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Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my core values.
Core values are “our fundamental, personal beliefs. They are the guiding principles that dictate behavior and help a person decide between right and wrong.”
Now, let’s not confuse that with morals. Morals are what we are taught to believe is right and wrong. Morals are the codes of conduct that have been passed down from the elders in our lives—be it our parents, grandparents, or anyone along those lines. The programming we get as children usually influences the direction our morals point.
Morals do not and will not determine what our values are, but on the flip side, what we view as our values as we grow in our life will influence our morals along the way.
Usually, we hear of core values in corporations and company settings. For example, one well-known tech company has in their core values the terms: innovation, diversity, integrity, and personal excellence. Another well-known tech and computer company has adventure in their list of core values, while a popular ice cream brand includes human rights and dignity.
What are my core values? What does that mean? What does that even look like?
My core values are what I want, at the end of the day, to define me for me. I don’t care what my peers perceive as my character traits. I don’t care what my family would use to describe me. I don’t care what perception anyone has of me as a person—it is what I want to strive for whether I have an audience or not.
Who am I at the end of the day when I look in the bathroom mirror before I go to bed? Is that person staring back at me living up to the expectations that I am setting for her? Is that person someone I would want in my life? Is that person being authentic to their beliefs regardless of who is or is not watching?
These are all the questions I’ve mulled over to come up with my list of core values that I strive for in my life—a couple of these are easy to attain and hold myself to, while others are a little more of a struggle:
1. Honesty: This doesn’t only apply to telling the truth to others. I ask myself—am I being honest with what I want? Am I truly letting my feelings, wants, and needs be known so that I am happy? Or am I conforming to what is expected or wanted by others?
2. Integrity: This one goes hand in hand with honesty. If someone trusts me with their information, I keep their information safe. I give credit where credit is due and if I am wrong, I admit it. I will not sell myself short, nor will I sell anyone out to better my position in life.
3. Compassion and Empathy: To me, these two fit together. Yet, they are not the same. Empathy is the ability to take another person’s feelings and emotions and feel them yourself. Compassion is when you add in the desire to act on the ability to feel another’s emotions to help. I genuinely care for people. I have always been able to feel other people’s emotions and I am always willing to help make something better if I can. These are easy for me to keep true.
4. Curiosity: Never stop learning and never stop questioning. I always want to know and understand more. One of the biggest problems I have had in my life is that I didn’t question everything. I make it a point to always investigate more if I don’t grasp a full concept. There are too many things I want to know how and why to.
5. Resilience: I have had many personal and professional failures in my life. Don’t we all have things in our life that have knocked us down? If I gave up every time something didn’t go my way or the way I expected, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am at today. It has been my determination to bounce back and not let things keep me down. From bouncing back after a crushing divorce to losing a job—all these things have made me stronger; I just needed to keep pushing.
My list could go on and on, but these are the ones right now that I focus on. That doesn’t mean down the road they won’t shift and something else won’t surface as a value that I want to live up to, but this is what I strive for today.
What about you? What are your core values? What defines you?
This is a great concept to explore when you want to work on yourself. It is also a great way to hold yourself accountable. Sometimes being truly honest with ourselves is hard.
If this isn’t something you’ve thought about before, maybe now is the time. We all have our personal core values, but we don’t necessarily put them in the spotlight and define them.
Start simple—defining just one is a great place to start. Maybe all you want to do is strive to be more honest and hold yourself accountable. Maybe you want to put a value on compassion. No matter what, you will be investing in yourself.
There is no greater investment than that.