Your character is defined by values. And your core values are the result of your behavior. That means your values are defined by your actions—not the other way around. Aristotle said it best:
“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way.”
For example, when you always tell the truth, you become an honest person. It’s as simple as that. And yet, we collectively underestimate the importance of values. We think our values have everything to do with how we are perceived. But that’s not why values matter.
Values have a great impact on our inner world. They define us. They form the foundation of our character. And since you have to live with yourself, your values should be one of the most important things in your life.
But what if you don’t have values? Or what if you’ve never thought about setting your own core values? There are great risks involved with living without values.
You risk become a faceless human that becomes indistinguishable from every single other faceless person that has ever lived. And before you know it, you adopt the values of other people.
That’s how we become dependent on our parents, friends, or spouse. We can’t let our identity depend on the identity of someone else.
That’s why recently sat down to define my own personal core values to get things straight for myself. I recommend you to do the same. Once you know who you are in life, you stop trying to be who you are not. That gives you tranquility. Here are my core values:
- Authenticity—Be the same person at every occasion in life. Don’t act differently in front of your parents, friends, co-workers, in-laws, and strangers. Stay your true self. And never be afraid of other people’s judgments.
- Truthfulness—Tell the truth. Always. Especially when it comes to your own life. Don’t have money? Don’t pretend that you’re wealthy. Never went to college? Own it. Be honest about who you are and what you’ve done. You’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror with pride.
- Joyfulness—Life is short. Do things that bring you joy. And NEVER do something you hate for longer than is necessary. Enjoy the small things. Music, other people, working out, walking, laying down, reading, and so forth.
- Curiosity—Get to the bottom of everything that you do. Not because you must. But because it’s fun to know things. Life is fascinating. Acknowledge it. And then, try to understand it. But leave it at trying. Some things can’t be understood. But you can still admire it.
- Responsibility—Own your actions, mistakes, and current life situation. Understand what’s in your control, and fully own it. Don’t like something? Change it. But don’t take responsibility for things that are not on your plate. Focus on yourself. What other adults do is not your concern, nor your responsibility.
- Love—Build intimate and deep relationships with a few people. Depth matters more than breadth. Spend more time with your spouse than your co-workers. Get to know your siblings on a deeper level. Have two or three friends that you spend your time with. Love your family. The people you see every day should get your highest priority.
- Fearlessness—Don’t fear the future. And don’t be afraid of what people you don’t care about think of you. Only care about what you and the people you love think about you. Everything else is noise. Have dignity. Do the right thing and don’t fear the rest.
- Loyalty—Even though you might not see your old friends, co-workers, team members, stay loyal. Once you build a bond with someone, don’t break it unless it’s necessary. But most importantly, stay loyal to yourself. Never sacrifice your own mental well-being for others. Treat yourself like you treat someone you love.
I don’t need more or fewer values than this. The list is long enough to live a rich, strong, and fearless life. And it’s short enough to remind yourself of these things.
Remember: Your values must be in line with who you are.
Never copy someone else’s values. Looking at other people’s values for inspiration is great, and to help you with that, I’ve created a list of 115 common core values you can use. But this remains an inherently internal practice.
Your goal is to find the values that already exist inside of you—and strengthen them. John C. Maxwell, the author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, said it best:
“When values, thoughts, feelings, and actions are in alignment, a person becomes focused and character is strengthened.”
Pick your values. Stick to them. And watch as your character is formed. Once that happens, you’ll never want to be anything else but yourself.