I recently delivered a workshop on core values and how identifying them is the spark that will get a fire of motivation roaring inside you. I wanted the attendees to leave knowing exactly what goals they wanted to achieve and (more importantly) motivated to achieve them. The first step was to help them (and now you, dear reader) find their core values.

What are these? Core values are beliefs that you hold as being the most important, above all others.

Why are they so important? Because your core values are the foundation of how you interact with the world and inform the goals you set. Your core values are your compass as you navigate life. They will help you decide if you are going to blow off a friend if you get a better offer, if you save that pay raise or treat yourself, or prioritise family time over work.

When I ask my clients what their core values are, most of them answer the same generic things – family, loyalty, community etc. We have been conditioned to view these types of values as the “right” ones without ever stopping to think if they are right for us.

For example, one of your values may well be money. You might be slightly embarrassed to admit this (although I am not saying you should be) and pretend to value having a balanced life. Hopefully you can see that these two values cannot co-exist for one person. Your desire for money will normally outweigh your desire for balance, resulting in your working more than others who have different values.

When we align with our values, we have more energy and feel more fulfilled. On the other hand, when we don’t align with our values, we feel less authentic and become demotivated about our daily lives. A great analogy is a tree: core values are the roots which give strength to the leaves and trunk (our body and mind).

Let’s do an exercise to find your core values. Firstly, you can only have 6-8 core values (or they wouldn’t be core, would they?). Try this exercise to identify some core values:

1. Think of a situation where you felt a deep connection with what was happening

2. Describe the situation is as much detail as you can

3. Ask yourself what values are recognisable in this situation

4. Repeat until you have a list of 6-8 core values

Let me give you an example of the method:

1. Think of a situation where you felt a deep connection with what was happening

When I was 17 I had to prepare an oral presentation during my philosophy class.

2. Describe the situation is as much detail as you can

I can still remember the topic (death!) and how I felt standing in front of my professor and my classmates. It was a mixture of calmness and excitement – I couldn’t wait for my presentation to begin! I had no idea that most people don’t like public speaking – it is more feared than death itself!  The more I talked, the better I felt. The teacher had to cut me off because I was having such a good time. As I walked back to my desk I felt overwhelmed with happiness and a sense of accomplishment.

3. Ask yourself what values are recognisable in this situation

The main ones that I can identify are: communication, performance, connection

I don’t know what caused me to be this way. Perhaps it is because I am the youngest in my family and my parents encouraged my desire to be heard. Unfortunately, I didn’t do the work of identifying my values until many years later – don’t make this same mistake. Ever since realising that I absolutely love public speaking and interacting with an audience, I have actively pursued work in this area and have never been happier.

There are other ways to find core values. For example, you could scroll through a list of values such as this one and select a few. If you choose this option then I would still recommend thinking of situations where a value showed itself to be important to you. Otherwise you may end up with a list of values that look good but that you don’t connect with.

Identifying your core values will have many benefits apart from setting your soul on fire. They will enable you to make quicker and better decisions, allow you to know yourself better which can lead to more open and honest communication, increase your self-confidence and build your overall resilience.