‘Who am I?’ is a concerning and lingering question that many of us are still trying to answer. It follows us around like a weight attached to our ankle; slowing us down as we try to carve our own path. However, while most would choose to traverse into unfamiliar lands and situations or return to their roots to ‘find themselves’, the truth is that we can do the same just by looking inwards. We can learn a lot about who we are and where we want to go by identifying and understanding our core values. 

Core values are the fundamental ideals of a person. They do not just tell us who we are, they also tell us what we stand for, helping us understand ourselves better.

As Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

When people do not know themselves, they flounder with deciding how they want to move forward—they feel indecisive because they do not understand themselves. A lot about ‘finding yourself’ is simply revisiting the things we liked and valued when we were younger. So, shouldn’t we teach children to identify and select their values from a young age? 

Our values shape our future; they influence how we make decisions, acting as our personal compasses. Therefore, we need to keep time aside to reflect on ourselves and choose our values. As parents, we can assist our children in choosing their core values, which will help them live fulfilled lives. By helping them identify their core values, we help them find a direction to move forward and therefore, a purpose to pursue. 

How do we help our children choose their core values?
We can guide our children to find their values primarily by helping them understand what is important to them. However, there are essentially five standards to maintain or steps to follow when identifying and selecting core values.  

  1. Make sure the values align with who they are and who they want to be.
    Values need to align with their personal vision and mission for life. So, we can guide our children to eliminate values that are not consistent with where they want to go in life. When my mission was to be independent, financial security was high on my list of values, but that also meant that mindless consumerism needed to be eliminated.
    We will not find happiness if our values do not align with ourselves. When we recognize the values that align with us, we live life with an inside-out approach and find happiness in the directions that we take.
  2. Look for values that inspire them.
    Children’s core values, or even ours, need to inspire and motivate or at least encourage a sense of purpose. When our lives have a purpose, we feel fulfilled. So, there is no point in selecting a core value that you do not feel strong about. The trick that I used when selecting my core values was to pick values that I could pin up visibly for anyone to see. I needed to be confident in what I was showing others. After all, if it does not inspire you to be confident about it, you need to find something else.
  3. Their values need to speak volumes to them.
    Throughout life, we are inspired by many people and characters, but we cannot live life solely based on their values. Our children’s core values must emphasize priorities in their lives and set the direction they need to take. They should be a reflection of who they are as well as who they want to be.
    Our values do not have to be similar to everyone else’s values, nor do they have to meet a certain standard of approval. Just as different countries value different traits, different individuals can live by different values. The important thing is that they relate deeply to us.
  4. Select values that will help them make decisions.
    The core values that our children decide on should help them make everyday decisions in various aspects of life like relationships, work, and even financial matters. Values that are at the core of our being will influence everything we do.
    Honesty, as a core value, means that we act in ways that will not make us feel guilty, but if we do something that does make us feel guilty, honesty dictates that we be truthful and forthcoming about it.
  5. Ideally, they should select values that they will not randomly change.
    While our core values do not have to be permanent, we need to be committed to them so that we live life according to our own standard. Values should ideally change only once milestones have been completed. We can revisit values based on our personal vision and purpose once we have reached a level that requires a change. For example, I revisited my entire life plan after I sold my company, and then I designed a new one and recrafted some of my core values based on it.
    If we adhere to the values that define us, we will know when we are doing something right, and similarly, when we are doing something wrong. It helps us correct ourselves when needed and make better decisions.

Values help us understand ourselves and find our direction. However, the effect they have depends on how well they resonate with our being. A quick search of the top core values to possess will reveal traits like honest, trustworthy, reliable, fun, loyal, open-minded, etc. But these traits do not necessarily have to be your children’s core values. For that matter, your children’s core values do not even have to be a copy of yours. For them to have meaning, they need to be personalised according to the individual. Inspiration can come from all around us, but we need to look within ourselves to understand ourselves better. 

All things said and done, values are the core of our being. At times, especially when life gets hard, it may seem easier to avoid living by them. However, if we do choose to stand by our values, we will lead happier lives.

Originally published on Medium