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Your values guide your decisions and set the tone for how you live your life.
But how do you know if you’re really living your values?
If you’ve done the work of identifying your core values, you may be wondering how to bring your values to life. Or how to bring more of them into your life.
Living your values means to be the most authentic version of yourself in all aspects of your life. Not just at work, or with your family, but in all areas that matter to you.
Just as your purpose is a compass leading you back into alignment with who you’re meant to be, your values guide you back to who you truly are.
Follow the six steps below to learn how you can live your values and create more alignment and authenticity in your life.
Here’s how to really live your values:
1. Write them down
It sounds basic, but writing down your values is the first step toward really living them.
We have so many thoughts and ideas swimming around our brains at all times, and our values can get lost in the swirl of negative self-talk, running through our to-do list, or trying to remember the one thing you need from the grocery store.
Writing down your values (and keeping them somewhere you can see them) helps to build the mind-body connection to your core values. This is the first step in embodying what your values mean to you.
By physically putting pen to paper, you’re also separating your values from the rest of the thoughts in your head. You’re creating significance and elevating your values to something important.
Plus, writing down your values will help you remember them in times when you need to make a decision or stand up for what you believe in.
If you’re using a journal or notebook, write down each of your values on its own page. This way, you’ll have room to add your thoughts and insights as you go through the rest of these steps.
2. Define your values
Once you’ve written down your top values, it’s time to define them. Sure, you could google the definition or look it up in a dictionary, but defining your values in your own words is a powerful way to connect deeply to what’s most important to you.
For example, one of my values is Courage. The dictionary definition of Courage is: “the ability to do something that frightens one.”
And my personal definition of Courage is (from my Core Values Statement):
Courage is about taking action, even when it’s scary, even when it’s unpopular, even if everyone else will think I’m crazy. It’s acting anyway, despite my own fears and insecurity, in service of others. Acting in the face of self-doubt, uncertainty, and hesitation. Courage is about making a statement with my action, leading with my heart, and showing up in fierce alignment with my purpose. It’s about being strong enough in my inner wisdom that I can tell my brain, “no thank you,” when it invites me to stop. Courage keeps me aligned and focused on my path and purpose.
Which version sounds more meaningful? Which one sounds more personal?
Creating your own definition makes each of your values more real to you. Even if others have the same value as you, it’s unlikely that they’ll define their value in the same way you’d define yours.
Defining your core values also helps you remember what each of your values means to you. Sometimes, we have the tendency to take our values for granted. But writing down our own definition helps to solidify each value’s meaning in our lives and reminds us to align back to our values when making difficult decisions.
In your journal, underneath each of your values, write your own definition. It could be a few bullet points, a few words or phrases, or a paragraph. The format is up to you and what resonates most with you.
3. List the ways your values show up for you
Whether you realize it or not, your core values play out in different ways throughout your life. Some values may be more prominent at times than others, but they’re always serving you and guiding your decisions and actions.
It’s important to identify when your values are truly showing up for you and examples of times when you felt really aligned to your values. These examples will give you clues to really living your values and building on these moments.
Here’s an example: one of the women who I coached in my VIP package identified a career path that felt aligned to her passions, strengths, and how she wanted to serve the world. The next week, she was offered a job in that field! However, she considered one of her core values, Ethics, before making the decision. She knew that there was still work to be done in her current role to get things up to par before she would feel comfortable leaving. She used her core value of Ethics to make the decision to turn down the job offer so she could live in greater alignment with her values.
If you take a look at your life, I’m sure you have an amazing story like that, too! A time when you stood up for yourself or your beliefs, or a time when you made a decision that just felt right.
One core value I hear a lot from women is Faith. This might be an easy one to see showing up in your life, especially if you’re very connected spiritually. You might see this value of Faith in your morning meditation routine. You might see this in an answered prayer or a time when you deeply trusted that something would work itself out.
Once you define what Faith (or any of your core values) looks like in your life, it’ll be easier to spot this value in action!
If it helps, you can also answer the question, “What does this value teach me?” We’re always learning from our values, whether we notice it or not. Taking the time to think through the lessons you’ve learned along the way can help you identify times when your values showed up to support you.
On your core values pages, write down the ways you see each of your values showing up in your life. It can be simple, daily actions, or big, life-changing moments. Whatever comes to mind, jot it down!
4. Identify when your values are out of alignment
Just as it’s important to identify the times when you feel in flow with your values, it’s helpful to understand the times when you felt out of alignment with your values.
These are often the times when you feel conflict in your life. Times when things feel really difficult, or like you’ll never get out of a certain situation. They can also feel like you’re stuck or bored or overwhelmed, or you’re not sure what to do next.
In each of those times, I’m willing to bet something was causing you to be out of alignment with one of your core values.
Start by writing down a few times when you felt out of alignment, or when something felt off. Notice any patterns or themes that come to mind.
Here’s an example of when I’m out of alignment with my value, Courage:
When I’m out of alignment with this Value: I let my brain lead the way. I get caught up in the same old stories like, “Who am I to do this?” or “No one cares what you have to say,” or “you’re not the expert.” When I’m out of alignment with Courage, I acquiesce to these negative thought patterns, which keep me from taking action. Even though my heart may be telling me to speak up or step up or take action, if I’m out of alignment, I’m not speaking up or standing up for what’s right. And if I’m not acting, I’m not serving myself or others.
Think about how you feel or behave when you’re out of alignment with one of your values. It doesn’t feel great, does it? That’s because you’re not showing up as your authentic self. And that’s okay! We all have moments or situations in our lives when we’re not our best selves. Times of intense stress, trauma, failure, loss, or change can shake our foundation and cause us to question ourselves.
Aligning back to your core values is one way to touch back to who you are and what’s important to you. It’s one way to help you work through the chaos and confusion and make decisions or take actions that bring you back to yourself.
On your journal pages, write down a few times or situations when you felt out of alignment with your values. Write about what that feels or looks like for you. Don’t judge yourself for these moments – they’re all part of the one path we walk in this life. Lessons you were meant to learn to get back to the core of who you are.
If you’re struggling with self-doubt, self-judgement, or self-esteem as you work through this exercise, take a deep breath, put your hand over your heart, and repeat this affirmation: “I deeply and completely love and accept myself for who I am.”
5. Recommit to your values
Now that you identified and wrote down your values, defined them in a way that feels true for you, identified times when your values showed up for you, and thought about times when you felt out of alignment, it’s time to recommit to your values!
Start by thinking about how you want to feel when you’re really living your values. Is it more joyful? Balanced? Healthy? Empowered?
Then, think about what you want more of in your life. If one of your values is Fun or Humor, how can you inject more fun or more humor into your life? Perhaps it’s by allowing your inner child to set aside some time to play or paint or explore or dream. Maybe it’s laughing more or finding the humor in any situation to bring more positivity in your life.
Whatever you want to feel, write it down for each of your values. This is important, because it gives our brain a goal to work toward. It can also help you to identify the times when you are feeling what you want to feel (and the times you’re not). This self-awareness will allow you to notice when you’re feeling in flow or alignment and help you build momentum to keep those good feelings going.
Next, set an intention. An intention is a guiding principle for how you want to be, live, and show up in the world. It’s not the same as a goal, which typically has an endpoint or an expectation of success. Rather, an intention is a path you aim to align to. It guides your thoughts, actions, and attitudes.
To set an intention for your values, read over everything you just wrote down. If it helps, take 5-10 minutes to meditate on these thoughts or sit quietly in reflection. Think about how it will feel to live in alignment with your values and what that might mean for you.
Here’s the intention I set for my value, Courage:
To stay aligned to Courage, I will notice when I have fearful or doubtful thoughts and check in with them: is it my brain speaking or my heart? When my heart calls me into action, I will boldly step forward, despite fear or uncertainty, and trust that I’m being guided toward my purpose. I will speak out against sexism, racism, violence, oppression, and speak up about causes I’m passionate about. I will feel empowered, determined, motivated, and proud.
What can you do to stay aligned with your values? What will bring more happiness, balance, or fulfillment to your life? Write your intention statement in your journal for each of your core values.
6. Create a Core Values Action Plan
Now it’s time to take action! You won’t get clarity on how to live your values just by writing them down or thinking about them – you have to put them into action.
Start with your intention: what do you want more of in your life? What will you do to stay in alignment with your values?
From there, think about one action you can do for each of your values that will help you live each value more fully. It can be as simple or as dynamic as you want!
For example, if one of your core values is Balance, you could choose an action like exercising for 20 minutes 3 times per week, or you can choose to start a job search to look for a job that will give you more flexibility to work from home.
Or, if one of your core values is Service, you could choose a simple action like finding an opportunity to volunteer in your community or a more complex action like starting a side hustle where you can help others or meet a need in the world.
The action you choose is up to you, but the important thing is consistency. Choose actions that you’ll be able to follow through on or keep up with. Choose actions that make you feel excited over actions that you’ll dread. Consider starting with something small that you can do each day, then build up to bigger actions over time.
As you move forward with your Action Plan, you’ll start to notice how your values are showing up in your daily life. When you’re in full alignment with your values, you’ll have more flow and more confidence to go after the bigger goals and dreams that help you fulfill your purpose.
Identifying your personal core values is one thing, but really living your values is a powerful way to lead an intentional life. Living your values brings more stability and authenticity to your life, because you know who you are and what you stand for (or won’t stand for). Living in alignment with your values also helps to bring you closer to finding your life purpose and how you can serve the world.
Take action now: Create your Core Values Action Plan. Write down each of your personal core values, then decide on one action for each. How will you live this value more fully? How can you add more of this value to your life?