Minimalism,  Self-Care

How to Identify Your Core Values (And Why You Should)

Minimalism isn’t just about aesthetics. To be a minimalist involves internalising and applying the concept of minimal living to every aspect of life. I’ve explored what it is that we need to be happy, and wrote about how we need to define what success and happiness mean to us individually. But to do this we need to understand and identify our core values, which shape how we see the world.

There’s something about encapsulating yourself in just a few words that appeals to a minimalist – a clarity in truly knowing who you are. When I started writing this post I was sure I knew my core values, but I quickly realised something didn’t sit right with my list. I sat to hash it out in my favourite way: with pen and paper. Eventually I realised my core values were a little off the mark, and I began to understand why.

I am a woman on a mission to... with post it ideas

What are core values?

Core values are qualities we embody and resonate with in every aspect of our lives. Even if we don’t know our core values to name, we still have them. Our values make the ethical framework around which we organise our life. We subconsciously refer to our values every time we make decisions, big or small.

“Core values are the ethical framework around which we organise our life.”

Unlike thoughts or feelings, core values remain fairly constant. A core value will not change or bow to external pressure – they remain stoically personal. That isn’t to say that our values don’t change over time. They grow and evolve like everything else, and a new parent, for example, is likely to experience a change in their core values as life takes on new meaning.

Core values - 'Passion led us here' street art

“Core values can change over time, but in essence they remain a constant in our lives.”

I realised pretty quickly that I didn’t fully resonate with my list of core values because instead of epitomising who I am, they summed up who I wanted to be. This is a common trap because a core value is not a goal. As soon as I dug a bit deeper to uncover my actual values, everything seemed to click.

“Core values sum up who you ARE, not who you want to be.”

Why it’s important to know your values

Feeling dissatisfied in life can often be a sign that we aren’t living in accordance with our values. Discovering who we are and what we stand for can help us minimise those aspects that don’t align with our values; we can then make changes that lead us to a life filled with more meaning and satisfaction.

My personal core values
  • Connection (including environmental connection)
  • Independence
  • Freedom
  • Resilience
  • Gratitude

Core values - give thanks

How to identify your values

I’ve created a FREE handy workbook to help you identify your core values, with exercises to guide you through following steps in detail. It also includes a list of over 200 values to help you.  You can access the workbook by subscribing to this blog.

  1. Think of a moment you were happiest.
  • What happened? What emotions did you feel?
  • Where were you and who were you with?
  • What made this moment special?
  • What did you learn from this experience?
  1. Think of a time when you were troubled.
  • What happened? What emotions did you feel?
  • Where were you and who were you with?
  • Is there anything you would have done differently in hindsight?
  • What did you learn from this experience?
  1. Were there any similar themes in your memories?
  • These are the raw outline of your values. Refine and flesh out your list until you have about 10 core values listed.
  1. Refine the list to your five core values, in order of importance.

How to integrate your values into your life
        5.   What areas of your life embody your core values? Any particular activities?
  1. Can you think of any aspect of your life that seems incompatible with your values? Any particular activities?

Without even trying to formulate a life plan, you now have one. Use steps 5 and 6 to assess the tweaks you can make to live your life in accordance to your values.

Were your core values what you thought they’d be?

Just an ordinary writer gal, exploring the different ways we can re-engage with things that matter


  • Robyn Green

    It’s so rare these days to come across a blog that isn’t just an attempt to sell. This was actually helpful, I didn’t realize how all over the place my values were and I’m pushing 30. This blog post right here is long term valuable. Thank you for writing it.

    • Hannah

      Thanks so much for commenting! It’s comments like these that make me want to keep writing. I’m so pleased this post was helpful. I’m pushing 30 too and it took me quite a long time to figure out my values too. It’s a game changer when you’ve got those values nailed down. Good luck!

      • Moriya

        Thank you so much for this. I realize lately I’ve been valuing things that seem good (and are good in and of themselves) but they aren’t my core values. As a survivor of childhood abuse, authenticity takes a little extra (or a lot of extra) effort and intention. It’s articles like this to guide and make it just a little easier.

        Thank you for the depth of this article. I’ll be re-reading it many times, I’m sure.

        • Hannah

          Hi there, thank you for your commenting and sharing your story. I’m so pleased the post has helped you. Defining our values is so important in order to make sense of our experiences (which, of course, shape our values in the first place). I hope you continue to find peace within the values you hold.

          Hannah x

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