In hard times, it’s easy to feel like everything is out of your control. Like you’re being tossed amongst the tides of life without so much as a life raft to keep you afloat. And that can make you feel scared and indecisive – even when it comes to the few things you can control.
So how do you get around this feeling of powerlessness? How do you take life by the horns as much as possible to steer your life journey to where you’d like to be?
In my opinion, defining your core values is the first step towards getting your life back on track, because without core values it’s pretty difficult to define your goals. And without goals, well. You’re not going to make it very far in any direction at all.
But how do you begin the process of defining your core values? What even are core values? Let’s get the definition out of the way first, and look at some examples of core values. Then, we’ll go through some steps to help you explore what your values are, and how they can help you gain more mastery over your daily life.
What are Core Values?
Core values are beliefs that you hold very close to your heart. They’re the beliefs that define who you are. For example, if you value reliability and embody that value in your daily life, then others know they can always depend on you to be there, to be on time, and to lend a hand when you are needed. If family is a core value, then you are more likely to choose to be with your wife and children as opposed to working overtime or hanging out with friends on the weekend. Some other examples of core values are below:
Any of these are great examples of values that you may have. Any of these values will determine how you choose to spend your time and what activities you will prioritize. In the long term, they will determine what goals you set for yourself as you continue down your life path.
What are your Core Values?
Did any of the values above ring true for you? For me personally, I value honesty, frugality, friendship, and helping others. On a daily basis, this means I try to make choices that save me money, and that are honest and ethical. I make the choices that put my friends first. And, most importantly, if I can help someone then I do. This means my long term goals are to save money for retirement rather than spending it now; to live an authentic life without lies or half-truths; and have lived a life where I helped people overcome pain and heartache. Most of these values helped me decide to become a counselor-in-training.
So, now that you know what values are, how do you go about identifying your own values? There are two simple ways to do this. First, you can think back on some recent decisions you’ve made. Did you recently have to decide between seeing your child’s dance recital and working overtime to impress the boss? Then you were choosing between the values of family and work. Did you recently choose between using your tax return to fix that rattle in your car, or did you splurge on an above ground pool for your kids? Voila.
The second way to determine your values is to look at these same scenarios and figure out what you wish you would’ve done. This may be a better way for some, because we don’t always act in line with our values the way we wish we would. Imagine that! A great example of this for me is optimism. As a counseling student, I want to value optimism – I know that it’s been proven that having a positive mindset can help you overcome many obstacles in life. Being pessimistic leads to thought patterns that sustain depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and fatigue. But man, is it hard for me to make daily choices that display optimism! Instead, no matter how much work I do, I never think things will turn out right. And that can be pretty draining sometimes. If I made more choices based on optimism my mindset might be a little more healthy.
If you can, take a minute to identify 3 core values of your own. (If you need help, take a look at this website! https://corevalueslist.com/ )
Got ’em? Okay!
Let Your Values Guide Your Goals
Going through the list in the website above, I chose balance, frugal, and helpful. Now I’m set up to make a few goals for myself.
A small goal that emphasizes “balance” might be the following: My goal is to balance physical activity with lounging around on the couch. Therefore, my specific goal is to get up and walk at least 30 minutes outside every day.
A large goal that emphasizes “balance” might be: Get into a career where I work no more than 40 hours per week, so there’s balance between work and free time.
Here are some examples of goals you can implement for various values:
Faith: Set aside an hour each day for meditation or prayer.
Family: Set aside an hour each day to cook or eat dinner with my family.
Frugal: When shopping, I will buy cheaper generic brands rather than more expensive name brands.
Integrity: I will choose to do things the right way without shortcuts, even if it takes more time or effort. (Not a SMART goal, sorry.)
Optimism: I will find 1 positive alternative thought for every pessimistic thought I have, and choose to believe that optimistic thought.
Remember your SMART goals! The goals based on your values should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound (as in, give yourself a deadline to complete the goal!)
So, with your list of values in hand, try to make one goal per value that you can accomplish each day. If you achieve these goals consistently, and work towards larger, more long-term goals based on the same values, chances are you will start to feel more mastery over your life!
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!
NOTICE: I am not a mental health professional, and nothing on this blog should be taken as medical or mental health advice. If you are thinking of harming or killing yourself, please CALL 911. If you are experiencing a mental health or psychiatric emergency, PLEASE call 911 or the following crisis lines below:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat
- SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline, 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727)