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How to Create Meaning in Your Life: 7 Pathways to Discover Your Core Values

To create a solid foundation for the life you want, it’s important to identify and write down your core values. Regularly checking them against how you actually live helps you stay true to what truly matters. Writing them down is crucial because, just like we forget our groceries, we often forget our values too.

But what if you can’t put your values into words yet? Or if the words seem too abstract? Let’s start with a basic step and explore seven ways to help you express your internal commitments.

The First Step: Pay Attention to What Resonates

When something feels important to you, what emotions do you experience? Take note of how you know something resonates with you. For example, you might say, “This makes me excited,” “I feel a sense of urgency, like I have to take action,” or “This feels like something missing in my life, and I want to make room for it.”

On the flip side, pay attention to what repels you. Sometimes, by knowing what we don’t want, we discover what we truly desire. You might say, “This drains my energy,” “I want to change this,” or “This just doesn’t feel right.”

What energizes you? What drains your energy? Pay attention to your mood and energy levels in different situations, around different people, and during various activities. Resonance is about feelings, not just thoughts. Our emotions guide us in prioritizing what matters most.

Now, let’s explore seven ways to uncover your core values.

  1. Use a Values Inventory List

This method involves looking at a list of values and choosing the ones that resonate with you. Start with a longer list and then narrow it down to a few core values. Some common values include freedom, relationships, adventure, independence, clarity, peace, knowledge, compassion, creativity, and learning. You can find free values inventories online to help you with this process.

  1. Seek Inspiration from Wisdom Traditions

Rather than reinventing the wheel, explore the wisdom offered by traditions like philosophy and theology. They provide guidance and communities of like-minded individuals. Look for values within these traditions that resonate with you and align with your unique gifts, skills, resources, and life context.

  1. Consider How You Want to Achieve Outcomes

Think about the means you believe are right to reach the outcomes you desire. For example, if you aim for a more just and inclusive society, do you believe in nonviolent methods or other approaches? Reflect on what you consider the right ways to achieve your goals, as this can help identify your core values.

  1. Find Inspiration in Role Models

Identify someone you admire in your community or beyond. What qualities do they possess that you admire? It could be their honesty, generosity, hospitality, or their positive impact on others. Look for individuals who are living in a way you aspire to and whose actions align with values you want to embody.

  1. Explore Your Intentions in Relationships

Think beyond just relationships with people. Consider how you want to relate to the natural world, technology, and life in general. What qualities do you want to express in these relationships? Reflecting on these intentions can help you uncover core values that guide your interactions with different aspects of life.

  1. Identify Your Intentions for Work and Tasks

Take time to reflect on your intentions for your work or specific tasks. What values do you want to embody in your professional life? How do you want to show up in meetings, phone calls, or while performing specific tasks? Your work can provide valuable insights into your core values, both in the big picture and in everyday actions.

  1. Discover Values by Recognizing What You Don’t Want to Become

Sometimes, our values become clearer when we know what we want to avoid. Reflect on the qualities, behaviors, or situations that you find unacceptable or unappealing. By knowing what you don’t want to become, you can identify the values that stand in contrast to those negative aspects.

Remember, discovering your core values is a personal journey. It’s about uncovering what truly matters to you and aligning your actions with those values. Take your time, explore different pathways, and don’t be afraid to revisit and refine your values as you grow and evolve.

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