How do we make decisions unless we have a strong sense of what we value? We are always either moving toward or away from our values with every action we take. It can be hard to tell which direction we’re moving, unless we know what the principles are we stand on and for. Creating a list can be a game changer. We select values that represent what’s most important to us right now, knowing that our values can and will evolve over time. Try not to list traditional values, though there’s nothing wrong with them being on your list, often though these are qualities we think others would approve of. This will not serve us well for long. The challenge is to locate what uniquely and authentically resonates in us in this moment! Take your time, make it interesting, enjoy the process.
- Do an online search for a list of core values. There are many. Below is one you can download.
- Print out the list.
- Circle any values that stand out for you.
- Create a new list of the words you circled. Add any words you like to the list.
- Begin grouping similar values together. For example: connection, belonging, and intimacy are related.
- Select one word that best represents each grouping. If you have a group of values that include honesty, transparency, integrity, and truth then integrity might work as a catch all for those values. You can always keep the other words in parentheses for context.
- Hone your list from these representative words. While the number of core values differs for each person, the magic range seems to be between 5 and 10. Too few and you won’t feel they represent you well enough. Too many and it’s easy to forget them.
- From your reduced list, rank your 5-10 key values in the order of importance.
This final list is a marvelous springboard from which to make decisions both large and small going forward. You may want to do this exercise once a year or anytime you find yourself feeling confused, vague, or in uncharted waters. Like coming out of quarantine!
Patti Digh says we don’t actually “pick” our values; they are revealed to us! This is a condensed version of her Discovering your Values exercise from ‘First 37’.