Understanding our core values can bring about many benefits, not only in our personal life, but in our professional lives too. They drive our behavior, our actions, and essentially who we are. They determine what’s important to us and can help steer us towards our true north. Knowing and understanding our values can also help us to make decisions that are in harmony with our purpose, and thus allow us to live our lives more authentically.

If we know what our values are and we’re consciously living them at work, the chances are we’re happier and more content. We’re able to bring our best selves to work, which in turn drives more positive emotions, including increased energy, passion and creativity. Not knowing our personal values can negatively impact our happiness and job satisfaction – we’re more likely to make poor decisions, and more likely to be in roles that are unknowingly compromising our beliefs and what we stand for. If your top value is family for example, but you’re consistently working 70+ hours a week, this is likely to be causing you angst and frustration as you try to balance work and family life.

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are” – Roy Disney

According to Stew Friedman, author of Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life, the key to leading a meaningful and less overwhelmed life, is to invest in leading a life in which you stay true to yourself, focusing simply on what truly matters to you. Your values are your internal compass and living them helps to steer you towards goals and opportunities that are in harmony with your beliefs – ultimately leading to greater life satisfaction and fulfillment.

Determining our core values can be hard to articulate since we’re often living them subconsciously. Bringing them into the forefront of our minds however can be powerful, enabling us to shift direction and leading us to live more authentically. I’ve provided a simple exercise you can use below to identify yours;

  1. From the list of values, select the 10 values that are the most important to you.
  2. Once you have selected 10, reduce this list down to your top 5. You can group together values where you feel there is synergy, for example, if you think collaboration and connection are closely correlated you can group these words together. Try not to overthink it and go with your gut instinct.
  3. When you have your top 5, write a paragraph for each articulating why this value is important to you and what it looks like when you’re truly living the value.
  4. Prioritize each and on a scale of 1-10 determine how much you’re living this value in your day to day life.
  5. Then for each value, brainstorm ways in which you could live this value more frequently. For example, if you value advancement, you could work with your manager to identify the steps it will take to get to the next level. If you value adventure, is there an opportunity to take on a new experience or assignment? And if you value collaboration, is there a project you can volunteer for which would allow you to be more collaborative with others?
  6. Decide on the 1-2 goals that if you worked towards implementing, would improve your job satisfaction and happiness at work – and then take action.

Doing this exercise will help you to uncover your guiding principles and when you next experience conflict or frustration at work, consider whether this may be caused by a misalignment of your values. If so, think about the changes you could make that would honor your values and lead you to more fulfilling and meaningful work.

Originally published at happydayspsychology.com


  • Emma Simpson

    Founder & CEO

    VUCA Leadership Institute

    Emma Simpson is the Founder and CEO at VUCA Leadership Institute, an organization supporting leaders to navigate uncertainty, break through barriers and to courageously lead and thrive in the organization and beyond. Find out more about our coaching programs and group events at www.vucali.com.