It's easy to feel lost in the constant pull of life's decisions and demands. Today we look at core values to help you find your centre amidst the storm.
Ah, values. The ol’ buzzword that feels like it's been borrowed from a multinational corporation desperate to convince their customers that they really are nice people.
Or taken right out of a clichéd, moral story to make children behave.
We hear about values during team-building exercises and self-help seminars. But let's face it, we rarely stop to ponder our own values as we rush through the daily craziness of life.
If you told me that family was the most important thing on the planet to you, yet really couldn't make it home from work on time to ever spend quality time together. Or even when you did, the stress from work overflowed into short tempers and exhaustion, preventing proper connection...
If you told yourself that having a work-life balance - including exercising and eating healthily every day was essential to you, yet you found yourself being stuck at work every single night eating what you considered to be junk...
If you felt that having a deep connection to those closest to you was the most significant thing in your life, yet when you were with those people you found yourself tuning out in an endless cycle of screens and scrolling...
Values are not just about climbing the corporate ladder or being a new-age guru. It’s about navigating our way through the chaotic modern existence; perhaps even about having some defence against the stress, the anxiety - and even mental illness.
Beneath this, can there really lie a profound concept of a compass for our lives? (Ok, the fact that we've written an article on the topic is probably a spoiler alert!)
How so, you ask?
Positive psychology is an area that doesn’t just “encourage you to be positive”. Rather, it moves away from focusing on what’s wrong with people, and centres on what human beings need to thrive. What we need around us, and within us, to build a fulfilling life.
So, how satisfied are you with your life? Defining your deepest values shouldn’t be relegated to your retirement years as a nice (but useless) thing to do.
If at times you feel like a loose sail in the wind, being battered out of control, or maybe just floating aimlessly, then we’re here to support your journey.
An experienced therapist is on hand to help you guide that ship to mental well-being, and maybe even a bit of thriving.
Let's delve into the why, the what, and the how (along with a little at-home exercise) - so that you can embrace your values for clarity, authenticity, and meaning in your own life.
The why: Charting a meaningful course
Sure, values are such an abstract thing, right? So, why should you know what yours are?
You may have felt the very real sting hearing of a loved one's death, knowing that you'd truly meant to see them. But you just couldn't get around to it amidst your busy life.
Now, putting the visit off for all the mundane, urgent tasks seems crazy when life is just taken away.
What is life if we never get to the things that mean something to us?
The what: Identify your core values
Consider a time in your life when you’ve felt really at home - you feel like you can let go and just be yourself. Maybe it's a place, a group of people, or an activity.
Or what about a time when you've felt really excited and alive. What did that look like for you?
Although personal values are indeed more abstract, these feelings can give you a clue as to what is most important in your life - and what drives your decisions and shapes your identity.
What are some examples of personal values?
Family embodies the value you place on your relationships with loved ones.
Love signifies your belief in the power and importance of romantic relationships.
Health reflects the significance you attribute to both physical and mental well-being.
Success is your pursuit of achievement, recognition, and the fulfilment of professional goals.
Compassion shows your willingness to extend a helping hand to others.
Social Justice is a sense of fairness on different issues in your community at a small or large scale.
There are endless examples - and you can certainly create your own. There are no rules on how many you have, each usually carries its unique weight and significance.
You might also find that they change over the course of time - another good reason to check in with yourself on this front.
The how: Living in alignment
Living out of alignment with values is probably akin to what your spine feels out of alignment - not great at all.
Yet living in alignment with your values can actually support mental well-being.
A person’s sense of values (and whether they’re supported or threatened in a situation) has been found to greatly affect one’s emotions. Not so surprising, you say?
This kind of conflict might be happening internally. But how could you possibly address this, if you’re not even aware of this mismatch?
Identifying your core values is the first step to help you uncover what truly matters to you.
Exercise time (don't worry, it's only with a notebook!)
Begin with self-reflection — set aside time to reflect on what principles hold deep significance to you and which ideals inspire and resonate with your core.
Next, compile a comprehensive list of values, without concern for order or quantity at this stage. Allow your thoughts to flow freely as you brainstorm.
Finally, prioritise your values by their importance to you. Identify those that resonate on a profound level - those that you consider non-negotiable in your life.
Have you been struggling with emptiness?
If you find yourself with internal conflict over some of these aspects of your life but it just seems too hard to take stock of all that's going on, an objective perspective can bring clarity to your struggle.
There’s something really simple - yet profound, about defining your values.
And once you've defined them, embracing your values becomes so much simpler - and can bring a little more purpose and self-confidence to your existence. It can support your resilience and authenticity while nurturing better relationships.
To bring your values to life, set clear goals, make conscious decisions aligned with your principles, reflect regularly, seek support, and practice self-compassion along the (lifelong!) journey.