“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” – Charles Bukowski

Knowing yourself, as Socrates is often credited as saying, is the beginning of all wisdom.

But how easy is it to know who you truly are, what makes you tick and how it influences the ways in which you behave and thrive in your personal and professional life?

Your personality is a complex, unique entity and spending time exploring and understanding it more and to a deeper level will help you to grow your confidence, recognise your worth, celebrate your strengths and identify your weaknesses.

This in turn will help to shape your character in your career and how it determines your behaviour amongst colleagues, your work ethic, your ability to cope with stress and so much more, whether you’re in a leadership, mid-level or junior role.

So, where to start?

Discovering and choosing your values is one of the best starting points when trying to understand yourself and how you work.

Values are a framework – a set of principles – that are particularly meaningful to you and determine the ways in which you behave, your decision-making process, how you approach your relationships with people, and how you cope with uncomfortable, stressful or upsetting situations.

It is therefore quite clear to see why there is value in knowing what your values are.

Your core values might be five to eight things that you hold dear – they are ideals that you consciously, or perhaps subconsciously, like to live and work by.

There are plenty to choose from, and when reading the brief list of examples below, you might find that some automatically jump out and resonate with you.

Examples of values include:

  • Creativity
  • Confidence
  • Helping others
  • Financial security
  • Compassion
  • Loyalty
  • Honesty
  • Learning
  • Health
  • Control
  • Competitiveness
  • Family
  • Nature
  • Adventure
  • Connection with others
  • Independence
  • Success
  • Freedom
  • Beauty
  • Bravery

Identifying your values

If you’re unsure about how to identify your main values, it’s helpful to think of people in your life that are special to you, and think about the types of values that are driving them.

It might be a parent, a best friend, an employer or a sibling that you admire and respect – but why? Are they compassionate, fun-loving or spontaneous? Are they loyal? Are they brutally honest or hard-working? Whatever characteristics they have that cause you to like them, think about what the core value is behind this trait, and see how it relates to your personality and how you can live your life according to that value to a greater extent.

You can also think about times in your life you have felt particularly challenged or stressed, and what you did to get you through that time. Likewise, think of times you were happy and the reasons for it, and moments you were proud of yourself – what made you proud and what decisions did you take to reach that feeling? All of this exploration will help to clarify the principles that drive you forwards in everything you do.

These drivers are present in our lives whether we are aware of them or not, but becoming aware of them is what allows you to know yourself better, and to actively make conscious decisions that are compatible with your values.

For example, if you value creativity but currently have a job that you feel stifles your flare, your personality and your career will likely feel at odds with each other, and you may end up growing resentful of your job and the career path you chose.

Similarly, if you value connection with others and the desire to help people, working in a purely corporate job that has little relation to the average person on the street may leave you questioning whether the results of your work are meaningful enough for you.

It’s worth noting that when choosing your values, some may seem obvious to you, and others might require more thoughtful selection. You’re allowed to change your mind too, and sometimes when life presents you with a new, uncertain challenge, you might be forced to re-assess your values.

As you travel through life and your career, you might also find that some of your values are in direct conflict with one another. That’s perfectly normal, and in such circumstances, your behaviour, actions and decisions will be determined by whichever value you prioritise over another.

Your values in a team

Whether you’re in a management, mid-level or junior role, your values will determine how you work with others.

A leader who values hard work and success is going to lead by example and inspire others with their work ethic, for example, and a leader who values compassion above all else is going to be able to tolerate mistakes and let their team develop their own approach to tasks and processes.

As a team member, working with your ideals in mind will help you identify the sort of role you play within a group setting. Independence may mean you’re more than happy to work by yourself, bravery might mean you’re less afraid to take risks, and control may mean you naturally step into a leadership role when asked to work in a team.

Whatever your personal or professional life looks like, your values will have formed the path that has led you to this point, and they will be the guidelines you can use to help set your goals for the future.

To explore this topic in more depth, we have listed a few articles below: