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Personal Core Values

By Douglas Woods

Each of us has our own set of values. These are what determine which aspects of life we regard as important or beneficial. Our values help determine our tastes, our way of life, our entertainment, our social, political and religious interactions. Each of us holds many values and these values are liable to change as we grow, reach different stages of life or have different experiences or influences in life. Some of the values we hold may be "superficial", transitory or fitting solely the moment in which we find ourselves. Other values are more fixed and may stay with us through our life; these are our "core values".

Our values come from a range of sources. Our parents are a key influence upon our values as we grow as children. So, too, is any church or religious background we experience. Our society, our neighbours, friends and colleagues, too, can have an influence upon our values. So, too, can our teachers and our schooling.

Often, school can be a place of conflict for it is there that we experience other values perhaps for the first time. Some of the values we experience in school can be in conflict with or contradict the values of our parents. As we go through high school, we start to experience values in ourselves and our peers that conflict both with school and our parents. Conflicting and unfixed values can be a major problem for adolescent and teenage years.

As we grow in years and experience, our values become more fixed, especially a set of 6 to 10 "core values. It is these core values that determine what is really important to us as an individual. The surprising thing is that if you ask most people what their values are, many would not be able to give you an answer.

A good many people are leading lives unconnected with their core values. This can lead to a life of unhappiness, discontent and lack of fulfilment. Sometimes it can lead to conflict. Often the person does not know why their life seems unhappy, unfulfilled and sometimes full of conflict. Often, the cause is that the life they are living is not in accordance with their personal values.

For some people a conflict can arise within them because they are trying to live a life according to the values of a company, an organisation, a religious or political organisation, the values of their friends or colleagues or partner, rather than living a life according to their own core values. In doing this, the values of the other people or organisations are being met but the person's own values are being left unfulfilled.

This is not to say that a person is always wrong to seek to support and fulfil the values of other people or organisations. However, leaving your own values unfulfilled can lead to frustration and unhappiness. A key issue in this, though, is that the person may believe they are doing the right thing by working to the values of others and yet still feel a sense of frustration and unfulfilment; -the reason being that they may be unaware of their own values or, maybe, feel guilty of their own values where they conflict with the values of others.

So, if you feel your life is unfulfilled, unhappy, or maybe has too much conflict, then it could be that you are leading a life that does not accord with your core values. The question is; do you know your own personal core values?

Hiring a personal life coach can certainly help you to discover your personal values but for those who want to start the discovery for themselves, try answering the following question;

What, in life, is important to you?

Don't think about your answers (yes, there's likely to be more than one thing that's important to you), at least don't think about them at first. Just write down whatever comes into your head, no matter how strange, amusing or worrying they may seem. These first answers are probably your "gut or "intuitive answers; sometimes these are closer to the truth than answers that you "think about. Next, think about what is important in life for you. Take some time to consider your answers before writing them down in a word or short phrase. Don't worry if the some of the same answers appear in your first list; - just write them down again.

Now you have two lists. Take a look at them; is there anything there that surprises you or anything that worries you? Sometimes people can be quite surprised by what they write down and occasionally they may write down something that shocks them or they feel guilty about.

Quite common words that people put on their list of values include ; "money", "success", "family", "wife/husband/partner", "growth", "power". If you find one, or more, of these words on your list, ask yourself another question;

What does (the word) mean for me?

So you may ask, "what does money mean for me". To which the answer could be; money means security, or money means success, or money means freedom, or money means being able to provide for my family.

By answering the second question you can help uncover the real or underlying value for you. So for you, money is not the real value, it is "security or "being successful or "being independent or "being able to provide for my family that is the real value.

So, by doing these simple exercises, you are beginning to discover your personal core values. The next exercise is to ask your self "how do my life, my work and my relationships help fulfil my personal values? If you find that they do not help you fulfil your personal values then perhaps you should consider changing your life. To do that; get a life coach.

About The Author

Douglas Woods is a Life Coach working with individuals or couples seeking to improve their lives or relationships. You can find more about his work at


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