How core values can guide you to live authentically
When you live in accordance to your values, you live a life that is meaningful and personal. But our personal values are often shrouded by fear, conditioning and society’s standards. We explore how to dig deep and rediscover your values for a life lived with purpose and passion.
Do you have a clear set of values that guide your life? Do you know what you need to thrive? When you know what matters to you and what you need to live a fulfilling and vibrant life, it is easier to make good decisions and live more authentically.
Decision-making can feel difficult and complex when you don’t have something to guide you. Without a solid foundation you can flounder and get stuck in overthinking. Or you may resort to making choices based on what others think you “should” be doing. The choices you make in your life matter; your decisions can move you closer to what you value, or further away.
While it can be tempting to make choices that are based on what you feel you “should” be doing, even if they may be out of alignment with your values, there’s often a pay-off for that disconnect. Your body may begin to show signs of stress or illness. You might begin to feel exhausted, restless, anxious, flat, bored or resentful. You may feel a sense that there’s something missing in your life.
However, when you make decisions that align with your values you experience the joy of living more authentically and with more integrity. In her book Dare To Lead, Brené Brown defines values as “a way of being or believing that we hold most important”. Your values are what matter most to you when it comes to how you live, how you work and the way you engage in relationships. Your values are your compass. Making value-based decisions means you end up doing more of the things you’re good at, that support you and that ultimately allow you to thrive.
Know your values
Do you know your core values? Do you regularly use your values to guide your life? Or in the busyness of life, have you become disconnected from what truly matters to you? Brown says, “We can’t work to stay aligned with values when we haven’t spent any time getting curious about, or naming, what we care about most.” Let’s take a look at how you can identify your core life values, so you can better integrate them into your daily life and enjoy more flow, joy and purpose.
Step1: Identify your top five values
Begin by identifying your top five values. You can do this by using the values list below or by doing an online search for “values assessments”. As you consider your values, reflect on your life as it is now. What you’re currently doing (and not doing) will provide you with insight into what truly matters to you. Begin to observe:
- What you make time for
- What you spend your money on
- What you feel drawn to
- What excites you
- What gets you into the flow state
- What you wish you didn’t have to do
Step 2: Refine your values list
Once you’ve identified your top five values, move on to the challenging task of narrowing your list to just two core values. Why two? Brown says, “If everything on the list is important, then nothing is truly a driver for you.” Less is more. By only having two core values it’s easier to keep them front and centre in your mind and they become more useful.
Brown offers guidance around how to clarify and choose your two core values. She suggests you look at which values enable you to live the other values on your list; what she refers to as “second tier” values. She suggests you ask yourself three questions to help in the process:
- Does this define me?
- Is this who I am at my best?
- Is this a filter that I use to make hard decisions?
For example, my top five life values are contribution, creativity, learning, family and balance. As I look over this list, I can see that when I’m being creative, I’m also learning and contributing. Therefore, creativity enables me to fulfil my values of learning and contributing. In the same way, when I look at my values of balance and family, I can see that when I have balance in my life (through meaningful work and taking time to nurture my body and mind), I’m a better mum and wife. Therefore, balance enables me to live my value of family. From this exercise I can narrow my list of five values down to just two core values: creativity and balance.
Step 3: Define your values
Once you have chosen two core values, it’s time to define them. How you define your values will be unique and personal to you. For example, someone who values creativity may define creativity as painting or sculpting, while for another, creativity may mean problem-solving in their job. Take some time to express what your two core values mean to you and how they help you live your bigger life purpose.
Step 4: Use your values
Now that you have two clearly defined values you can use them in your day-to-day life to improve your decision-making, build your confidence and live with more authenticity and purpose. Brown says, “Our values should be so crystallised in our minds so infallible, so precise, and clear and unassailable, that they don’t feel like a choice, they are simply a definition of who we are in our lives.” As you make changes and decisions in your life, assess your options based on your two core values by checking in and asking yourself:
- What do I need to change to live my values more fully?
- Will this decision allow me to live my values?
- Will this decision take me further away from my values?
For example, you might be offered a new job, but it would mean working interstate and being away from your family. If your top value was family, you could respectfully turn down the opportunity, knowing that over time it wouldn’t support your health, happiness or relationships. If, however, your greatest value was adventure, this might be the perfect job opportunity for you to move interstate and experience something new.
Ideally, you would always make value-aligned decisions in your life, but it often takes bravery to live authentically. To make decisions that are guided by your values, you need to be deeply honest with yourself about want you want and don’t want in your life. Making value-aligned decisions may mean going against the norm and upsetting the status quo, which isn’t always easy or comfortable.
The courageous path
Sheila Vijeyarasa, author of Brave: Courageously Live Your Truth, writes that “When you live by your values you will disappoint people. That’s why I call it the Courageous Path.” Having left her full-time career as the chief financial officer of a global publishing company to become a full-time medium and spirit guide, Vijeyarasa knows all about the courage needed to make massive life changes in order to live her values and calling.
Vijeyarasa says she stepped into her courageous life “in a way that made sense to no one but myself”. While it’s not always easy living an authentic life, you know when you’re out of alignment with what you need to thrive. “You may feel a longing, a knowing that there is more than what you currently have … you may be at a fork in the road,” she says. And when you reach that fork in the road, “One road is more of the same version of your life: the safe, predictable and lacklustre path full of the same worries and concerns. It is highly probable this is someone else’s path you are walking on.”
The other road, however, leads to a more authentic life, where you can more fully live your values and what matters to you. “The other road presents more of an unknown. Fear and a lack of courage prevent you from taking the other path. Until you allow the real you to show up on these journeys it is not your journey,” says Vijeyarasa.
To live a full, vibrant, energised and purpose-driven life, take a moment to reflect on your life now and imagine your future. Take a few long and deep breaths and listen to your heart: really hear what changes are calling you. If you were living a values-driven life:
- Would you be living where you are?
- Would you be in the same job?
- Would you have the same friends and relationships?
- Would you be saying “yes” to new opportunities?
- Would you have different boundaries?
- Would you be spending your money on different things?
Stepping out of your comfort zone
While it takes bravery to live your values, knowing your values can also make you braver. Your values can give you the courage to step out of your comfort zone. When faced with expansive growth opportunities, it can be tempting to run the other way; growth often sparks fear and uncertainty and being out of your comfort zone rarely feels good. However, you can harness your fears and say “Yes” to new opportunities by making decisions based on your higher guiding values.
When you face opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone, ask yourself: “Does this opportunity allow me to more fully live my values?” “Will this opportunity move my life in the direction I desire?” When the answer is “Yes,” it’s time to “Feel the fear and do it anyway” as author, Susan Jeffers says. It’s been my experience that the very opportunities that spark fear but are also value-aligned lead to the most positive life-changing experiences and growth.
Of course, not all value-aligned decisions pan out as expected. The business you start might take longer to establish than you thought it would, or your decision to start a family may be met with challenges. The power of making value-based decisions isn’t that it guarantees success or smooth sailing, but that it gives you confidence and comfort that you’re making empowered decisions based on what matters to you and want you want for your life.
Tap into your intuition
As you seek to live a more value-driven life, your intuition can guide you. To connect and hear your own internal voice and wisdom, Vijeyarasa says, “We need to turn down the noise … a noisy life will block your intuition.” A simple way to connect with your intuition and guides, says Vijeyarasa, is to be intentional about how you start your day.
Vijeyarasa suggests, “Before the day starts and before you check your phone and social media, check in with yourself. Create a sacred space each day to meditate, journal and be silent to check in with your priorities, what matters to you, what brings you joy and how you can more fully live in alignment.” As you tune into your intuition on a daily basis, you’ll begin to feel when decisions are out of alignment and what decisions to make instead. Your intuition is there to guide you.
If the changes you want to make feel too big, overwhelming or scary, start small. Begin to align your life in small ways first, as you work your way up to bigger decisions. Build your bravery. Trust that each aligned decision you make, big or small, will bring you more deeply into your authentic path where you can actively live your values and truly thrive.
Jessica Lee is a performance and mindset coach, speaker and writer. She is passionate about helping people use brain-based strategies to achieve their goals and increase their health, happiness and creativity. She runs The Spark Effect Academy, an online performance and mindset program. Get in touch with Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org or via thesparkeffect.com.au.