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Is This The Life You Want? Reflection On Our Core Values

Are you living the life you truly want to live?

It is a big question, I know.

However, it is one that many of us ponder over. At times of high stress (or low mood), it is common for people to wonder ‘Is this it?’.

We could get deeply philosophical about the meaning of life etc, and I think they can be really helpful conversations, but let’s talk about our core values.

So - what are core values?

Core values are an individual or organization’s fundamental beliefs and highest priorities that drive their behavior. 
You can think of core values as an internal compass of principles that drive a person’s or organization’s decisions.


I love this definition by Russ Harris:

“Values are your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave as a human being. Values are not about what you want to get or achieve; they are about how you want to behave or act on an ongoing basis; how you want to treat yourself, others, the world around you.”

Values are spoken about a lot in organisations, and are often very prominent on websites, and in their marketing. That is a whole other blog post (perhaps a future one) - but it is interesting to note that exploring our individual core values does not seem to feature front and centre of our lives. It has most definitely gained some attention, like many other personal development topics, especially across social media. However, how many of us actually sit down to focus and reflect on what is really important to us in our lives?

In my personal and professional experience, we usually have an idea about our core values but we may never have said it out loud, or written them down, and there is so much power in doing that.

Often when I am working with people who are navigating difficult times, or who feel at a crossroads in their life, I will introduce them to this values exercise.

As a side note, I am a huge fan of Russ Harris, and I recommend his work to people almost daily. He is very well known in the world of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and he offers so much to his community. I am not on commission - I just think his work is very helpful.

This values exercise is from his book The Happiness Trap His story is quite compelling:

“I started my career as a newly-graduated doctor back in 1989, and soon discovered that most of my patients were expressing a significant degree of dissatisfaction in life; stress, anxiety and unhappiness were widespread. I strongly related to their struggles, because I was experiencing something similar myself.
Despite the fact that I had a successful career with a dream job, good income and high status, I was depressed, anxious, and overweight. I felt my life lacked a sense of meaning and purpose, and at times I was even suicidal.”

(Russ Harris)

In a VERY small nutshell, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an evidence based therapeutic approach that focuses on how individuals can live a rich and meaningful life in line with their core values.

This nutshell is only that. I cannot possible do ACT any justice in this blog post, but I wanted to introduce you to exploring core values, in a little bit of context.

The Values Exercise

Here is link to The Bullseye Values Exercise

And also a link to a list of values that might help you

If it feels really overwhelming to look at each domain of your life (this is common), you can start by focusing on one or two of them.

Much of my work is around workplace mental health, so for many of you, work may be an area you want to focus on first. It is an exercise simply to bring you some reflection and clarity. Your answers may change over time, so it is what feels most important in your life right at this moment.

I recommend setting aside around 30 minutes initially in a place of relative calm, and just see where your exploration takes you.

This is the type of exercise I can facilitate in teams, or with individuals. It provides such rich information, and can really help propel people forward, and make important changes in their lives.

It can also feel emotional or surprising to people when they discover something new about themselves.

We are all a work in progress. Each tiny step towards our meaningful life is worthy of celebration.

I hope this has been useful.

Take Care,


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