woman using telescope
Image by nine koepfer

In life, you make choices. And your choices make you. Because your choices have consequences, you often get stuck. But does making choices always have to be this stressful? Today you might be filled with doubts. And perhaps you feel paralyzed. Whether you’re deciding your next career direction or considering moving to a new city, the decision process can feel overwhelming.

I can’t promise that you won’t have to another hard decision. But what I can promise is that you’ll have an easier time making decisions. How? By teaching you how to find your core values. But before you learn how to find them, let’s take a quick look at what they are.

What Are Core Values?

Your core values are your fundamental beliefs. But these values are different for everyone. Whether they know it or not, everyone has core values inside them.

And because most people aren’t aware of their core values, not everyone lives according to them. This can lead to regrettable choices like entering a career that they absolutely hate.

So how do you make better choices that align with your values? First, you have to find your core values. Then set goals that align with them. How long will it take to live according to your values? 

That depends. Why? Because everyone is on different points in their journey, the time to achieve their goals will vary from person to person.

But no matter how far away your goals are, you’ll experience joy when you make progress towards your dreams. Finding your core values can be tricky. So I’ve come up with 5 simple steps to help you discover them. And as a bonus, I’ll show you how to make value-aligned goals.

5 Simple Steps to Finding Your Core Values

person writing bucket list on book
Image by Glenn Carstens-Peters

1.       Create a List of Values

One of the best ways to approach any unclear task is to begin by creating a list. Get a pen and paper. Then set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes. List as many core values as you can until the timer goes off. 

If you can’t think of any, here’s a list to help you start:

·         Financial Security

·         Inner Peace

·         Love

·         Respect

·         Work-Life Balance

·         Location Independence

·         Loyalty

·         Wisdom

·         Fame

·         Social Justice

·         Authenticity

·         Intellectual Stimulation

·         Community

·         Pleasure

·         Reputation

·         Authority

·         Spirituality

·         Security

·         Health

·         Faith

·         Humor

·         Adventure

·         Meaningful Work

·         Leadership

·         Fitness

·         Growth

·         Peaceful Relationships

·         Autonomy

·         Creativity

·         Knowledge

Try coming up with your own list. Why? Because that’s how you come up with values that come from you, rather than having other people’s values pushed onto you. 

Having a list will help you narrow down what your values are. But before you pick your top 6 values, think about the people you admire.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann in a crowd of demonstrators at the March on Washington
Image by Unseen Histories

2.       List 3 People You Admire

List three people you admire. You can know them personally or they can be someone you don’t know. Maybe they’re your parents or a thought leader you follow. Just keep in mind that nobody is perfect. So don’t get hung up on picking the “perfect” person. Pick three people that have qualities that you like.

After you pick your three, think deeply about what you admire about them. List those qualities and write down why you admire them. If you can’t come up with any compelling reasons, you might want to reconsider who you admire.

For example, if you admire someone just for how much money they have, you don’t admire that person. You just want their money. Think about their character or beliefs that resonate with you. Then try to articulate why you admire their qualities as descriptively as you can. These are all clues to narrowing down your top core values.

man standing on gray concrete dock facing body of water and mountains at daytime
Image by Joshua Earle

3.       Imagine Your Ideal Self

Now that you know who you admire, it’s time to project their positive qualities onto yourself. Imagine the ideal version of yourself. Let your imagination run wild. What type of life would you live? For some of you, it might be running your own successful startup company. But maybe for some of you, it’s making YouTube videos for a living while traveling around the world.

Don’t worry about how it’ll be possible. Because the goal here is to find out what you want and who you want to become. So dream as big as you want. Write down all that you want to become. Get specific and articulate your thoughts clearly. Don’t worry about what others might think. These are your dreams and what other people think is irrelevant.

black stacking stones on gray surface
Image by Sean Stratton

4.       Pick Your Top 6 Values

After you paint a clear picture of your ideal self, you’ll be ready to pick your top 6 core values. Pick them based on what your ideal self values. If your goal is to become a digital nomad, your core values might look like this: Location independence, autonomy, meaningful work, knowledge, growth, and adventure.

Or maybe you imagine yourself climbing to the top of the corporate ladder, your core values will look more like this: Financial security, leadership, authority, respect, growth, and knowledge.

And remember, as you grow older, your values change. So don’t get hung up on finding values that last a lifetime.

Do your best to match your core values to your ideal self. Since this isn’t an exact science, you just need to find a general direction that aligns with the person you want to become.

white printer paper beside filled mug
Image by Content Pixie

5.       Make Value-Aligned Goals

This is the fun part. Making value-aligned goals is similar to picking values that align with your ideal self. Set goals that help you live your life according to your values. Do this and your goals will help you become your ideal self.

Pick a big goal and break them down into achievable tasks. For example, if you want to become a YouTuber, you should set some goals for yourself that help you move towards that dream. Maybe your goal is to post 50+ videos on YouTube in a year. To do this, you’d have to post one video per week. So then you break down the process of posting a video.

Maybe on Mondays, you spend a bit of your time coming up with ideas. This could mean you sit down with a pen and paper to create a list just like we did today in step one. Or maybe it means you watch videos on topics related to your channel to write down your ideas. Whatever your goals are, turn them into a fun habit.

If you’re crunched for time, break your goals down into even smaller goals. Making a YouTube video is a long process. But if you break them down into smaller chunks, you’ll keep yourself from burning out, while still making progress.

During your breaks at your day job, you can come up with ideas with a pen and notebook. Then you’ll film the footage on a different day. And on the weekends, when you have extra time, you can edit your videos. You’ll feel proud of your achievements despite your busy schedule.

Whatever your goals are, you can break them down into small tasks that you can fit into your schedule. Slowly inch your way towards making extraordinary accomplishments.

Helpful Resources

Making decisions in your career and relationships can feel overwhelming.  So here are some resources to help you:

1. “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. 

Designing Your Life will help you make decisions that help you live a happier and more fulfilling life. This book teaches you how to quickly test what works and what doesn’t work for your life. It’s a great read if you’re feeling stuck in your career. It’ll help you discover what excites you. And teach you how to build your career based on what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at.

2. Pivot by Jenny Blake

If you feel as if you’ve hit a wall in your career, this is the book for you. Jenny Blake, a former career development program manager at Google teaches you how to leverage your strengths to find a meaningful career path. Changing careers can be stressful. But with Pivot, it doesn’t have to be. Learn how to manage the process of a career change with focus, fulfillment, and fun by picking up a copy today.

person in parachute over mountains during daytime
Image by Raimond Klavins

Live Your Life According to Your Values

Life is too short and precious to live misaligned with your values. Take some time this week to discover who you want to become. Then spend the rest of your life becoming that person.

Your life matters. Your dreams matter. You have what it takes to live your life according to your values. It’s now time for you to live a life you can be proud of.