As you’ve may have noticed, I haven’t posted to my blog in quite some time. My only excuse is that my life has been crazy and wacky and insane, and I didn’t quite have the words yet to describe it. In fact, I think we could all agree that these are unprecedented times.
In mid-February, I was laid off from my day job. This wasn’t completely unexpected. I knew things had been off for a while (on both sides), and I had been telling friends for months that I was planning to quit. The end of March was to be the official time, it just happened a little bit sooner than I expected. I still had my fun job, though, so I was going to be fine.
Today, I sit unemployed (technically furloughed from my fun job), and I can’t reach anyone at the unemployment office (going on 3 weeks now), so I decided that a nice self-reassessment was in order. One thing I have plenty of right now is time. All those excuses that I didn’t have enough time to do [insert action here] before? LIES!
One of the first things I did to reassess myself and my life was a determination of my core values. Going through this process really spoke to me and helped me understand why things weren’t working out here or there, and I look forward to referencing it in the future when I’m making decisions or wondering if something is right for me. I wrote a little thing about the process I used below.
Identifying our core values is a useful step in becoming self-aware. One might think of a core value as a guidepost for our behavior. These are our principles or underlying beliefs about life, and they shape our behaviors and decisions, helping us establish what we consider right and wrong or offering us internal guidance on how to proceed when making important life decisions.
How does one determine their core values? The process can be as simple as choosing a few words that speak to you, or as I have done here, writing a full on, fleshed out piece about what these values mean to you. Your ultimate purpose is to live out these values. If you know your intentions, you don’t need to write a book about it. Defining them merely acts as a reference point, especially during those dark nights of the soul.
The best process I have found is to review a list of core values and choose the words that ring true for you. (If requested, I will consider adding such a list in the future, but for now, you will find many options if you search for the term “core values” in your browser). You might want to consider factors, like:
- What makes me feel happiest and/or most comfortable? For example, is security important to you or do you prefer leading a life of adventure above all?
- What makes me feel angry? For instance, it makes me angry when people don’t hold themselves accountable or when quantity is revered over quality. Sometimes our anger can reflect a violation of our values.
- What do I believe to be the key to life? Some might say love; other might prefer money or status.
There’s no right or wrong in this process, except to be honest with yourself, though, I might suggest steering away from prioritizing two opposing values. In the end, you’re aiming to choose about five or six from the list. In choosing more, you risk spreading your focus or energy too thin.
If you’re like me, and especially if you’re reviewing a lengthy list, you might find it difficult to narrow it down, and end up with 30 or so words that all seem too important to give up. As a second step, try grouping words with similar meaning together and find an umbrella word that speaks for them all. For example, I originally included passion, creativity, lifelong learning, intelligence, discovery, and adventure, but I narrowed it down to curiosity because I feel being a curious person ultimately inspires these other values.
Don’t think of this process as the be all, end all. You’re allowed to adjust your values as your priorities change. Maybe you used to be intently focused on your career, but now you have a family and their security and happiness is more important to you than climbing the ladder. That is totally okay. It’s about honoring and prioritizing your current needs. I would absolutely encourage going through this process periodically to remain self-aware.