Core Values

WORDS: Jamie Scoular /July 5th, 2017 /5 minute read

Have you ever wondered why you do what you do? Have you ever looked back at your life and thought ‘I wish I could do that over,’ or ‘if I only knew then what I know now…’ Most of us have had these thoughts…these regrets. One of my personal goals is to change this up. I don’t want to look back and have life regrets.


There are many internet articles featuring a picture of someone on their deathbed with a headline that reads something like ‘My 7 biggest regrets.’ These articles typically list things like: spending too little time with my family, working too much, or being overly motivated by material wealth, etc. What occurs to me when I see these articles is that most life regrets have something in common. They are the result of misguided or unexamined values.


Values determine who you are and how you want to be in the world. What you value is influenced by a wide variety of external factors ranging from family of origin, religion, culture, etc. Each of us has many values, some more defining of who we are than others. The values that are deeply connected to how we think, feel, and see the world are Core Values.


There may come a time in your life when you begin to see the values that are guiding you. Or maybe you have made one too many poor decisions and are ready for a change. At that point, you are at a crossroads. This is a time when you can determine whether your values, which you initially accepted without question, still work for you. It is at this time when you first grasp that it is possible to be someone different from who you have always been. At the crossroads, you can determine what is important to you and begin to walk a different path…the path you choose.  


Though it can be difficult to identify your core values, it can be done. One way is to pay careful attention to the things that result in strong emotional reactions. For example, I have always bristled to others telling me what to do. I don’t like structure and have struggled with planned obligations. After thinking on this, I realized that one of my core values is Independence. Another way to identify your core values is to look for times in your life when you felt exceptionally happy, content, or accomplished. Then ask yourself: What was going on at that time? What was I doing? What value was I serving in that moment?


The thing that most of us don’t realize is that core values can also be chosen. You can choose the kind of person you want to be in this world. However, the process of choosing your core values is not an easy one. You can’t just drop a new layer of values over the ones that are already there. This ‘layering’ can result in conflict between your old  and new values and will lead to confusion and discomfort. A necessity in choosing new values is having a sense of the values you already hold. You must take a ‘values inventory,’ discarding those that no longer make sense for you. This is the work in becoming the person you want to be. The person who, on their deathbed, can honestly say I have no regrets.