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What's most important to you in life? How do you know?


What’s most important to me is a question people start asking themselves when they have a major event happen in their life that tips everything upside down.

This could be a range of things including loss of a loved one, achieving a big goal (university qual or freeholding a house, and a consequent anticlimax) Or, a relationship breakup, a car accident, a major health scare, kids leaving home, business failure etc The list really is endless. For me it was first at age 28 with the death of our first child.

See the thing is we innocently believe that the tangible world is what creates our happiness and fulfillment, and when it suddenly isn’t then we start to question what’s it all for and what’s actually important to me.

The thing is, what we don’t realise is that the tangible things, situations and people don’t actually provide our happiness. Happiness is not a destination. Life sends us major events to wake us up to this and start questioning “what is actually important to me”.

Happiness and fulfillment


is available everyday when we know where to look.

While it doesn’t look like it at the time, life provides these major events so we can crumble and then rise from the ashes – evolve into something better, if we choose to recognize this, as an opportunity rather than life dealing us a blow.

I suspect that for many of us, the material tangible world appears to be providing a good feeling which is what we are always ultimately seeking. The interesting thing to see is that the good feeling is coming from how we perceive and think about the tangible world, not from the tangible world itself. The feeling that we seek is often different for each of us. I would like to suggest that we each have a core set of feelings that we are drawn to feeling on a regular basis. The feelings that we as individuals have come to recognize as important to us. These core personal feelings are given the label Core Values, and they reflect how we behave.

Traditionally commentators of Core Values may have purported that Core Values are things like family, relationships, health, adventure, nature, wealth etc, and that they change through life. However I suggest to you that Core Values are deeper than this. I suggest that core values are the feeling you get from experiencing family, wealth, nature health etc. And that feeling you seek is independent of the stage of life.

For example health may not be important to you in early life but after a major diagnosis it suddenly is. Whereas the feeling of freedom for example that health might give you, is likely to have been there always, unaware of it and showing up throughout your life. It only become obvious when it is challenged or taken away. So it might not be that health is as important as the feeling of freedom that is being challenged by the health scare.

Identifying your Core Values means that with new awareness of the feelings you seek you can find other ways of experiencing Freedom that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be linked to say health. In this way, fulfillment can be found irrespective of your life situation.

The traditional core values list is subject to change over the period and stages of your life, whereas the deeper emotional drivers are always and have always been there for an individual and infact have shaped their life according to the feelings they are drawn to experience as life stages unfold.

The trouble is, emotions are not often in our conscious awareness and therefore we go through life not really knowing what emotions are driving our fulfillment on a specific and deep level. It can appear to be our life situation that causes fulfillment.

This is where a Core Values exercise in quarter life, mid life or after a major life event can help to guide you with consciousness and awareness of what’s most important to you in life.

Core Values are the internal compass that guides your decisions, motivates you to behave in certain ways and shows up in conflict with others’ when they are challenged – such as at work or in a relationship. Core Values are so strong and important that they are responsible for us walking away from relationships and jobs when they are challenged or not being met – and we won’t be consciously aware of this.

So how do we find out what is most important to us?

Discovering your core values takes some quiet time and the willingness to dig deep.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to uncover your 5-6 top core values.

Think of a time in your life when you felt highly motivated? What was it about that time that was so motivating. What is the feeling you were looking for? Explore several times and several aspects of those times.

Have you ever walked away from a job or relationship? If so what was missing that was so important to you? What did it mean to you? (pin down the emotion or feeling)

Think of a time you made an important decision and you knew it was right. How did you know? What was the feeling you were seeking?

Then look for themes of the same feeling that show up in all of the above answers. Dig deep to get a specific emotion such as a sense of achievement, a feeling of connection, a feeling of freedom etc. Generalised feelings of happiness or enjoyment or satisfied won’t have the same impact for your insights as specific emotions that you are drawn to experience.

Once you have a list of 5-6 common themed emotions, you can start to understand what makes you tick and how you can experience these more often in life.

When all of our values are present in life, fulfillment occurs. Life can feel very low and unfulfilling if a highly ranked core value is missing and of course if several are missing.

A core values exercise allows you to be consciously aware of what is most important to you in life. This allows you to experience them in places you may not have thought to look and consequently live a more fulfilling life.

I’d love to chat if you’d like help with this process.

Jenny Malcolm

Mind & Body

WellBeing Coach 5.5.22

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