Understanding Core Values And Beliefs
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
What core values and beliefs do you live by? How do you know they are working for you? That is, how do you determine whether your behaviour is aligned with your values and beliefs? Many people are unaware of their values and beliefs, which have been passed down to them by parents, guardians, and past generations. It is why we don’t question our beliefs until life isn’t going as planned. Knowing our core values and beliefs can be a source of strength, enabling us to progress in our personal journey. By staying true to our core values and updating our beliefs, we can construct a life in harmony with our true selves. Let’s dig deeper into our core values and beliefs to see if they need to be updated.
Core values and beliefs are the fundamental principles, attitudes, and convictions that guide our behaviour and decision-making. They represent what we hold as essential and non-negotiable, regardless of the circumstances. Core values are often associated with our personal identity and describe what is important or desirable to us. These values can be deeply ingrained and influence our decision-making and behaviour without our conscious awareness. Beliefs, on the other hand, represent our acceptance of something as true; often without proof or evidence. Beliefs can be influenced by our upbringing, cultural background, education, and life experiences. Together, core values and beliefs provide a sense of purpose and direction, helping us make decisions in alignment with our core principles and ideals.
Enhancing Personal Growth Through Core Values
“The path to personal growth is paved with the values that guide us. By staying true to those values, we can learn and grow with purpose.” — Unknown
So, how can we identify which core values and beliefs are important to us? First, we can reflect on our life’s experiences and see where we have made major life decisions, since our core values and beliefs will reflect these key areas. Now, it’s important to understand that our beliefs are constantly changing, however our values may remain with us for our entire life. Other ways we discover our core values and beliefs are by identifying our priorities. For instance, many years ago, when I worked in the health and fitness industry, I coached busy corporate workers, mainly middle to senior management. Many of them believed that work and family were more important than their health, so they put these first. Despite their unwavering commitment to their values and beliefs, many were unwell, having neglected to prioritise their own wellbeing. I mention this not to pass any sort of judgement, but to illustrate how our fundamental values and principles determine our priorities.
Other ways we can determine our core values and beliefs are to consider the role models in our life. Who have been the important people that instilled in you the values and principles you live by? Are those values and beliefs still applicable nowadays or have you updated them to reflect your own values and opinions? By taking a closer look at our behaviour and decisions, we gain a better understanding of our core values and principles. Last, we discover our core values and beliefs through feedback from others, particularly those whose opinions we respect. They might include family members, friends, work colleagues, counsellors or mentors. However, we must be mindful not to blindly adopt their values and beliefs without examining them first. Though their methods may work for them, we may need to adjust them to our own requirements.
Are you happy with this understanding so far? Are you comfortable knowing your core values and beliefs emerge from a wide range of sources and it is important to examine and upgrade your beliefs constantly? With that in mind, how can understanding our core values and beliefs serve us? How do they enhance the quality of our life? Essentially, they assist us in improving our decision-making skills, so instead of impulsively responding to unfamiliar situations, we can refer to our core values to make informed decisions. Second, knowing our core values and beliefs can enhance our self-awareness. We become what we think about, and ultimately, our actions reflect the core values and beliefs we hold dear to us. In other words, when we live in alignment with our values and beliefs, we become more aware of ourselves. A greater understanding of oneself leads to a more fulfilling life and enhances our personal growth.
Making Values Meaningful Through Action
“Your values are like a compass in the stormy seas of life; they will guide you to the right path, even when the winds are blowing in a different direction.” — Unknown
Being aware of our core values and beliefs helps us to achieve our goals and find meaning in our accomplishments. Ultimately, we want to live in alignment with whom we are at a deeper level, rather than be dominated by external forces. Based on this, how can we translate our core values into meaningful actions that demonstrate our beliefs? It’s important we align our actions with our values and beliefs and live congruently each time we make important decisions. For instance, if your morals dictate it is wrong to take shortcuts to success, and you are offered a way to do so in your professional life, it is essential to call on your values to determine the best course of action. If we want to achieve our goals and be truly satisfied, we must ensure they are in line with our values. Finally, we can put our core values and beliefs into practise by communicating them with others. So, in the instance of taking shortcuts in our professional life, we might communicate our values to those involved and choose to stay in alignment with our integrity.
Even with a strong set of values and beliefs, life won’t always be smooth as we will encounter people with different views. When each person is trying to prove their own point of view, the atmosphere becomes charged with disagreement. Expressed differently, we must grapple with the challenge of making difficult decisions that may harm others, despite our values and beliefs. Yet, we must remain true to our core values, even if it means challenging our personal and societal expectations. Do we trust in our own convictions, or do we accept the norms of society and modify them to suit our needs? We ought to be asking ourselves these kinds of questions often if we wish to live an authentic life.
There are many questions and challenges that arise from trying to find our place in the world. It can be hard to adhere to our values and beliefs, as we are often encouraged to think in line with the majority of society. Considering this, I invite you to undertake a simple exercise by writing your core values and beliefs, either in your journal/diary or on paper. Create two sections; use the heading ‘Beliefs’ for one column, and ‘Values’ for the other, and list three or four points in each category. You don’t need to finish this exercise all at once; it may take a few weeks or even months to complete. I assure you, this exercise will be worthwhile to help you take stock of whether you are living in alignment with your highest values. After all, when we discover our core values and beliefs, it is not only the first step to personal growth, but the first step to living in alignment with the person we are destined to become.