What do you really value in life?
How are your actions and values related?
Learn how to discover (and change) your values.
Have you ever had a problem making a decision?
Or wondered what you should do next?
Or just felt stuck in general in life.
An easy way to solve these problems is to go back to your core values.
But this only works if you know what your core values are. The best way to know them is to consciously define them. Then you can use them to live the life you want to live.
What is a core value?
A core value is a principle that guides a person's internal conduct as well as their relationship with the outside world. It is a belief that helps generate your actions.
We all have core values, whether we acknowledge them or not. It is a major reason why we tend to act in a consistent manner. A great example of this are people who always seem to be eating healthy or exercising. These consistent actions derive from something that person believe deep down.
This consistency is never 100%. Life happens and people miss workouts, or eat pizza. But some people never take a month off from exercise or give up on their diet until next January 1st.
There are two important things you need to understand about core values. You have to honestly believe them, and they can change over time (or be changed intentionally).
The true measure for how much someone believes in a core value are their actions.
When people’s actions “conflict” with their values it is usually a problem of prioritization. This is because the actions that support two different values may conflict.
For example let’s take someone who believes in health. They may know that part of maintaining health is regular exercise. But they might also believe that work is important, and relaxation is important and spending time with family is important and that they don’t have enough time to do all of these things.
If this situation doesn’t lead to regular exercise then health is not a “core” value. There are other values that are prioritized higher. The values that generate actions are the true core values.
If we take a look at this person’s life and see that they find 3-5 hours a week doing non movement relaxation activities (i.e. Netflix, TV, Internet etc) then we know that relaxation is more “core” than health.
Often we can find solutions that meet multiple needs. In this example we can try movement related relaxation activities (such as walking, yoga, biking etc.). But if the person still chooses inactive relaxation then we have learned that health isn’t really a core value for them.
Health is an often something people think is a core value but isn’t. This is because no one doesn’t want to be healthy. But for a lot of people they have other values that are superseding it, often they don’t even realize it is happening.
This is one reason why taking the time to define (and prioritize) your values is a worthwhile activity. Once you see your values you can either adjust your values, or adjust your actions to live in harmony with yourself.
You need to act in accordance with your values for happiness. A problem arises when you keep telling yourself something is important, attempt to act on it, and fail.
They can change (or be changed)
You are born with certain characteristics and predispositions. The environment that you were raised in ingrained certain values into you. And as you age new life experiences will continue to modify your values.
But you can also make a conscious decision and change them.
This process is very simple but not easy.
It starts with a decision to change. Followed by actions.
“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking, than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.” - Millard Fuller
What this means is that after you make a decision to change a core value in your life, you need to start acting like someone who holds this value. Eventually you will start to think like someone who holds that value.
This is the opposite of how most people try to change. They try to think themselves into being motivated to do the actions. This simply does not work. It might work for a short period of time, but after that ends you need to be dedicated to doing the actions, even if you don’t feel like doing them. How long do you think you would keep your job if you only showed up on days you felt motivated to go?
Changing your values is about changing your actions. Once you see yourself doing the actions for long enough you will start to think of yourself differently. Once you think of yourself as that person, you will feel like you have to keep up the actions. It becomes a positive reinforcing loop.
This may seem circular and impossible to change. Your values cause actions, your actions cause values. But more accurately what is happening is that multiple things (genetics, history, mood, etc) define your values. Every action you make now becomes part of your history. You have conscious control over your actions. Actions are the intervention point, where we can redirect the reinforcing loop. If we don't then the default keeps reinforcing itself, and becomes harder and harder to change in the future.
Defining your Core Values
There is great value in taking time to define the core values that are really important in your life. Afterwards you will have a bar to compare your actions to.
It also serves as a guide to decision making. When you have a tough decision having a list of core values to reference will help you make that one that leads you in the direction that you want to go.
Finding your core values is simple, but not easy. You can take some time to just think about what is important to you in your life or start making a list. If you need some inspiration I put together a list of 180 possible values. Check it out.
Then comes the difficult part. Prioritization. For your list of values to be meaningful and useful you have know which ones are core (take precedence over others) a list of 10 or 20 values is not very helpful.
“You can have anything you want, but not everything” - Laura Lang
I want you to know your top 3. These should drive your life (read actions). Take your time and narrow down the list to the three that really matter.
Now you have a useful guide to make decisions and judge your actions.
My personal three core values are currently
Living in sync with your values will help you make good decisions. Decisions that will lead you to places that you want to go. Places filled with meaning and joy.
Once you take the time to make you list I would love to see it. Shoot me an email at David@magenfitness.com and let me know what you come up with!