Ethics & Values
Uncover Your Core Values
- Here's How I Did It

by Jeff Dumas
With a huge list of core values available, it becomes really challenging to identify yours. May not really be so, if you have some patience and move in a systematic manner - step by step. Jeff shares in this article how he did it.
I've been dancing around values for quite a while now. After lots of failed attempts at uncovering my core values I've finally found a way that I think will work for most people. It has sure helped me.

I got several lists of values from the internet and printed them out. You can find some lists to print out just by Googling stuff like "Core Human Values", and "List of Human Values", and "How To Discover Your Values". You will find many helpful articles. You will also find exercises you may want to try, some of them may work for you. For me, most of the exercises fell short, but maybe I just wasn't ready to really do the work. A half-baked attempt isn't going to get you there, at least it didn't for me. This is going to take a little time and effort, but it's not rocket surgery, you can do it when you are serious about finally, finally uncovering your values.

I finally made myself sit down in a quiet workspace with my lists and a notepad. Before, I just kept hem-hawing around, reading articles, looking for short cuts and other things to distract me from doing the work. I did learn a lot on the journey. One thing that helped me was the idea of mind mapping. Just remember, there are no short cuts. The only thing that is going to get you there is honest self-examination, thinking, and questioning.

I went through the lists of values and began to circle the values that really resonated with me. I circled many words, more than what wound up being my true core values, but by circling lots of words that resonated with me on some level I got a narrowed down list that was easier to work with. You will encounter similar thoughts as you go through the values lists - thoughts like, " "Well..."Justice" is something I value, but it's not screaming out to me "CORE VALUE", but it is still a value I consider to be very important" ". When I came to words like that, I went ahead and circled them.

I made a new list of just the words I had circled from the other lists. This was a much shorter list from which I could make real progress - without all of the other values on the other lists distracting me from my goal of getting to my true core values.

I took that condensed list and using the concept of mind mapping I created "related values groups". For example: I knew that "learning" was probably going to wind up being one of my core values - the word really resonated deeply with me. I went through the list and created a mind map for the word learning. From the mind map I was able to make a "mini-list" of related ideas like: Learning, Wisdom, Knowledge, Power, Truth, Meaning, Discovery and so on. These ideas (and more as well) are all related in my mind for one reason or another. I did this several times. I went through my list again, made a mind map, and made another mini-list of related ideas. This time I started with another of the words that really resonated strongly with me - Genuineness. I had a strong feeling that "Genuineness" was going to be one of my core values so that was a good place to begin making my new "related values group". I came up with stuff like: Genuineness, Authenticity, Truth, Communication, Cooperation, Honesty and so on. Notice how the value of "truth" came up in both value groups. For me "truth" is closely related to both idea groups - Learning and Genuineness. You are going to find lots of similar connecting ideas.

I then looked at the idea groups one at a time and started asking questions. "Why is learning important to me?" "If I examine my life can I see a pattern of me using and relating to this value a lot?" "How do I define learning"? I began to write out my answers to the questions. My core values began to reveal themselves to me. "Learning is important to me because is increases my knowledge." "Learning helps me by giving me more tools to relate to people". "Learning helps me to find the truth". "Why is knowledge important to me?" "Knowledge helps me find wisdom." "Why is wisdom important to me?" "Wisdom helps me make good decisions". All of these related ideas are important to me; but for me "Learning" seemed to be the best "core value" to represent these ideas. "Learning" seemed to be the "best" handle I could put on these related-interacting values.

Thoughts: This is going to take some time. You are going to come up with several core values - probably five or six primary ones and a few secondary ones. While you are going through this process you are going to figure out that there are some values that aren't core values for you, but they "ought" to be. (I want to point out that the world has lots of things it's telling you that you "ought" to value. That is not what I'm talking about here. What I'm talking about is a REAL "ought to have" value.) For me "health" and "hard work" aren't primary core values, but I know that they are very important for lots of reasons. These are values that I want to "adopt". By "adopt", I mean that I choose to consciously focus on and incorporate more of a particular human value because I recognize the power and balance the particular value would bring to my life. Knowing our core values gives us strong foundation from which to act. Many of our values work together and re-enforce each other. Our values can change over time, but for the most part the are pretty constant. There may be events which can make a sudden change in values like a major health issue or a divorce. We should review our values from time to time. There are times when our values can be in conflict but, we can often resolve those conflicts by considering and changing our paradigms.

I hope this article with help some of you.

Jeff Dumas []

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