Core values are the fundamental beliefs you have about your life.

They guide your behaviors, decisions, and actions. They bring about a sense of purpose and self-worth. They remind you what’s important to you and what you want more of in your life.

When you know what’s important to you, you can live in alignment with those values. This leads to greater fulfillment, clarity and self-awareness.

This self-awareness allows you to discover your purpose.

Your life purpose is who you are at your core. Identifying your core values brings you back to your center.

Values remind you who you are and who you’re meant to be in the world. They’re gentle guide rails to keep us on our path and help us choose actions that are aligned with what we really want.

When we find what we really want, we can truly live our purpose. And if every woman lived her purpose, every need in the world would be met.

Here’s how Core Values Help You Find Your Purpose:

Core values are the fundamental beliefs you have about your life.

Your core values represent the things you treasure most in life. They’re the essential foundation for finding your life purpose because they’re the “how” you’ll find your “why.”

As you move through life, your values might change. For example, early in your career, you might have valued learning, achievement, or flexibility. As you advance, you might start to value teaching, collaboration, or stability.

What’s important to you may change over time, and so will your values. Identifying your core values will remind you of what’s important to you now, or what you want more of in your life – like work-life balance or abundance or wisdom.

Knowing what’s important to you is the starting point. If you need help identifying what’s important to you, check out this article on How to Find Your Purpose in 4 Easy Steps.

Core values help you make decisions

Roy E. Disney said, “when your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”

Once you know what’s truly important to you, you can use this information to make decisions that align with the things you want most from your life.

If work-life balance is important to you, you may decide to turn down a job offer that involves a lot of travel or late meetings. If achievement is important to you, you may decide to pursue a career or position with a lot of growth opportunity.

Your core values also help you to make the right decisions when things aren’t going well in your life, your job, or your organization. When times are tough or money is tight, it’s easy to make a decision to lay off several employees or purchase cheaper equipment or supplies.

Those aren’t inherently bad choices, but if your core values are people or quality, those decisions will fall out of alignment with what’s important to you as a leader.

Only you can make these decisions for your life. You know when you’ve made a decision that is out of alignment with your values – you feel it in your gut. You may feel a sense of frustration, or feel like you’re stuck, or even feel like a hypocrite, like I did when I took a leadership role in an organization where my core values were almost the opposite of the company’s.

Recognizing when you’ve made a decision that is in alignment with your core values is a little less obvious. Because you’ll feel more in flow, you might not notice it at all!

Core values ensure alignment to your path

Making decisions that align with your core values helps you feel like you’re on the right path or in the right place at the right time, or that things come easily to you.

Those are the feelings you’re looking for to know when you’re in alignment with your life purpose. Pay attention to moments when you feel in flow, and write them down in your journal. Over time, you can start to make connections with careers or positions that feel aligned.

Maybe you feel in flow when you’re teaching others or volunteering or learning something new. Perhaps you feel aligned when you’re spending time with your children or family, or when you’re winning another award, or going back to school. Make note of these moments; they’ll lead you to your purpose.

Grab your journal and write about times in your life when you felt aligned to your core values. Times when you felt like things were working out for you, or when you felt like you were doing the right thing or on the right path.

See if you can pick out themes from these moments. They might be a clue to your purpose!

Core values help you live authentically

Most importantly, core values remind you who you are.

In this world of comparison, it’s so easy to look at other people’s lives and want to be like them. Or, if you’re in an organization where you feel out of place, it can be tempting to try to act like the other leaders just to fit in

Here’s the truth: you were never meant to be like anyone else.

There is only one you. There will only ever be this one you. No one else will ever come close to the unique experiences, strengths, values, skills, and gifts that you possess.

Why give all that up to be like someone you’re not?

Your core values help you stay true to who you are and how you’re meant to show up in the world. Acting like someone you’re not is robbing the world of your brilliance and generosity and caring and compassion.

Marie Forleo says, “the world needs that special gift that only you have.”

And you can find that gift by identifying your core values.

How to Identify Your Core Values

To identify your core values, start by thinking about the times you were the most happy, proud, or fulfilled: what were you doing? What contributed to these feelings? You can also start with this list of common core values for inspiration.

You can also think about times or situations in your life that create conflict. If you’re working more than 50 hours each week and you feel frustrated or wish you could spend more time with your family, maybe your values are family or work-life balance. If your boss is a micromanager who constantly looks over your shoulder and pushes you on deadlines, and you feel trapped or discouraged, maybe one of your values is autonomy or independence.

Start to make a list of the values you identify from these stories and this list of common core values. Write down everything that comes to mind.

Once you have a good list, see if you can combine any of the values on your list to start narrowing down to your top 5. For example, if you value philanthropy, generosity, kindness, and community service, you could combine those into a single “giving back” or “serving others” value.

Why 5? Well, if everything’s important, nothing is important. Keeping your list to five core values allows you to easily weigh options, make decisions, and align your actions with your purpose.

When you have the five values that feel the most aligned or resonate most with you, write them at the top of a fresh page in your journal.

Every day for a week, write down the ways you see these values playing out in your life. If you value flexibility, you can write about how you’re grateful for a job that allows you to work from home. Or if creativity is one of your core values, you might notice that you felt most energized when you were able to work on a project that allowed you to get creative.

You may also start to note days when you don’t see your values showing up for you. If your current job or career doesn’t seem to be in alignment with your top five core values, think about what steps you might take to cultivate more alignment.

It doesn’t have to be as drastic as finding a new job. It can be something simple like getting involved in a committee or affinity group where you can do something different that still contributes to your organization. Or, you can talk to your boss about working from home on Fridays to help cut down your commuting time.

If your values aren’t showing up for you in your daily life, or if you find yourself making decisions that go against your core values, you’re not aligned with your life purpose.

Take steps to get back on the path by recommitting to your core values and setting an intention to seek out ways to align with them in your work or personal life.

The Takeaway

Core values inform your thoughts, decisions, and actions and help you align your career or life path to what’s important to you. They’re the essential foundation in finding your life purpose, because they remind us – and others – who we truly are. Who we’re meant to be. What gift we’re meant to share with the world.

Take action now: Check out this list of common core values. Write down the values that resonate with you, then review your list. See if you can combine a few values together or narrow your list down to your top 5.

From there, grab your journal and write about how you see these values showing up for you in your daily life. Try this exercise every day for a week to uncover themes and patterns in the decisions you make or the actions you take at work and in your personal life.

What are your top 5 core values? Share them in the comments and let me know how they show up for you in your life!

This article originally appeared on the Bright Space blog at: