You know what matters most to you, even if you haven’t thought about it recently. Deep within, your core values are waiting to be rediscovered. They are the principles that guide your decisions, shape your relationships, and determine your priorities. When life feels out of control or unfulfilling, it’s often because you’ve lost touch with what really matters—your core values. The good news is that, with some reflection, you can reconnect with your values and build a life aligned with what you care about.
This guide will walk you through the process of identifying your core values so you can start living according to what matters most. Discover what motivates and inspires you, clarify the values driving your actions, and learn how to apply your values to daily life for a sense of purpose and meaning. The journey starts now. Are you ready to uncover what matters most?
Table of Contents
What Are Values, and Why Are They Important?
Your values are your heart’s compass, guiding you to what life offers. Knowing your values allows you to make decisions in life. They represent your highest priorities and shape the choices you make each day.
Why Identifying Your Values Matters
Discovering your core values helps provide purpose and direction. It allows you to live in alignment with what you believe in. When you know your values, you can set meaningful goals, make better decisions, and find greater fulfillment.
Some questions to ask yourself:
What really matters to me in life? What do I care most about?
- How do I want to behave and contribute to the world?
- What qualities do I admire in others? What kind of person do I want to be?
- If I could describe my best self, what words would I use?
How to Uncover Your Values
- Reflect on the moments when you felt most alive and engaged. What were you doing? Who were you with? What values were present?
- Identify people you deeply respect. What values do they embody?
- Consider how you want to be remembered. What legacy do you want to leave behind? What values would be part of that legacy?
- Review a list of common values like integrity, kindness, courage, health, family, and success. Which resonates most with you?
Your values are within you. Now is the time to discover them. Live according to your values, and you’ll find your best path in life. Focus on what really matters, and you’ll gain wisdom, meaning, and clarity of purpose. Your compass is within you; you have to look inside.
Common Types of Core Values
To live according to your values, you first need to determine what they are. Some of the most common core values include:
Integrity means doing the right thing even when no one is watching. Acting with honesty and truthfulness.
Compassion: showing care, kindness, and empathy towards others Making a positive difference in people’s lives
Excellence: pursuing mastery and continuous self-improvement. Striving to be the best you can be in all areas of your life.
Courage: Facing difficulties and challenges with bravery and perseverance Having the strength to step outside your comfort zone.
Purpose: having meaning, direction, and a vision for your life. Contributing value to the world.
Now it’s your turn. What principles do you hold dearest? What ideals motivate and inspire you? Take some time for self-reflection to gain insights into your core values. Once you’ve identified them, use them as a compass to guide your decisions and shape your character.
Living according to your values isn’t always easy, but it is deeply fulfilling. When times get tough, your values will give you strength and help you stay focused on what matters. They represent your highest self, so discover them, claim them, and let them empower you to become the person you were meant to be.
How to Determine Your Values
To determine your values, you need to reflect on what matters most to you in life. Values are the principles that guide your decisions and actions. They can be personal, professional, moral, or spiritual. Some examples of values are honesty, integrity, compassion, creativity, and excellence. To identify your values, you can ask yourself questions such as:
- What are you passionate about?
- What are you proud of?
- What are you grateful for?
- What are your strengths and talents?
- What do you want to contribute to the world?
By answering these questions, you can discover your core values and use them to align your goals and priorities with your true self.
1. Reflect on your priorities and passions.
- Think about the activities or causes that energize you. What excites or motivates you to take action? For some, it may be creative pursuits like art or music. For others, it could be helping people through community service or activism. Pinpoint what fuels your motivation and enthusiasm.
- Consider your priorities. How do you choose to spend your time and money? The things you value most in life are often reflected in the way you allocate your resources. If family is your top priority, you likely invest heavily in time spent together. If health and fitness are important, you may budget more for nutrition and exercise. Your priorities shine a light on your core values.
- Look for patterns in the choices you make. The values that drive you are revealed through the options you select daily, big and small. Do you choose experiences over material goods? Adventure over stability? Creativity over conformity? The patterns in your choices uncover the values behind them.
- Talk to people who know you well. Others may have insight into values and motivations that you take for granted. Have conversations with close friends or family members and ask them what they believe drives you and gives you a sense of purpose or passion. Their observations can be extremely enlightening.
- The values and priorities that motivate you are your compass in life. Discovering your core values provides direction and helps ensure you’re spending your time in a way that is meaningful to you. Make the time for self-reflection; it’s worth the investment to find your true north.
2. Look at your daily habits and routines.
Your daily habits and routines say a lot about what you value. Take some time to examine how you actually spend your days, not just how you wish you spent them or think you should. Look for patterns in how you allot your time and energy. What do you make time for each day without fail? What do you struggle to find time for? This examination can reveal priorities you didn’t even realize you had.
Review your recurring activities.
Make a list of everything you do regularly, from the moment you wake up to when you go to sleep. Include things like:
- Making meals
- Commuting to work
- Calling friends/family
- Watching TV
Are there any surprises on your list? Anything you do daily but don’t recognize as a priority These habitual actions demonstrate what you authentically care about.
3. Question Your Choices
For each item on your list, ask yourself why you made that choice. What motivates that behavior? How does it align with your values and priorities? For example, if calling your parents is on the list, it likely shows you value family and relationships. If TV watching is a habit, examine what shows you choose and why; it could reflect an interest in learning or entertainment.
Look for patterns.
Look at your list as a whole. Are there certain categories of activities that dominate your time, like work, relationships, health, spiritual growth, or hobbies? The categories you spend the most time on highlight your core values. If some categories are lacking, make a plan to incorporate them more into your daily life.
The habits and routines you establish each day reflect what matters most in your life. Take an honest look at how you spend your time each day to gain valuable insight into your authentic values and priorities. Make adjustments as needed to ensure your daily choices align with what’s most important to you.
5. Analyze your role models and relationships.
The people you admire and the relationships you cultivate can reveal a lot about what you value. Analyzing the role models in your life and the dynamics of your close relationships helps uncover core values you may not even realize you hold.
Examine your role models.
Who do you look up to? What qualities or accomplishments do you admire about them? The traits you admire in others are often a reflection of what you aspire to and consider meaningful. For example, if you admire leaders who empower others, you likely value things like growth, service, and compassion. If you look up to revolutionaries who disrupt the status quo, you may value innovation, courage, and independence.
Review your close relationships.
How would you describe the key relationships in your life? What do these connections provide you? The people you surround yourself with and how you interact with them say a lot about your priorities and what you need to feel fulfilled with. For instance, if your relationships are built on trust, honesty, and mutual support, you probably value things like loyalty, authenticity, and partnership. If your connections thrive on humor, creativity, and spontaneity, you likely appreciate qualities such as joy, openness, and adventure.
By reflecting on who and what energizes you in life, you gain insight into the principles that drive you. The values hiding in plain sight become clearer, and you discover what really matters most in living a life that feels purposeful and true. Use these revelations to guide your decision-making and nourish the relationships that share what you hold dearest.
6: Consider Your Hopes and Dreams for the Future
To discover your core values and what matters most to you in life, start by envisioning what you hope to accomplish and who you want to become someday.
Don’t limit yourself to what seems realistic or practical. Dream as big as you can. Do you hope to start a nonprofit, learn to fly a plane, write a book, or travel the world? Identify goals that ignite your passion and excite you. These help point to values like adventure, growth, creativity, or service.
Once you have some big dreams in mind, consider what they say about you. For example, if you dream of starting an animal rescue, you likely value compassion. If you dream of becoming an expert in your field, you probably value mastery and lifelong learning. Our deepest hopes and dreams are rooted in our core values.
Identify common themes.
Look for common themes across your various dreams and goals. Maybe you want to advance your career, improve your community, and connect more deeply in your relationships. Core values like achievement, service, and intimacy may be driving these diverse dreams. The more your dreams have in common, the closer you are to what truly matters to you.
Ask yourself key questions.
Some questions that can reveal your core values are:
- What excites or energizes me? Values like adventure, creativity, and freedom
- How do I want to contribute or make a difference? Values such as service, justice, and generosity
- What do I want to be known for? Values like authenticity, excellence, and integrity.
- What qualities do I most admire in others? The qualities you admire in others are often a reflection of your own core values.
- If I had all the money and time in the world, what would I do? Your deepest passions point to your highest values.
Discovering your core values is a journey of reflection. But by envisioning your hopes and dreams, identifying common themes, and asking yourself probing questions, you can gain clarity on what matters most: your guiding principles in life.
7. Write down potential values and narrow your list.
Now that you have a good list of potential values, it’s time to narrow them down to your core values—the things that matter most in your life. This process of refinement and prioritization will be challenging but deeply rewarding.
Go through your list and ask yourself some probing questions about each value:
- Does this value motivate and energize me? Values that truly resonate with you will inspire passion and determination.
- Is this a lifelong value? Core values are enduring beliefs that guide you over the long
- Does this value influence my daily decisions and interactions? Your fundamental principles shape how you live and relate to others every day.
- Would I be willing to make real sacrifices for this value? Your deepest convictions are worth fighting for when challenged.
- Do I admire others who exemplify this value? We tend to value those who share our most cherished virtues.
As you evaluate each potential value in this way, some will emerge as more central to who you are. Cross out or remove any values that do not meet these criteria. Keep clarifying and distilling your list until you have 3 to 5 values left that represent your moral compass. These values form the foundation of purpose and meaning in your life. Refer back to them whenever you face difficult choices or feel uncertain about the path ahead.
Let these principles be a source of guidance and inspiration, empowering you to live according to what matters most in your heart. Your core values define your character and shape your destiny. Choose them wisely.
8. Align your life and goals with your values.
Now that you’ve identified your core values, it’s time to align your life and goals to stay true to what matters most. Look at your daily and weekly routines. Do they reflect your values? If not, make changes. For example, if family is a top value but you rarely make time to connect, schedule phone calls or meetups. If health is important but you don’t exercise, start walking or join an online yoga class. Small changes can have big impacts.
Set value-based goals.
Set specific and measurable goals that align with your values. If learning is a core value, take an online course to expand your mind. If adventure is key, plan a trip to somewhere you’ve never been. Break down big goals into smaller milestones to keep yourself on track. Refer back to your values for motivation and guidance.
Make value-based decisions.
When making decisions, consider your options through the lens of your core values. If a new job opportunity promises more money but less work-life balance, think about what’s really meaningful to you. If a relationship has become unfulfilling, evaluate whether it still aligns with your key values, like trust or happiness. Your values should be the North Star that helps navigate you to your best life.
Living according to your values isn’t always easy, but it is deeply rewarding. Whenever faced with difficult choices or a crossroads, reflect on your core values. They will ground you, give you strength, and help ensure you stay on a path of purpose and meaning. Aligning your life around your values will lead to more fulfillment, less regret, and a strong sense of integrity. Discover your values and let them guide you home.
9. Revisit and refine your values over time.
Your core values are central to who you are, but they can evolve over time as you gain life experience. Revisiting your values regularly will help ensure they continue to guide you in a meaningful way.
Review your values annually.
Make it a habit to review your core values at least once a year, such as at the start of each new year. Look at the values you identified and see if they still resonate strongly with you. Think about events from the past year and how you grew as a person. Did you strengthen certain values or gain new perspectives? Revise or reword any values that no longer speak to you.
Ask others for input.
Get input from close friends or family members you respect. Ask them what values they see you demonstrating or what principles seem most important in your decision-making. Their observations can reveal insights you may have missed. Incorporate any suggestions that align with your own view.
Consider life transitions.
Major life events like getting married, having children, changing careers, or overcoming hardship can impact your values. Take time to re-evaluate what matters most after experiencing significant transitions or milestones. The priorities that guided you in the past may have shifted, requiring you to refine or replace some values.
Values are fluid.
Understand that your core principles are not rigid or unchanging. As you continue to learn and grow as a person, stay open to values evolving in ways you didn’t anticipate. The values that shape your character at age 20, 40, or 60 may differ but still reflect who you are at each stage of life. Embrace values as an ongoing discovery of what makes you who you are.
Revisiting your values ensures they stay vibrant and meaningful, giving you a solid inner compass to navigate life’s journey. Make reflection and refinement a habitual practice. Your values are a lifelong work in progress.
The importance of living a values-driven life
Living according to your core values is one of the most important things you can do to lead an authentic and meaningful life. When you know what really matters to you, you gain clarity about the choices you make and the direction you want to go. You’ll feel more confident, empowered, and motivated.
Identifying your values may not always be straightforward. Take time for self-reflection to gain insight into what’s most important to you. Some things to consider:
- What causes do you care about or support? Things like education, environment, health, community, etc. Often, our values are revealed through our passions and priorities.
- How do you want to behave and contribute to the world? Values like integrity, honesty, kindness, courage, growth, etc.
- What are your natural strengths, talents, and gifts? They frequently align with our values.
- What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered? This can point to values that you hold dear.
Once you’ve determined your core values, make a commitment to live according to them. Let your values guide your decisions, shape your goals, and motivate your actions. Review them regularly to keep them top of mind. Living according to your values will give you an internal compass to navigate life’s challenges and help ensure you have no regrets.
While it can take effort and practice, choosing to lead a values-driven life is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Staying true to yourself and making choices that align with what really matters is a fulfilling way to live. Your values define who you are, so make them a priority and discover the power they hold to transform your life.
What Drives You and Gives Life Meaning
To live a life of purpose and meaning, you must identify your core values—the principles that drive you and give you a sense of fulfillment. These values are unique to you and help guide every decision you make. Discovering them is a journey of self-reflection and awareness.
- What excites or energizes you? Things like learning, helping others, competition, creativity, etc.
- What are you good at and enjoy doing? Your natural talents, skills, and strengths • What are your proudest accomplishments? The achievements that gave you a sense of meaning
- Who do you admire and why? The values and qualities you respect in others often reflect your own.
Look for patterns and themes in your answers. Repeat this exercise over days or weeks, going deeper into your motivations and sources of meaning.
As your core values become clear, write them down and refer to them often. Let these guiding principles steer you toward purposeful and fulfilling life choices. Whenever faced with a significant decision, check that the option aligns with your values. Staying true to yourself is the surest path to meaning and inner peace.
Though discovering your core values requires reflection, the rewards of a life lived with purpose are well worth the effort. Your values are your inner compass; follow them to destinations of growth, impact, and joy.
Why finding them matters for personal growth
Knowing your core values provides a foundation for growth and purpose. When you identify what matters most to you, you gain clarity about who you are and what you stand for. This self-knowledge then guides you to make better decisions and progress in a meaningful direction.
- Your values shape your priorities and determine your actions. Understanding them helps ensure you spend your time and energy on what really counts to you. Without this awareness, it’s easy to get distracted by unimportant things and lose your way. When challenges arise, your values help you evaluate options and choose a path forward. They give you a compass to navigate difficult decisions and stay true to yourself. Hard times often reveal our deepest values, so reflecting on them prepares you for life’s ups and downs.
- Living according to your values builds confidence and self-respect. You feel good about the choices you make and the impact you have. This inner strength and contentment are essential for wellbeing and personal growth.
- Your values influence how you treat others and contribute to the world. They shape your character and spirit, which then spreads to the people around you. Clarifying what matters most helps ensure you show up as your best self in all areas of life.
Discovering your core values is a journey of self-discovery that never really ends. But making the effort to explore them, understand them, and commit to living by them can transform your life in powerful ways. They provide an internal guidance system for becoming who you want to be and making a difference that lasts. This is why finding your true values matters so much for growth and purpose.
How to integrate values into everyday life
Now that you’ve done the hard work of determining what matters most to you, it’s time to put those values into action. Integrating your core values into your everyday life will help guide your decisions and shape the person you want to become.
Start by reviewing your list of values regularly. Post them somewhere visible, like your fridge or desk, to keep them top of mind. Refer to them when faced with important life choices to ensure your options align with what you value most. Make a habit of evaluating how you can express one or more values each day through small acts.
Communicate your values to close ones. Let friends and family know what matters to you and why. Ask them to provide feedback on how you can strengthen living according to your values. Their support can help keep you accountable.
Look for ways to practice your values at work. If creativity is important to you, propose an innovative new project. If collaboration is key, suggest team-building activities to strengthen bonds with coworkers. Finding purpose and meaning in your career will lead to greater happiness and fulfillment.
Make values-based goals and revisit them regularly. Set concrete targets for how you will enact important values in the months and years to come. Break big goals into small, actionable steps. Check your progress often and revise as needed. Achieving goals that align with your deepest values will give you a profound sense of accomplishment.
Living according to your values is a journey, not a destination. Make it a habit to continuously reflect on what matters most and seek new ways to strengthen that connection. Integrating your values into your daily life in both small and big ways will help you become your best self.
Discover your values and live them. You have within you a compass that can guide you to a life of purpose and meaning. One that fills you with passion and directs you to your highest potential. Your core values are the foundation for this life, waiting to be unearthed. Now that you have the tools to dig deep and clarify what matters most, the only thing left is to take action.
Don’t let another day go by without gaining this insight into yourself. Make the time, do the work, and stay committed to following where your values lead. They will open you up to new opportunities and take you places you never imagined possible. The journey may not always be easy, but you will have your values to ground you and show you the way forward.
This is your chance to determine the kind of person you want to become and the legacy you want to leave. Discover your values and start living a life that honors the real you. The time is now, and the opportunity is here. I hope you dare to take it.
- 7 Ways to Apply Your Personal Core Values in Daily Life; It’s one thing to declare core values, but another to actually live them. Take these steps to ensure your authentic success. BY KEVIN DAUM, INC
- A List of 20 Values [and Why People Can’t Agree On More]
- Your Guide To Living a Values-Based Life
- How a journey to self-discovery will set you free | Puck Kroonsberg | TEDxUniversiteitVanAmsterdam
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