Defining Your Core Values

March 30, 2018

When you reflect on your life, what color comes to mind? Dark and somber shades? Or a rainbow of bright hues? Do your daily experiences color how you feel at the end of the day? Does a stressful day create shades of gray?

Studies show that individuals who become the best in the world in their chosen profession share some common habits. They start their day asking themselves how they want to feel at the end of the day, and they passionately pursue activities that are likely to leave them with those emotions. Artists often have a sense of colors emanating from their soul when they’re able to bring all of the right elements into harmony as the fully engage in creating something beautiful.

How are we supposed to know what will enable us to have a deeply satisfying day? Core values are the source of passion to be your best self. Clarifying your values allows you to become aware of the guiding principles that empower you to more consistently give yourself beautiful days.

The more you understand your values, the better you are at making satisfying choices that lead to a deep feeling that you’re living a fulfilling life. When you feel good about how things are going, you’re more likely to be living in harmony with your values. When you feel bad about your life, you’re probably out of touch with, or worse, violating your core values.

Sometimes people lose their passion, and with it goes their sense of satisfaction and success. Sustaining a healthy passion for what’s most important, studies show, is a crucial factor affecting your satisfaction and success in life. Your values define you as a person. Whether you do your best to live by your values determines whether you end up loving your life or lapsing into problems in your personal and work relationships.

The reason we’re often not aware of our values is that we’re constantly and subconsciously developing beliefs about how the world works (or is supposed to work) as we go through life. We acquire one set of standards from our parents. Our religion offers another. Experiences with friends and peer groups instill other values. We’re constantly exposed to conflicting values put forth by opposing political groups, television shows, internet sites, commercial influences, etc.

Without awareness of our own internal values, we can be manipulated by others. We’re stronger when we consciously consider what we believe, what we stand for, and what we won’t stand for. When we’re clear about what we value, we know what choices will make us happy.

The purpose of values clarification is not to tell you what your values should be. The following exercise will empower you to understand how to make decisions that will activate your inner guidance system so you more frequently generate the feeling that you’re loving life. It will also help you make sense of your worst moments. Terrible feelings arise when your values are violated – by yourself or someone else.

By reflecting on your most profound past experiences, you can discover the life lessons that have formed your value system. It is through this lens that you view your life in order to determine what’s meaningful, relevant, fair, and fulfilling. Values are continually developing as you undergo different life experiences.

Identify your core values by reflecting on the events that have been most significant in your life.

  1. Identify the 3-4 most positive and the 3-4 most negative events that were life changing experiences.
  2. Write1-2 words to describe each event, e.g. graduated college or divorced.
  3. Reflect on what values were forged as a result of going through these experiences. Examples would be: in college I discovered that I love learning or going through a divorce taught me the value of friends.

After identifying your core values, create a vision of you at your best and identify a first step you could take to achieve that outcome. We all know what it’s like to dream big, and how we can lose focus when life throws us too many obstacles. This exercise is designed to help you restore your inspiration and motivation. Aligning with your values provides an important source of passion – your inner motivation to make good things happen.

For instance, knowing you value ‘learning’ and ‘friends’ would enable you to more frequently bring those elements into your life. You’d experience being at your best. Living according to your values would empower you to achieve the highest level of life satisfaction.

Read more about how develop a passion for being at your best in PROPEL to Quality Healthcare, a guide for leaders and staff to use,P to overcome experiences that cause burnout and disengagement. To have Dr. Muha talk to your healthcare organization about how people can rekindle their passion, email him at



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