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Why it is Important to Learn What Your Core Values Are

Cross-section of redwood treeEvery time we give a course on how to have harmonious peaceful relationships, we start by talking about core values and that always creates lots of conversation. Through our courses, we keep learning about different concerns people have in this area and finding new ways to address them.

Part of the problem is that the word “value” has such broad application. It is applied to material possessions: we say that this antique has a high valuation or that appliance is a good value. It is also used with respect to our needs: we say that she is a valuable asset to the project or I value my free time.

Using value in this way is ranking wants and needs, which are part of the material and psychological world, but when we talk about values, they pretty much apply to our attitude towards others. Although this is a fundamental issue for all relationships, for many people the basic questions have often not come up, either in terms of what core values really are, what theirs are, or what role they play in their relationships.

If you haven’t had a deep dive into your core values, why not do that now? Its also productive to do it with partners and friends and compare lists. It gives rise to very fruitful conversations.

As it is a critical factor for creating peace and mutual solutions in relationships, a match of core values is very important. When we say match, we mean that they fit together, are the same or complementary, and not opposed.

Often people report that their values are not the same as a partner or friend. It is important to be sure that differences in name or modes of expression are not mistaken and misinterpreted as not matching. When values are truly opposed or mismatched it can be felt strongly. It does not just refer to a difference in words, or even in a varied practice of spiritual or religious beliefs. It is about the underlying foundation for these things, the very core of your being and doing.

In understanding core values, it is important to learn to differentiate them from wants and needs. Please see our recent blog for that delineation.

There are lists of core values to be found on the internet, and we also used a list to give people an idea where to begin evaluating and finding their own. We have changed our thinking and find long lists less helpful, as they can confuse you when you’re trying to hone in on your own. Its a better practice to try to pick one or two values that you feel are central to your decisions and actions; values that haven’t changed much, but rather seem to travel with you, even if they take different shapes at changing times in your life.

Many of the lists you will find give a lot of one word choices and leave you wondering – is it an action or a way of being, and is this a value you want to exhibit or is it something you want others to be:

  • Loyal
  • Peaceful
  • Honest
  • Spiritual
  • Fair

Phil suspects that there are two extremes of how we relate to each other which are equality and hierarchy, and our values vary accordingly. Fairness is a value that fits with equality, and loyalty is necessary for a hierarchy. Peoples’ relationships with each other consist of elements of both, but it does mean that people with different inclinations may have different core values.

Instead of one word, you may want to try writing a short sentence or phrase that better describes an action or way of being.

  • Come from the premise that we are all related
  • Act and make decisions from love not fear
  • Be honest and speak your truth
  • Serve and support each other

It is important to remember that core values are felt not thought. You need words in order to formulate and describe them, but to recognize them you must feel inside. You resonate with your deepest values. Ask yourself “How am I most comfortable in the world?” When you sense this resonance with another, you experience the feeling of being kindred spirits. Look at how you behave in the world and within your relationships. What values are underlying your actions?

The more you understand yourself in terms of your core values, the more peaceful and harmonious your relationships will be. You don’t need to have others share your views, you just need to be true to your own foundation. If you are to accept differences and honor and respect the individuality of another, you must know what forms your being and doing, and remain true to that. The answer to most questions will follow from that inner knowing.

Photo credit: Maude Mayes
Photo note: Cross-section of redwood tree at Henry Cowell State Park

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner


Books on shelfThis week, we wrote about why it is important to learn what your core values are. Here are some other writers with lists of values and how to use them.

Understanding Our Core Values: An Exercise for Individuals and Teams “In Dare to Lead, Brené [Brown] presents a list of values. The list includes a diverse set of over 100 values, values like accountability, achievement, balance, competence, excellence, family, giving back, joy, legacy, order, patience, recognition, resourcefulness, travel, wealth, and wisdom. You can also add your own values. The exercise is to narrow this large list of values down to your two core values.”

How to Uncover Your Core Values “Whether you know explicitly or not, you all have a set of core values that determine almost everything in your life. You are at your best when your actions correspond to your values and your beliefs. But how can you rely on a value that you cannot name? How can you infuse your life with core values that you cannot understand.”

Core Values: Which Ones, How Many and What to Do With Them Once You Have Them “Core values are the heart of who you are and what you believe in; how you need to operate in the world to be true to yourself. Choosing your core values is a process, so give yourself time and space to find the ones that fit just right. These are going to be the grounding points of your business and your life. They will serve as your compass for how you want to show up as a business owner, leader, client and partner; in conflict, in change, in celebration. When you know who you are and what you stand for, you can rely on that day in and day out. You have a ballast, a guiding foundation for what to do in any situation.”

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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