represent a point of reference upon which all your future decisions will be based. A misalignment between your actions and your values will prevent you from reaching optimal fulfillment in life.
As such, reflecting on your values is mandatory if you want to set goals that are in line with your core values and make decisions that are right for you.
Ironically, there are many people who don’t wake up and start living until their doctor tells them that they have only a few months left.
Suddenly, their entire world collapses and all the falsehoods that have plagued them just vanish. They realize that everything they thought mattered in life didn’t actually matter to them, which enables them to experience real joy for the first time.
In his must-see program “Rediscovering Life“, Anthony De Mello tells the story of a man who was told that he had six months to live. It was a revelation for him. He experienced joy in a way that had been foreign to him.
Shortly before dying, he said that his last 6 months were the happiest of his life. His experience isn’t unique, and is in fact common among people who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
The good news is that you don’t have to wait for an unfortunate event or tragic diagnosis to realize what truly matters to you. You don’t have to wait to live life to the fullest. Nor should you.
If you want to live your best life, you just need to bring more awareness into it. You need to stay in touch with your emotions and listen to your intuition more often. Conversely, you need to rely less on your thoughts, which are largely the result of past conditioning.
If you want to come up with your own answers about life and what it means to you, question everything you can. Leave no stone unturned. It’s also important to closely observe yourself to figure out what makes you genuinely happy and what makes you miserable.
The Buddha himself said, “O monks and wise men, just as a goldsmith would test his gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it, so must you examine my words and accept them, not merely out of reverence for me.” Examine, question, and get to know yourself!
What do you love to do and what makes you happy? What do your answers to these questions say about your values?
Right now, I’d like you to come up with a list of the values that matter most to you. If you need help, feel free to refer to a list that includes more than 400 values. This list can be found here.
That said, the list should guide you, not make your decisions for you. I encourage you to come up with your own values through self-reflection before looking at the list. Self-reflection is how many people come up with their value lists, and it’s much more powerful than a list inspired solely by another preexistent list.
Depending on how well you know yourself, finding your own values might take some time. Don’t worry about coming up with the perfect list, as you can always modify it in the future. As you go through various experiences, you may realize that your core values are changing. That’s perfectly okay. Your values can, and in some cases will, change over time.
Is it selfish to live according to my values?
If you want to live an authentic, meaningful life, you need to master the art of disappointing and upsetting others, hurting feelings, and living with the reality that some people just won’t like you. It may not be easy, but it’s essential if you want your life to reflect your deepest desires, values, and needs. – Cheryl Richardson
Thinking about yourself and your happiness doesn’t make you a selfish person. In fact, the more you know yourself, the more you can contribute to society.
Besides, many people are selfish to some extent, whether they admit it or not. Why do you think some people give to charity?
Because it makes them feel good. They get something out of it. Are you selfish if you don’t want to have kids? Many people have kids because it makes them happy. It gives them the illusion of immortality. Or, it gives them a chance to realize their unfulfilled dreams through their children. Isn’t that a bit selfish, too? Am I selfish for getting pleasure from writing this article?
Once you realize who you are, you stop trying to get things out of people. You don’t do things just to get them to like you or approve of you. The manipulation stops and you become less selfish.
So which is more selfish, focusing on your needs so that you can give more to the world, or ‘giving’ for the sake of getting?
You can live life on your own terms by doing what you love, being happy, and sharing that with the world. Or, you can do what others expect of you because you’re scared. Scared of being unloved, unapproved of, or being unrecognized. You’re afraid of being criticized, laughed at, or judged, and your world revolves around that. Wouldn’t you prefer the first option?
When you refuse to be bound by the expectations of others, you’re going to disappoint some people. Yet, I’m convinced that your level of personal fulfillment will be higher, which will allow you to make a bigger contribution to the world.
You didn’t come to this world to make money, be admired, or follow the herd. Nor did you come here to live up to other people’s expectations. You came to this world to express your authentic self! If not that, then what else? You came to this world to be happy. You came to this world to love.
It’s your responsibility to be happy. It’s insane how few people think about happiness. Many of us forget that the meaning of life is to be happy. Worse yet, most of us fail to question society’s definition of happiness and success.
You don’t need to buy into society’s expectations or standards. It isn’t society’s responsibility to make you happy, it’s yours.
Nowadays, concepts such as happiness and success are so widely used in the media that they’ve lost all meaning. You’re constantly bombarded with articles and commercials telling you how to become more successful. Yet most of them don’t even bother to define what they mean by “successful”.
Make sure your own definitions of happiness and success are crystal clear. Otherwise, your entire life will be based on false assumptions you haven’t bothered to question.
My top 10 core values
Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values. – Ayn Rand
I promised that I would share my top 10 core values, so here we go:
- Truth: I’m constantly seeking the truth because progress is impossible without it. Awareness is a prerequisite to change.
- Integrity: I don’t do things that I believe are wrong, even if everyone else is doing them or refusing to do them will have negative consequences.
- Passion: I’m passionate about what I do. I follow that passion in my everyday life, regardless of the challenges I face.
- Health: I look after my health, as I want to feel good, be energized, live longer, and accomplish many things.
- Freedom: I do what I like and am free to change my job, travel, have the career I desire, and live without someone else telling me what to do.
- Selflessness: I help those around me, regardless of whether we’re friends or how much they do or don’t like me.
- Courage: I’m facing my fears to improve myself, unleash my true potential, and become the real me.
- Fairness: I’m always trying to be fair with people and avoid giving inequitable advantages to friends or family.
- Progress: I feel joy in working on myself and learning new skills. I also want to encourage others to do the same.
- Uniqueness: I believe that I’m unique and shouldn’t be afraid of standing out or doing things that truly matter to me
Now it’s your turn. What are your primary values? Make a list of your top 10 personal values.
Once you have your list, put it in a place where you can see it every day. Then, make sure you go through it regularly. Refer to it whenever you need to make important decisions.
Keep in mind that’s it’s okay if you come up with more or less than 10 values. Whatever the number, just make sure they’re all extremely important to you.
A list of values can provide a sense of direction
It’s easy to get trapped in the rat race. It’s also tempting to compare yourself to those around you and question how well you’re doing. The less you know your values, the more likely you are to follow the herd…even if doing so is unfulfilling.
Once you know your values, you can start taking more control of your life. You won’t be at risk of becoming a puppet that others can manipulate and control. Your actions will be perfectly aligned with your core values, and even those who disagree with you will respect you for staying true to yourself. Your integrity will encourage others to trust you as well.
Knowing your core values also allows you to better design your life. You’ll know what you want and how to find it. This makes it much easier to make decisions in all areas of life.
Should you accept that promotion? Your values will tell you! Are you willing to work longer hours to make more money? Or is spending time with your family more important? Knowing your core values will enable you to answer those questions.
Let me further illustrate my point by sharing some concrete examples from my own life.
I feel very motivated when I’m free to do what I want. I’m willing to work long hours and/or earn a modest salary just to enjoy that sense of freedom. For that reason, being self-employed is more appealing to me than working for a big company that would offer stability, a high salary, or status. Freedom is one of my core value, while stability, money, and status are of little value to me.
I want to do what I love, which means studying personal development, learning about psychology, and reading books. It also involves writing books and articles that inspire others to follow their passion, find peace, and cultivate happiness. Let’s say I had to choose between doing what I love everyday with few breaks and a low salary, or being paid a lot of money to work for a big company that offers long vacations. Which do you think I would choose? As you may have guessed, my values would lead me to choose the first option.
I enjoy studying, learning new skills, and growing. A job that doesn’t allow me to do that is unappealing, regardless of the money, status, or recognition it might bring me.
I believe we’re all unique, which is why I avoid unnecessary conformity. I strive to live in alignment with my values and don’t care what others expect me to be or do.
Most of us care way too much about what others think of us. Your happiness shouldn’t depend on what anyone else thinks. It if does, your ability to be happy will be subject to the whims of others. You can’t control whether you’re happy or miserable, it will always be up to someone else. Their praise will make you happy, their criticism will leave you in agony.
Understand that other people don’t know anything about your intentions, your story, or your desires. In short, they know virtually nothing about you! More often than not, the image people have of me is very different from who I am. They judge me based on their limited observations. The thing is, this is what most of us are judged on, and it’s pretty flimsy.
These observations are largely the result of the subjective stories and experiences of those who are judging. These judgements reflect that person’s interpretation of the world. This goes both ways, however, and I’ve realized that the image I have of other people is often wrong, too. As such, I try to refrain from judging others as much as I possibly can.
Just remember: What other people think of you is none of your business!
How about you? What are your top 10 core values? Are you currently embodying those core values? If not, what prevents you from doing so? Please let me know in the comments section below!
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