Identifying Your Core Values Lead to Healthy Boundaries and Well-Being

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Why knowing your core values leads to better decisions and a fulfilling life.

Being Young and Dumb About Core Values

When I was in my early thirties, I realized the value of going back to college and finishing the last year of my accounting classes so I could get a better job. After completing my accounting degree (with honors I might add), what I should have been focusing on was whether or not the new job I wanted was with a company who shared my same values.

"What?" you say, "Values don't pay the rent. Money is the reason you switch jobs." That's what I thought , too.

I had just started a non-accounting job (making more money) with a small, local oil and gas company. My supervisor was skilled in training me so well that his boss was impressed with my productivity. However, when I would ask to stay late to finish a project I was told that no overtime can be approved. In fact their Accounting Manager would walk down the hallway saying loudly "It's 5 o'clock, people. Pack up and go home!" That was a first. They must want a balance between work and home, I thought. How naïve I was back then.

I Should've Paid Attention to the Red Flags

One day I mentioned to my supervisor that I was going to a business gathering with my husband. He looked at me and said "If people ask, don't tell them the name of the company you work for. Just say it's a small oil and gas company and change the subject." I chuckled and asked "Why? They'll want to steal me away?" He looked at me very serious and replied "No but I don't want you finding out why like I did. I can't explain right now because the walls might have ears."

Well, I went to the event, didn't heed his warning, and was completely humiliated after talking to the first business couple I met.

The conversation started out very friendly. They told me about their business selling oilfield parts to companies. I mentioned that I worked for a small oil and gas company. They asked me the name and as soon as I said it their smiles went away. The gentleman proceeded to tell me in an angry voice how my employer was putting them out of business by refusing to pay their invoices for expensive oilfield parts but offering them pennies on the dollar. 

Core Values Matter

The next day, I recounted my experience to my supervisor. He wasn't surprised to hear it and said the couple I talked to probably wasn't the only customer upset with our employer.

My boss was up for retirement soon. He said he was biding his time to retire and then would decide how to handle what he knew. He said he didn't think what they were doing was illegal but it was unethical. I agreed.

A week later, I gave my two weeks notice much to the regret of my department manager. Fortunately, my supervisor understood and promised to stay quiet about the reason for my leaving.

The moral of my story is this: make sure you know what your core values are and that your employer and your relationships match them. Otherwise, a mismatch will cause a lot of stress and discord in your life. Learn from my experience like I did.

Your Happy Place Depends on Your Core Values

Your core values say a lot. They say what's important to you and how you think about yourself. There's a saying that goes "If you want to know about a person, look at their close friends". Do your relationships reflect your values?

My top five core values are integrity, honesty, faith, compassion, and justice. The employer I mentioned earlier did not match my core values and caused a lot of stress in my life. In fact, I did not list that company on my resume (I was employed for almost three months) but I did list my supervisor who gave me a wonderful recommendation for the next job.

My core values apply to my relationships as well, especially my top five. If I were to tolerate lies, betrayal, and injustice, then that says I don't think I'm worthy to be in a relationship based on integrity, honesty, and justice. That's erroneous thinking. Everyone has a choice to be in a relationship that makes both individuals strive to be a better version of themselves all of the time, not just when the public is watching.

Discover Your Core Values

Now it's time for you to discover your values. If you know them, skip the two questions and start with #3.

When answering the questions, include Who, What, Where, and Why for clarity. 

1. What situations in your life were so fulfilling?

2. What situations in your life were so frustrating or disappointing?

3. Make a list of all of your values and rank them by importance. The ranking can change over time. That's okay.

4. Pick your top five values that are most consistent. 

5. Keep the list handy so you can review your day, week or month to see if you are honoring your values.

If you still need help with examples, look at this website listing 13 core values worksheets.


Stay tuned for next week's blog on setting healthy boundaries with difficult people.

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