Last time I spoke on the topic of Core Values and how they play a part in my life. In that discussion I talked about how living my core values is what keeps me happy and that no amount of success in life will create happiness, if not living in tune with those values. I also spoke about how living in accordance with those values allows us to bypass a great deal or agonizing over decisions since we have a firm outline of what is in tune with my values. Today I wanted to share a method to learn what your core values are.

Step one is simple, go out and get a packet of note cards. When you get those home, sit down somewhere with the stack and a good pen or marker and start to think about your life. Think about the events in your life that you are happiest with and why you are happy about those events. Also, think about the events and things in your life that you are the unhappiest about. Dig deep on these events and the decisions that you made during those events. Why did you make those decisions? What was the motivation behind your actions and inactions in those situations? Find the core idea or value that drove those decisions, or in the case of the unhappy events, the idea or value you choose to ignore and write those ideas and values down. Keep it simple, a word or two at most on each card. Keep this up until you have a nice stack of ideas and values listed out, but no more than about 100.

Next up is the hard part. Take that stack of ideas and values and start sorting them into 3 stacks: important, very important, and most important. Go through your whole stack and get them sorted so that you have an idea of the ones that you hold closest to your heart. This isn’t the hard part because the task is complicated, this is hard because you have to look into your own heart and soul and be completely honest about what things are most important to you. I can tell you from experience that this is a painful process and you are going to find that the things most important to, you might not follow the ideals of the life or society that you live in every day. That alone will be a challenge that we need to face to become authentic in our living.

Finally, take that stack of “most important” and start to trim it down to the top 5 or 10 values that that define who you are and put any extras into the “very important” stack. Now you have your core values, those things that will define how you should live your life. Do what you will with that stack of cards to make sure that you keep them in mind every day. For xiaoyi and I, we did this in concerns to our lives together and we have engraved out value onto small mirrors that we hang on the wall where we will see them every day, where we will read them every day. This keeps those ideals fresh in our minds so that we can live them authentically and aware. The difference living our lives in accordance with our values has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Now, this isn’t a onetime thing. Every year or so, take out those cards again and look through them. Add any ideals or values that you feel are missing and remove any that don’t resonate with you any longer. The truth of the matter is that your values are going to change over the course of time and the lives that we lead when we are young will not be the ones that we live when we get older, and they shouldn’t be. If you are here and reading this, it means that you have a desire to learn, and that learning is going to change you.  Also take a close look at that set of core values and see if they are constant for you going forward or if any of them have moved in importance to the “very important” pile and if any from the “very important” pile has moved into those core values. This will keep your values current with your life and your journey opening up your life to the joys we have found in ours.