Thursday, November 3, 2011

How to work out your Core Values

So how do you work out your Core Values?

For those who have not read my previous post on this topic, please click on this link "My Take on Happiness", and have a read of it first before going further.  It will be more meaningful to you.

Your core values are often "subconscious".  One of the ways to know what your core values are is to look at your reaction to a trigger and ask the question, "Why?".  Ask "why" until you can get to no further, and the answer is your "core value".  In clinical practice, we call this, "digging deeper".

For example, if you get irritated when things are not done correctly or perfectly, you can then ask...

Why?.....Because it makes sense to do things well.
Okay why?.....Because, if things are not done well, then things might go wrong, and if things do go wrong, then I will be a failure and people will not like me.  I am only significant when I do things right or achieve.

Hence, the core value here might be, "Things has to be done perfectly because if things go wrong, I will be a failure" or "I am significant if I achieve and if I fail, I am insignificant".

If you get very angry and upset when someone criticize you, then one of your core values might be, "Iam not good enough".

If you get extremely upset when you see unfairness in society, then one of your core values might be, "Things should be fair".

If you get severely insecure when you start a long term relationship, then one of your core values might be, "Iam not good enough" or "Important people in my life will leave me in the end".

If you always feel suspicious of people, then one of your core values might be, "You cannot trust anyone".

If you seem to have a comfortable and stable life, but are still unhappy, then one of your core values might be, "Life should be fun".

Now remember, core values are neither good or bad.  Of course, it can be good or it can be very bad depending on context.  For example, if I was a medical student in a clinical placement, then it may be useful to have the core value that  "Iam not good enough" in that particular situation.  This will help me to be "safe", helps me to learn more, and not to be overconfident.  However, if I apply this belief to other areas of my life in where I am competent, then it might bring me insecurity, indecisiveness, and procrastination.

So in essence, once you know what your core values are, you will be able to manage them more effectively and that is, to apply them appropriately in some situations, and to "turn them off" in other situations where it might not be so helpful.  This is a part of becoming more mindful.

The second way is to use the hypothetical "genie question".

Ask yourself, "If I was a genie, then what kind of job will I grant myself?"  The answer will highlight your values by asking, "Why did I say that?".  For example, if you answer is a Grand Prix driver then your values might be...

? It needs to be action orientated
? Fast
? Fun
? Competitive
? Adrenaline, danger and exciting
? Autonomy
? Freedom perhaps
? Goal orientate etc
? Big money if I succeed

These are your core values about work.

You can then repeat this exercise for other aspects of your life e.g. relationships, community, friendships, kids, parents/relatives/siblings etc.

Once you are more aware of your core values and the hierarchy of your core values, you are then more aware of the various areas of your life that are not being fulfilled, and hence, will have the opportunity to rectify that, or learn to accept it through better understanding.  You will also notice that some of your core values might be in conflict with each other for example, you may believe that family has to come first, but you also believe that you have to be dedicated to your job.  They often say, "You cannot have your cake and eat it too", so when these values are in conflict, you will need to prioritize your values.

Hopefully, I have highlighted the importance of knowing your core values and how it can impact your happiness.