May 18, 2020

Identifying Your Core Values in Life

Written by Rachel Eddins

Posted in Emotional & Mental Health and with tags: Values

identifying your core values in life compass and journal

Research has shown that people who have a sense of meaning and purpose in their life are happier than those without that sense of meaning.

However, more than that, people who have a sense of meaning and purpose seem to live longer, cope better with the losses and difficulties of life, and have a greater sense of life satisfaction. Having a sense of purpose even seems to protect against cognitive decline as we age.

Clarifying your core values in life can point you in the direction of creating a meaningful life. Values are what you want your life to be about.

They give you purpose and motivation. They can also help you to break out of life-restricting patterns caused by anxiety, shame, or depression.

Our values can guide us on how we choose to focus on our energy and time. Clarifying your values and creating intentions can also help you focus on behaviors that lead to positive coping strategies.

It can be difficult to break past the barriers that get in the way of a meaningful life. However, when we focus on change as the smallest, doable step we can take, we can make progress and break past those barriers.

Your core values in life aren’t needs, desires, or preferences. They are the basic direction you want to follow and they generally support your welfare or the welfare of others.

As you experience different events and stages in your life, your values evolve and change.


Do you have anxiety? Take our anxiety quiz and find out. 

Clarify Your Core Values Exercise

This exercise will guide you through the process of clarifying your core values in life and setting intentions.

To get started, download the values clarification worksheet so you can write in your own responses.

  1. Start by indicating the relative importance of each domain for you, placing an X under “not important”, “somewhat important”, or “very important”, as appropriate. You may want to add your own domains at the bottom of the worksheet.
  2. Next, for the domains you marked as “somewhat important” or “very important”, write a few words that sum up your core value. Consider using the phrase, “to be…”. Ask yourself these questions to identify your core value in that area: What really matters to you, deep in your heart? How do want to spend your time on this planet? What sort of person do you want to be? What personal strengths or qualities do you want to develop?
  3. Finally have a good look at what you’ve written. What does this tell you about: a) What is important in your life? b) What you are currently neglecting?

The Core Values Worksheet has 10 Categories:

Some of these categories will be very important to you and others will not be, which is fine.

  • Intimate relationshipsWhat sort of partner would you ideally like to be? How would you describe your ideal relationship? What sort of behaviors do you aspire to show toward a significant other?
  • Parenting – What kind of mother or father do you aspire to be? Are there particular qualities you’d like to role model for your kids? How would you describe your ideal relationships with them?
  • Education & Learning – What do you value about learning, education, training, or personal growth? What new skills would you like to learn? What knowledge would you like to gain? Does further education appeal to you and what type? What sort of student would you like to be?
  • Friends & Social LifeWhat sort of qualities would you like to bring to your friendships? If you could be the best friend possible, how would you behave towards your friends? What sort of friendships would you like to build? How would you like your friends to see you as a person?
  • Physical Self-Care & HealthWhat are your values related to maintaining your physical well-being? How do you want to look after your health, with regard to personal care, sleep, diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol, etc? Why is this important?
  • Family of OriginWhat sort of relationships would you like to build with your family? How would you interact with others if you were the ideal you in these relationships?
  • SpiritualityRelevant questions here will concern religion, personal beliefs about anything that’s meaningful at a deeper or bigger
  • Social citizenship/EnvironmentHow would you like to contribute to your community or environment? What sort of environments would you like to create at home, and at work? What environments would you like to spend more time in?
  • Recreation & LeisureWhat kinds of activities appeal to you for fun? How would you enjoy spending your downtime? What’s exciting for you? Relaxing?
  • Work/careerWhat career goals matter to you? What kind of employment? Do you aspire to particular qualities as a worker? What sort of professional relationships do you want to develop?

Learn more about work and career values. 

Take the career values quiz here. 


Create Intentions Based on Your Top Core Values in Life

find out your core values in lifeOnce you’ve clarified your core values, select the top two-three most important areas to you right now. Create some intentions that you can commit to taking action on in each of those areas.

Your intentions should be concrete and measurable. They should also be small, don’t bite off more than you can chew.

And if you find that you are unsuccessful with any intention you set, see if you can break it down into a smaller step and try that. Make it smaller and smaller until you can consistently commit to following through on that intention.

Begin by visualizing yourself following through each of the intentions you set. Notice what is happening in your mind, what thoughts are you having as you move forward on this action?

What is happening in your body? Notice any thoughts and feelings that might come up that would stop you from carrying out your intentions.

These are your barriers. Make a note of your barriers and if you keep getting stuck by them, reach out to a therapist for coping strategies.

Commit to Putting Your Values and Intentions into Action

Use the worksheet to track the number of times you acted on your intentions each week. Continue to revisit this each week.

If you were able to complete your intentions each day for a week, then add something new. If it was challenging, break your intention down into a smaller step until you build success with it.

You may decide to start with a different value domain altogether if you find yourself getting stuck repeatedly. Remember, every step forward is progress.

Progress, not perfection! If you continue to repeat this process week after week, you will be creating new habits in your life. These are the building blocks for creating more meaning in your life.

Values Clarification Worksheet

Download the values worksheet here.


Build New Coping Strategies

Putting our core values into practice can be challenging. Too often, we can get stuck in old patterns, behaviors, and coping strategies. A therapist can help you break free, give you new strategies, and provide a framework for your core values in life. Reach out and find out how we can support you. Give us a call at 832-559-2622, schedule a free consult, or book an appointment online. We are available for in-person or online therapy sessions.

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