Feeling Lost? How to Discover Your Core Values (in 5 Easy Steps)
March 8, 2019
Do you know who you are aside from your primal instincts? Who you really are apart from being a hungry animal walking on this earth always searching for resources, sex, and protection?
Discovering your core values will help you understand your true nature, not the animal one but your more sophisticated one that makes you a human being. If you fail to do this, you might be perpetuating a life of a primal that only enjoys eating, having sex and sleeping.
Luckily for us, there is much more than meets the eye as we’re not animals. No, we are souls living in an animal body as the self-development genius Bob Proctor says.
Then it’s easy to understand that unless you find who you are apart from this primary animalistic side of you, you’re spiritually dead. Yes, exactly like a zombie in “The Walking Dead.”
Now you might be living like that and not even caring about your core values but that’s not the best way to live as in my personal experience, I’ve lost years in pursuing things that were not mine just because I didn’t know what my core values were back then.
The most terrifying questions remain one anyway; What if you wake up one day and realize that you wasted your entire life onto something that was not worthwhile? What if that day you wake up will be in your elder age where you won’t be able to make the changes you wanted to make any more?
That’s what you’re going to avoid by reading this piece of content and by doing the exercises.
What Are Core Values?
Why are core values essential to discover and how can you actually find yours?
Your core values are what make you unique in who you are and in why you do what you do in your life.
Everybody has his own core values and the ones you hold, both consciously or subconsciously, represent who you really are at your core.
You must find them out; otherwise, you’ll always be obscure of who you really are as a person, that will stop you from achieving your fulfillment.
If you’re only living like an animal on this planet, you’re just enjoying a tiny percentage of what life has to offer to you. This is a real pity as you’d be wasting this precious gift in the way it’s supposed to be lived.
Or maybe you’re living a life that is not just that, but that perhaps is not going towards the direction you want to go, so you’re sacrificing it for some values that do not belong to you.
Going For The Military: A Wrong Choice I’ve Made
That’s in fact exactly how I was approaching life 9 years ago when I believed that my life purpose was to become a military pilot of the Italian Airforce.
Yes, I saw the movie Top Gun and fell in love with Tom Cruise’s character (maybe because he had that beautiful chick).
Just kidding, anyway I did try to become a pilot for real, let me tell you why this was a bad idea back then even if it sounded so good and how you can avoid making the same mistake I’ve made.
During my teenage years, I always had the ambition to become an official military pilot of the Italian Airforce. I don’t really know from where this dream came from back then, yet it was my only purpose in life, and that’s how I was envisioning myself to be every day.
I was imagining to be one of the best pilots, respected by all men and with my beautiful woman looking at me with those reverence eyes, just like in the movie Top Gun.
I was imagining of flying through the skies of the world with those powerful hi-tech jets getting that combined feeling of power and freedom that was enough for me to make every day of my life a new brick that together with the others would have helped me complete the building of success.
Time For The Selection Process
When I finally turned 19 the long-awaited time for me to fight for my dream had come and so, excited, I jumped full of adrenaline on the selection process.
It was and still is one of the most difficult selection process in the whole of Italy, consisting of 5 different steps during 8 months where only 44 pilots out of thousands of applicants would be selected.
That didn’t look scary me anyway as the stakes were so high in terms of lifetime rewards, and so I decided to go on and bet on myself.
I studied hard to prepare myself for the first quizzes. Failure was not an option for me, after all, that was my dream since I was a child and I couldn’t let laziness and carelessness destroy it.
The tests were very hard, and I didn’t know how I could maximize the chances of passing them. Then I got the idea to consult some people in the online forums that had already made it in the past or that had been through this strict selection process.
I managed to make a couple of friends that were trying the selection for the third time and decided to learn as much as possible from their experience. In the meantime, I kept studying and studying for hours every day, almost neglecting my high school subjects.
My only question, then, was if it could have really worked or if I was just wasting my time. There was no predetermined answer of course and the only thing left for me to do was to keep going, hoping for the best.
So I kept studying and executing my plans diligently, probably as diligently as I had never done before in my life.
When the day of the first test finally arrived in late January, I was there trembling from fear and excitement at the same time. Two other friends of mine from my class also decided to participate in the selection process with me.
The Day Of The First Test
We had it in a vast hangar that was full of military officials. We had only 30 minutes to complete a ton of questions, but eventually, I managed to finish a significant portion of it.
The results arrived days later, I had passed it together with one of those friends of mine. An incredible feeling of joy mixed with pride flood my body.
It was one of my first big wins in life-fighting for something that I really cared about. Unfortunately, we lost our third friend that didn’t manage to get to the minimum score. Now we were about 700 participants out of thousands selected to compete for those 44 official positions.
The Impossible Medical Checkup
After that, it was time for the medical checkup in mid-February. That was the part of the selection process that scared me the most as it was the only one I couldn’t control. Either I was born with the body to be a pilot, or there was no hope for me, and my dream would have been deleted forever.
The problem with those visits was that I had to have a specific weight requirement to be accepted(apart from many more standards) and it was 58kg. Unfortunately, I was very skinny at the time and only weighed 54 kg, in fact, I had to subscribe to the gym to put on some weight.
I had arrived at 57.5 kg the day before the medical checkup, a real mess. But I couldn’t fail my dream just for half a Kilogram so I thought of eating as much food and drinking as much water as I could during the visits.
I drank probably around two liters of water while I was waiting for the visits. The moment of weighing myself came. 58.5 kg was the result. I immediately gave a sigh of relief, it was not over yet apparently.
I later did all the other visits, and finally, after a long morning and afternoon of checkups I got a piece of paper with the response: There was written: “Suitable for the Pilot Position.” That was the most magical moment for me as I was dreaming about that for years! My friend had passed it to so we were still together.
After that, it was time for the 3rd stage, the written essay. I had always been a failure on those things but thanks to some practice I also managed to pass this stage together with my friend.
Now you might think what this story has to do with your core values, well we’re getting there soon.
The Final Step: 10 Days In The Italian Airforce Academy
Once I had passed the third test I was ready for the most crucial one, the 10 day trial in the actual Airforce Academy.
That was known as the hardest part of the entire selection process, not only because we were subject to the scrutiny of 3 physical performance tests, 5 psychological ones and 1 proving our attitude to flight with a flight simulator but because of the pressure that was put into us by the superior officials.
My friend and I got into the academy right after our high school exams. It was mid-July, and the weather was hot like hell. As we entered the academy, the officials immediately handed us the uniforms and instructed us on how things worked there, the rules that had to be observed and the penalties we would have received if such observation was not met.
The vibe was very severe and controlled, not permitting even the smallest space for a laugh (a thing that was in direct opposition with my personality.)
Things Weren’t As We Expected
As the days passed over there, my friend and I started to lose all the enthusiasm that we previously had about that life. We had lost our inner creativity, freedom, and spontaneity and we both didn’t want to give up such things for the prestige of being an official pilot of the Italian airforce.
He left the academy after the 6th day while I kept staying there as a way to prove myself that I could make it until the end even if that were not my end goal anymore. During those 10 days, I saw all the other candidates being reduced in from a couple of hundreds of them into a few dozens until we just were about 50 of us.
That was the moment the trial had ended, and I had officially passed it. Nonetheless, that was not my goal anymore so as I got the paper with the admission to the next stage (where I would have piloted my first military plane) I resigned from the position to the surprise of the officials that were astonished by what I did.
Lesson Learned: Know Who You Are First
I have made that decision because over there I was feeling constricted to a life of bondage rather than the life of freedom and flying I had envisioned during all those years.
I had made some mistakes along the way, and unfortunately, I hadn’t evaluated my personal values before attempting my journey.
If I had only understood before that in my own personal value system freedom was more important than social prestige, I had never started it. If I just knew back that I was more a free spirit than an orderly person this wouldn’t have happened.
Instead, I only discovered this when it was too late and just after months spent studying like a mad guy.
That’s why I want you to do this exercise right now. From this exercise, you will understand who you indeed are and what’s essential for you in life.
Now It’s Time To Discover Your Core Values
Having said that, here is the theory and process of discovery of your core values.
This is one of the most important exercises you’ll do throughout your entire life. Why? Because here you will find why you did what you did in life from the moment you were born until today.
This exercise is going to help you discover if your everyday actions are pushing you to become closer to the person you want to be or if they are pulling you away from it.
We all have some invisible wires that motivate us and control our behaviors every day. Those forces operate silently even if you are aware of them or not. They are the reasons (or should be) why we go to work, why we choose a kind of partner over another one, why we make individual decisions instead of others and why we do things in our own way.
Those forces are our core values.
As soon as I completed this exercise, I immediately discovered why I had made such bad decisions in my life in the past. I thought that certain jobs, experiences, and ways of living were bringing me closer to my fulfillment while instead they blatantly conflicted with my core values.
For example, when I was 18 I decided to pursue the military pilot career but, after months of studying, I realized that I couldn’t stand the pressure and the constriction feeling that the army life gave me. I was feeling bound and unable to express myself, so I resigned from the position.
At the beginning I only had a vague feeling that something wasn’t right about that career path, then the sense became oppression, and I couldn’t help but get away from there as soon as possible.
I discovered the reason only years later after studying myself and psychology. What was the reason why I left such a prestigious position that ensured me a lifelong success? I’ll tell you this in a while. Now it’s time to talk about you.
The first thing we need to do is finding out what are your current values. After that, you’ll need to modify them based on the goals that you want to achieve in your life.
Exercise 1: What’s Important for You?
As a first exercise, I’m going to ask you what’s essential for you in your life. Try to answer this question quickly and put all the things that you can without filtering them. There are no right or wrong answers here so relax.
What’s essential for you in life?
For me in life it’s essential…
Exercise 2: Why Is It Important for You?
Now ask yourself why those things are essential in your life. How does/do it/they make you feel? Why you want more of it/them? What are you willing to sacrifice for those things?
Usually, we have values based on emotions/sensations we wanna feel. It is the emotions that we love experiencing that drive our behavior and control our choices. That’s why values are so strong, they really come from deep within your subconscious mind, that is the seat of your soul giving you information about what’s best for you.
Those emotions/sensations that you like to feel are the causes of what is called “Peak Experiences” in life. You always strive to experience more of those whether you know this or not. Every action you take has the purpose of letting you experience more of what you want.
Exercise 3: Recalling Your Peak Experiences
Now that you know what a peak experience is, try to remember the ones that you experienced in your life.
What was happening back then? What values were you following?
It is essential to know what are your values because whenever your actions conflict with your values, you will always struggle in your life for something that you don’t actually want. This means that you are taking the risk of living your life and waking up one day understanding that you have wasted it all.
Exercise 4: Negative Events
Now that you know all the right moments you had think of all the bad ones where you got angry, disappointed or frustrated. Usually what happens during those moments is that a value that we hold dear is not being lived or experienced for some reason and so we get into this state of resistance.
Can you recall those events that occurred in your life? What were you feeling and why? What particular thing was being of an obstacle to what you wanted or found important at that time?
Rational and Emotional Values
For sure you have discovered many values that appeal to you until now, right? Perfect. Now I guess many of those are emotional values, meaning that they are values that give you the emotions/sensations that you want to experience in your life. To live a successful life anyway, we need to have a value system that also integrates support values to the others.
This is necessary because otherwise, you take the risk of living for your value at the expense of its own stability (for example living for the pleasure of food at the expense of health that, if damaged, will stop you from pursuing food pleasure any more in your life).
The secret then is balancing the need-based values with the emotional ones and using the former as a support structure of the latter.
Exercise 5: Your Behaviour
Finally, it’s time to discover the remaining values by observing what you must have in your life to experience fulfillment. It may be freedom, order, being in ecstasy, finding new things, going into crazy adventures, etc.
What do you really value in life apart from the basic needs you have? What is the thing that if removed would make your life just a mere survival game? What are the things that spark growth out of you?
Extrinsic And Intrinsic Values
There are two types of values: Extrinsic values or means values and intrinsic values or end values. To understand this better let’s make an example:
Arthur values a lot of Freedom and Financial Independence. In his value system, he may appreciate Financial Independence a lot, anyway what he is really looking for is freedom in his life and knows that Financial Independence can give him the freedom he wants.
He’s not after financial independence then because it is a condition to achieve freedom in his life. Anyway, he may enroll in a course in personal finance, and he may convince yourself that he wants to learn more about finances when, in reality, all he wants is to experience freedom. Why does he want to experience freedom?
The answer to a question related to an intrinsic (end) value should always be “just because.”
That’s because an extrinsic value is one that promotes a valuable end. So you can see here that there might be a massive set of values that you have that support each other to help you get to your final value in life that is the most important.
That’s the end of a value chain, and you will find it when “Just because” will be the answer. That’s where you should get to see your end value.
Exercise 6: Finding Your Means & End Values
Now that you have an awareness of what are your values, you must find your natural ones that are the ones that you honor just because that makes you feel good, happy and fulfilled and the ones that are of necessary support of those values.
You might strive for freedom in your life, but you’ll never be free if you are broke. You might aim for health in your life, but you’ll never be healthy if you’re not disciplined in your life.
That’s so important because if you value your son/daughter, you also appreciate what you let them eat right? If you value your house, you also value insurance on that house a lot, because it keeps the house safe.
You don’t value the insurance per se, but you appreciate it as a way to protect something of value.
If you have a treasure to take locked in a trunk, you also value a lot the key that will open it because it lets you open the trunk. Anyway, when opened you won’t appreciate it anymore.
An end value would represent something that you would cry for once achieved in your life.
It would cause such an emotional impact on you due to its importance that most likely than not you will cry or feel a deep sense of fulfillment.
For example, I value a lot positively contributing to people’s lives. Why? Because helping others in the right way is really important for me and I’ll do anything in my power to make this happen and to fulfill myself from a spiritual point of view.
Exercise 7: Group Your Values
After you have found the values for which your life is worth sacrificing, and you found the values that need to support those critical ones, it’s time to group them.
Values like impact, making the difference and recognition fall into the same category. Others like fun, pleasure, enjoyment also fall into the same one. Once you have found the class on each value, choose one that best represents that category. For example, you may select “impact” for the first group and pleasure for the second one.
You should now have between 5 and 10 values that are important to you. Now your job will be to rate them in order of importance so that you will know what the first value you’re striving for is. This is very hard to do and will probably be one of the hardest mental exercises you’ll ever do in your life, nonetheless, that’s important, so keep doing in until you rank them in the right order of importance.
It may take you some days or weeks before you feel that your work is done so don’t rush it as you’ll be working with the deepest parts of yourself in here. You’ll be in direct communication with your subconscious truest desires, that’s why it’s hard to get through this right away.
Exercise 8: Describe The Value Better
Now all you have to do is to select each value and describe it with some words that represent the value in the best way for you. For example, taking the value Impact, you might write “ Impact: Changing the world BIG in a good way.”
Exercise 9: The Final Test
Now you need to actually validate each of the values you have selected for you. This is a way to make sure that you did your job right and that you’re are all set to live a fulfilling and happy life.
If you have chosen the right values, you should feel like they belong to you.
1: How does each one of those values make you feel?
2: How does your gut feel when you think about them?
3: Are you happy with the way you prioritized your values?
4: Do they represent you at your very core? Be honest as your entire life will depend upon those values.
Your Take Away From This Article
If you work hard towards something you don’t really care about, then you’re not working. You’re merely stressing yourself out.
Now that you know how to find your core values you won’t find yourself anymore in a position of passivity concerning who you are, but you will be able to see yourself and do the things that are in line with your real being.
We can then say that our core values are the pillars of who we are and without knowing them, we’re merely lost and wondering in a world of unknown.
Now that you know what are your core values you are a step ahead of many people in this world that don’t even have a clue of what they are doing.
Remember that this is a lifelong process and that you should revise your values every now and then because with time you will naturally value certain things more than others and so your life will need to be directed towards other frontiers to ensure you perpetual fulfillment.
Did you manage to find your core values and what benefits have you gotten by reading this article? Share below your experience with us.