Check Your Core Values

Check Your Values, Lynette M BurrowsEvery decision you make is colored by your core values whether you know it or not. Do you know what the phrase means? Do you know what your core values are? How do they line up with the core values of your workplace? Your school? Your significant other? Your nation? It is important that you know these things.

We live in troubled times. Every nation seems to be facing political, financial, and/or social challenges. We are besieged with political bickering, name calling, fake news, faulty products, shoddy services, abuses, and mass shootings. We have endless arguments over the best way to solve ‘our problems.’ Yet, we can’t agree on what ‘our problems’ are. What has happened to us? We’ve lost our core values.

Too many people are acting out of their emotion of the moment. They never stop to consider if their actions reflect their core values. Perhaps they don’t know what their core values are. When you act in a way that is incongruous with your core values you feel unvalued and unfulfilled. And out of those feelings come more emotions—depression, resentment, anger, etc—and those are acted upon. It’s time to stop and think. It’s time to remember what a core value is and what it means to us.

What is a Core Value?

“A principle or belief that a person or organization views as being of central importance.” —Oxford Dictionaries 

It’s a rock-bottom, fundamental truth serving as the foundation or basis of a belief. Something that you give importance to, that you trust is THE truth.

Core values exist whether you are aware of them or not. They influence how you prioritize things, how you choose relationships, and how you judge success (yours and others’).

If you don’t know exactly what your core values are, how do you identify them?

How to Identify Your Core Values

1. When you were the happiest

Take a moment to identify times you were the happiest in your personal and work life. Identify how and why the event or action made you so happy. What is the common factor between your examples? Is it ambition fulfilled? Then ambition may be one of your values. Is it that you felt loved? Love is also a value.

2. Identify your proudest moments

When were you the proudest of in your personal and work life? Again, look for the common factors between your proud moments. Did you feel pride in a job well done? Hard work or professionalism may be one of your core values.

3. Identify the things you must have

What must you have in your life to be fulfilled or happy? Is it creativity? Or love? Or being surrounded by nature?

4. Make a list of your core values

Some articles on identifying 10 words that represent one of your values. That’s because you value many things. If you need prompts, there are many lists on the internet. Try to do it without a list. You’ll be truer to your personal values.

5. Prioritize your list.

In other words, narrow your list down to a handful of terms that are the rock-bottom principles upon which other values are based.

6. Ask yourself why.

Why do you believe that this value is more important than any other value? Flip the value to its opposite. What does its opposite make you feel? Don’t give surface answers like—it’s only fair, or if it’s unjust for one person it can be unjust for me. Get down to the nitty-gritty. Such as “it causes me pain to see someone bullied” or “it would terrify me to be arrested because someone didn’t like the color of my skin.” Did that change your list?

You’ve now identified what your core values or primary values are. These core values are generally consistent throughout your whole life. They rarely change much. The rest of the values you identified can be thought of as your secondary values, important, but not immutable. For example, when you are single you may value working 12 hours. When you have a family, you may value time with your family over time on the job.

Use your Core Values

Next time you’re faced with a decision think about your core values. Will that decision align with your primary or secondary values? You may not immediately be able to make all your decisions based on your core values. But over time you will get closer and closer. See if that doesn’t lead to a more fulfilled life.

Perhaps, if we are all living fulfilled lives with clear core values, we will we have lots of reasons to value each other.

Have you identified what your core values are? Was this article helpful?


  1. Interesting food for thought! I think unrest results not because we haven’t identified our core values, but because there are endless opportunities to express them, which was not the case until recently. And inevitably, the core values of some were in opposition to the core values of others.

    1. I think there are many times people say they are fighting or protesting because of core values that they are acting out of fear. I believe that most of the time when people think they are opposites they haven’t dug down to their real core value. I doubt very many (if any) people wake up telling themselves that they want to hate someone today. I do believe that a lot of people do not think about what they value because they value themselves so little, or because they misbelieve a fear of theirs is a core value, or because they haven’t been taught core values so they adopt various ones and ‘try them on’ so to speak.

      That being said, it is difficult to act purely on primary core values. Secondary values, social pressures, and economic issues can and do exert heavy influence on actions especially in the setting of endless opportunities of expression.

      Thank you, Jennette. You added food for thought for me, too.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *