How to identify your core values in life – tell me what you want, what you really really want (and can you tell me WHY?)

What are your core values?

As we’ve seen in previous blogs, combining motherhood and a career successfully is possible if you identify what you want to achieve, picture your journey positively, set yourself goals and prepare for challenges that may arise. It sounds straightforward enough doesn’t it – but perhaps one of the hardest parts is working out what YOU actually want in life. And in order to do that, you also need to know WHY you want it. We are all influenced by society and cultural norms, social trends, education, politics, our family and friends. How do we know what really matters to us as individuals? Or in other words, how do we identify the WHAT and WHY of our own lives – our personal core values?

You will only ever find real motivation for your work/life/family projects if you are being authentic and staying true to your core values. When I was working in the City before I had children, I certainly knew what I wanted – a well-paid job with status and recognition – but I had no sense of any deeper meaning to my ambitions. This resulted in a crisis of motivation when I initially tried to combine my working life and motherhood. By stepping back, reflecting, and learning to identify my core values, I was able to work out a better strategy for keeping myself motivated and happy, whilst working and parenting.

core values

Here are my top tips for discovering your core values.

  1. Reflect on your life experiences
    Think about the times in your life when you felt most excited and energised. What was going on at the time and what were you doing? Conversely, reflect on some occasions in your life when you felt enraged, frustrated or devastated. Again – what was going on at that time and what were you doing? Note down your answers.
  2. Identify your values
    Think about the values that describe each of those experiences. Have a look at this list of values to help you and choose a handful that resonate most deeply with how you felt at the time:
    Adventure, Ambition, Beauty, Authenticity, Creativity, Excellence, Excitement, Freedom, Friendship, Fun, Honesty, Humour, Integrity, Kindness, Learning, Love,  Nurturing, Openness, Recognition, Trust, Balance, Choice, Appreciation, Security, Reward, Growth, Balance, Achievement, Spirituality, Zest, Health, Performance, Order, Risk-taking, Recognition, Loyalty, Challenge, Tolerance, Autonomy, Independence, Originality, Flexibility, Respect, Safety, Stability, Care
  3. Compose a values statement for each of your chosen values
    Write a sentence next to each of your values explaining what it means to you and your life: eg: Health – ‘It is important to me to eat well and exercise regularly to maintain high fitness and energy levels.’ Or Independence – ‘It is important to me to earn my own money and have control of my finances’
  4. Rank your values and plan some positive actions that align with each value
    For eg: if you value learning highly, you might plan to read a book every week, or learn a new language this year. Or if you value Achievement, you could set yourself a clear stretch goal at work and take deliberate action to help you achieve it.
  5. Revisit your values regularly
    Assess how you are doing in relation to living a life true to your core values. Your values can change over time of course, it’s self-awareness that is key.

Once you have identified your core values, you are well on the way to working out what you want out of your life combining career and motherhood. Knowing what you want and WHY you want it will help you set achievable goals and prepare for the challenges ahead.

Have you identified your core values? Join the discussion in our Linkedin group and tell us what’s important to you!

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