How To Live In Alignment With Your Values (And Identify Your Core Ones)
When it comes to creating goals and plans for ourselves, it’s important to figure out whether or not they actually align with who we are, and the life we personally want to live.
We grow up and tell our parents that we want to be astronauts or teachers, and when everything is a possibility, we try things on and figure out what resonates.
But as we get older, it all becomes so much more real. We recognize that we have to choose what to prioritize and focus on – and it can be hard to figure out what that should look like.
I’ve found that goals are the most rewarding when they’re in line with our values – and with who we want to become.
Why pursue goals or dreams when it has nothing to do with who you want to become in life?
I always think about the typical stereotype of the “family man” who works hard to provide for his family but is never home to actually BE with his family.
But equally important to figure out what we care about is recognizing that there’s a lot that we don’t care as much about that make for easier trades.
If I care about my career growth and that’s the legacy I want to create for myself, maybe I don’t care as much in this season about settling down with a family. Or maybe I care more about adventure than security or stability in this season of life.
It’s OK to want a different storyline for your life.
You’re the star of your movie, and you get to write the screenplay. Also, you’re allowed to have sequels to your movie where you evolve and your values change along with you.
1. Find your value words
What’s important to you? What motivates you?
Or, if that’s a complicated place to begin… maybe think about, what doesn’t? It’s pretty easy for me to look at a list of values and see what I don’t find important before figuring out what I do.
Choose 2-3 core values that you really resonate with – and that you feel you’d want to guide your decisions.
Meaning Organization Preparedness Optimism Positivity Authenticity Security Adventure Service Independence Commitment Competency Sensitivity Serenity Adaptability Generosity Purpose Connection
Harmony Focus Freedom Proactiveness Joy Ambitiousness Boldness Variety Growth Confidence Efficiency Resourcefulness Balance Self-reliance Devotion Equinimity Courage Support
Struggling to nail down your values?
You might look at this list and think to yourself, “I care about most of these things.”
And that’s true for all of us, but there are probably a few values that stick out as something you’re always talking about, noticing, or even getting upset about.
Notice how some people care about being on time, while others don’t care?
If you find yourself saying, “I wish people would just be more honest” or, “I wish I had the courage to wear that crop top.” Pay attention to what comes up often, and it’ll probably give you an indication of what values you hold.
2. Take a personality test
If you’re struggling to figure out your values, consider taking a personality test to help you figure that out.
I love the Enneagram, because it’s a good way to see what motivates you – and what traits dominate your personality.
3. Write down your favorite character’s attributes
Figure out what movie or TV show characters you love or want to be like, and see if you can identify common traits that make you like them.
Do you resonate with Drew Barrymore’s characters? Or maybe you resonate with Samantha Jones on Sex and The City? Maybe you’re a Hermoine girl?
Drew Barrymore might tell you that you value authenticity, quirkiness, and humor.
Contrastly, Samantha Jones might show that you value freedom, independence, and empowerment.
Hermoine might show you that you care about intelligence, preparedness, and ambition.
Identify those traits for yourself that you personally resonate with.
4. Do a little audit
When you look at the different areas of your life, do you see these 2-3 values reflected?
For me, I’ve been recognizing that one of my values is simplicity. And yet, I try to overcomplicate a lot of what I do. So, it’s such a game-changer for me to be able to say – I value simplicity, so let me come back to that and simplify things.
Here are some areas of your life to look at:
Relationships: love life, friendships, family, coworkers
5. Come back to your values when making decisions
A question for me to ask myself when making decisions because I’ve defined simplicity as a value is “How can I simplify this?”
Or, if I chose the value of abundance, I could ask myself, “If I was feeling abundant right now, what would I choose?”
For playfulness, “how can I make this experience feel more playful?”
6. Reflect on where these values stem from
Once you’ve established your values, I recommend actually reflecting on why you hold these values. For one, it will make it stronger for you to live by them when you’re clear on the reason behind why it’s important to you.
But even more importantly, a lot of our beliefs come from childhood and from what other people have shown us is important. Whether that’s been demonstrated to us by parents who were always valuing “success” and money or felt by us through always being praised for our talents or unique gifts.
Your worthiness is not tied to your values. And it’s important that you recognized that you do not have to do or be a certain way in order to be loved.
The same values can feel dramatically different:
Let’s say as an example, your mother was always worried about looks and it was an important value to her. She constantly made comments about your appearance, and now you find yourself consumed with how you look. This might not be a value that serves you.
This same value of beauty might be a positive value for someone else, who enjoys making everything in their life feel beautiful. It brings them a sense of calm and pleasure to feel and be surrounded by beauty – whether that’s nature, people, or things.
Values should be something that makes you feel good. It should be aligned with the person you want to embody, not the person other people want you to be.
Reflect on that. Talk to a therapist or professional to work through some of this, if needed. It’s something most of us have to do a lot of work around, because we have a lot of years where people had so many opinions about our life, but we’re the ones living it out and we deserve to live authentically.
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