Why it is Important to Learn What Your Core Values Are
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Every 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.
The more you know yourself in terms of core values, the more peaceful your relationships will be Click To TweetThere 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:
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
Read what some other writers have to say on this topic.
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The first thing I noticed when I read this was that I ” FELT” myself RESONATING with the words chosen here. The funny thing is ; I was going to use the word”resonate” and there it was in the blog. I actually do believe we ” feel” a resonant vibration before the words actually surface…and when we RESONATE with a feeling , we can more easily name it ; and then we are navigating through the exact territory of defining our core values. When my thinking resonates with my feelings I do “feel” harmonious…And I agree when one experiences hierarchy rather than equality it is difficult to genuinely negotiate the path. I have found that differences that are complimentary do resonate in harmonious energy…as in musical chords where each note together is much fuller than an individual note by itself.
I have for some time been fascinated with the idea that language is a recent addition to our understanding of the world and has been so successful that we no longer pay attention to our non-verbal understanding. (I wrote about it here.) Of course the idea of our subconscious is not new — Freud etc. — but framing it in this way has helped me in finding where “my thinking resonates with my feelings,” as you put it.
Yes, I really agree. Although we need the literal language , often words that don’t connect with feelings leave us even more confused. I do think there are universal languages : music is definitely one and from what I know about sign language it also has that quality. Lately I have used the phrase” more than the words can describe” with more frequency ; and when we speak of core values and refer to honesty and truth I feel those words viscerally as they resonate through my whole heart,body,soul and spirit… A language so universal it goes way beyond the mind and gives you that “gut” feeling of connectedness..
Beautifully said. I love the musical association! – Harmony is an important concept for our world today!!
I’ve not really thought about defining myself according to my values in a conscious way, though I have considered what I value in life and in my friends. I appreciate your suggestions in how I might define myself according to my values because it adds another layer of understanding of life.
I am glad that you have found this useful!
Thanks for this.
Theologian Paul Tillich says that for all practical purposes, that which is of ultimate concern to you constitutes your God. The behaviors in which you engage in order to pursue that which is of ultimate concern to you constitute your religion.
I trust you two are well and thriving!
Keep up the good work!
That makes a lot of sense David. Because we’re meant to put God first, whatever we DO put first kinda becomes our “God” in a way. Maybe that’s why the old bible calls him a “jealous God”. He of course isn’t, but it might appear so because whatever else we make our “God” is usually damaging to us. For instance if I have food as my ultimate concern, food becomes my God. I live my life around getting and eating the food I want. Shopping for food and eating that food becomes my religion. Yup, the analogy holds up. God doesn’t make me fat and sick because he’s jealous. Those consequences of overeating are there to point me in a better direction; and that, like everything else, is by the grace of God. Whereas when we DO put God first, we pray, we do our best to listen to guidance from within, we practice having faith and being of good cheer even in troubled times, we embrace our challenges, we practice love and kindness, and life is good. We’re growing, spiritually.
Thanks Phil and Maude for the food for thought! 😉
Dear Phil and Maude,
I especially loved this part: “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?” — You know how I love specific instructions!!! I’m going to give these questions some thought throughout the week ahead: “How am I most comfortable in the world” and “What values are underlying my actions?”… I appreciate all of the help you have given in your blog posts and workshops regarding finding out our core values!
Love you both so much!