How Knowing Our Core Values is Essential for Lasting Change

Why do we do the things we do? Have you ever contemplated that? Quite honestly, I think about it all the time. We say we want one thing and then we self-sabotage. We strive after the latest, greatest, best of everything and are then left feeling empty at the end. We say we’re ready for change, and then we take two steps back. I can’t be the only person who finds these things confusing and complicated, can I?

I don’t think there is one simple answer to this question. To fully dig into this topic would require a much longer response than this one post will cover. With that said, there has been a tool that I’ve found both personally and professionally extremely helpful when working out this dilemma. What is this tool? Acknowledging, understanding, and pursuing my core values.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, Terra. Sounds a bit vague and corporate. How will that help me lose this weight, choose my career, starting eating better, or (                           )?” Let me explain.

When I first became a coach, I knew I had a passion to help others overcome health struggles because I’d done the same and my life was transformed. However, that was about the extent of what I knew. Did I start my own business? Who was my target audience? Did I focus on one particular ailment or health struggle? Did I partner with other wellness professionals or work for an existing company? What mode of teaching or coaching did I want to focus on? You get the picture. I made some choices along the way but continued to wrestle with many of these questions for years (literally). Even once I’d made some of these decisions, I haven’t always been convinced those decisions were I truly wanted.

One day, I was listening to a speaker talk about the importance of knowing our core values and I knew I had to dig deeper. Why WAS I doing the things I was doing? Was I even being fulfilled? I took on the process of discovering my own and the results have been gratifyingly eye-opening.

In the second half of this blog, I’ll walk you through the process I used to determine my personal values in hopes that it may guide you in discovering yours as well. Until then, it’ll be enough to share that my primary five core values are Spirituality, Wellbeing, Connection, Authenticity, and Growth.

choicesLet’s say that I’m trying to grow my business and all the experts are telling me 1000 different ways I can do so. My value of Growth would explain why I may be prone to want to seek the “best” ways, learn about new things, and not settle. However, I don’t feel the need to kill myself trying to do it all. I highly value my physical, mental and emotional Wellbeing. That causes me to take a step back, acknowledge that my time is limited and pursue those things that are more in alignment with my values. Making millions of dollars by constantly striving does not line up with my core values (though I could always accept that $1M and spend it in ways that does – ha!). However, my core value of Connection does help me focus on choosing opportunities that will meet that desire. As a result, I will then feel more satisfied and fulfilled with my choices.

Understanding these values has given me much more clarity both in goal setting and decision making. If I’m trying to make a decision on whether or not I should commit to something I can ask myself:

  1. Does this fulfill any of my core values?
  2. By accepting this commitment, will I have to say no to other commitments that would better align with my values?
  3. Will this commitment leave me feeling fulfilled or drained and wishing I had chosen otherwise?

How about you? Are you ready to experience change and determine your own core values? Read on to discover that process.

First, I jotted down any word that described a value I felt was strongly and uniquely important to me. Your core values will not be the same as mine. Even two similar personalities will have at least some differences in these. Some examples of mine were: honesty, freedom, strength, joy, growth.

After jotting down as many as I could naturally think of, I looked up a list of core value suggestions online. I marked those that strongly resonated with me. I tried to be sure not to mark values that I simply wanted to have but those I truly felt were important to me.

Next, I grouped these values into columns that made sense to me. Different people would choose to lump these into different categories and that’s okay. Remember, this is unique to you. Two examples from my own list:

Under my core value of Spirituality (in no particular order):

  • Gratitude
  • Appreciation
  • Peace
  • Freedom in Christ
  • Love
  • Forgiveness

Under my core value of Connection (also in no particular order):

  • Joy
  • Laughter
  • Fun
  • Accountability
  • Encouragement
  • Support

One thing to note is that these different values could be mixed and matched under many different cores. For example, I could have included the value of Love under Connection and that would’ve made perfect sense. However, I chose to place Love under Spirituality because I personally believe that I can love, because Christ first loved me. As a result of my beliefs as a Christian, my love can then flow to others.

After I worked through these first few steps, I processed what I’d discovered for a few days to see if any other values came to mind or if I wanted to shift or move the categories I’d placed them in. I eventually landed on five primary core values. I decided to rank them based both on what was naturally the most important to me as well as what should be most important for me to live the life I long to live.

Some resources suggested choosing between five and ten values as ideal because too few would not fully describe us and too many would not be memorable. As I mentioned earlier, my five (in order of greatest importance first and in their simplest form) are: Spirituality, Wellbeing, Connection, Authenticity and Growth.

I then took those five core values and made sentences that included many of the words I had categorized under them and used language that resonated with my soul. As a result, I ended up with the following:

  1. Spirituality: To experience and share peace, love and freedom in Christ, while practicing forgiveness, acceptance, and gratitude.
  2. Wellbeing: To have physical, mental, and emotional strength while balancing rest with work.
  3. Connection: To experience joy, encouragement, and support through relationships with my spirituality as the foundation.
  4. Authenticity: To live a life of integrity, honesty, and intentional loyalty in all I do.
  5. Growth: To have a growth mindset that continually seeks to learn, pursue excellence and make a positive impact in the world, persevering when necessary.

There’s a possibility that this list may shift and change as I further grow in self-awareness but so far it’s been immensely helpful. How? It helps explain my choices (even unconscious ones!) for starters.

Whew! You made it through the process of determining your core values! Questions or feedback? Have you ever worked through a similar process and found it helpful? Jump in the discussion over in the Wellness with Terra Community Facebook group or check out my video on the topic:

In my next post, I’ll be explaining more about our needs and how they can sometimes hijack our values – and what to do about it! Stay tuned!

Until next time…

Take care,