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How to identify and live by your core values

In one of my previous posts, I talked about “Redefining success.” Those posts aimed to help you find your true meaning of success. You might’ve been searching for success in money, fame, power, etc. But were you happy at the end of the day? Because that’s what matters the most. Without happiness, none of the above matters. So what makes you happy? Does being honest makes you happy? or is it a conversation with a loved one that makes you happy? Each of us values certain things in life. When we live our life honoring those values, we feel happy. These values are called core values.

Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person. In other words, it’s what they give the utmost priority in their life. For example, if one of your core values is to help others, then you’ll be in constant lookout for opportunities where you can benefit others. And when you were unable to seize an opportunity to help due to some unavoidable circumstances, you’ll feel depressed. So, the core values are the ones that give a sense of fulfillment and meaning to your life.

Core values need to be discovered rather than chosen. You’ve to identify what you consider important in life. How to do it? It’s by closely examining your behavior and the decisions you’ve made in the past. What gave you a sense of fulfillment? What made you feel happy? On doing what task you felt like you were born to do it. Answers to these questions can help you find your core values.

In this post, we’ll also look at the core values of some of the eminent personalities. Instead of presenting you with a big list of core values to choose from, I want you to understand it better so that you can define your own.

Importance of having core values

  1. It’s easier to move towards your passion or purpose if you’re crystal clear with your core values.
  2. Decision-making becomes easier with well-defined values.
  3. When you abide by your core values, you’ll feel satisfied, fulfilled, and happy at the end of the day.
  4. It also makes you feel more confident and assertive.

Have you seen celebrities acing the performance in their field, but failing terribly in their family and relationships? It’s because they didn’t value relationships as much as they value their performance. That is, the family is not one of their core values. They jump from one relationship to another in search of a perfect partner. And at the end of the day, they don’t feel guilty doing so.

On the other hand, a person from an orthodox family may find this kind of behavior very sleazy. Having been brought up parents who instilled in them, the importance of family and staying in a relationship no matter what happens, their value for family is immense. They would sacrifice anything for the sake of their family. Sometimes, even their dreams.

This is why identifying your core values is so important. If you know what you value the most, you can use it as a compass to show the direction you want to travel. That is, you can use it to decide your career, or whom to marry, and other important life decisions.

Mahatma Gandhiji’s core values

gandhi core values

The strong driving force behind Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom movements is his core values. In a paper presented by a group of researchers in Turkey, six core values of Mahatma Gandhi were identified.

  1. Love for his fellow humans.
  2. Justice.
  3. Peace.
  4. Non-violence.
  5. Tolerance.
  6. Freedom.

These values were instilled in Gandhi’s mind from a younger age. He stands as an exemplary example of peace all over the world, today. This is purely because of strictly following the values he considered important.

Ratan Tata’s core values

ratan tata core values

Being the former chairman of the Tata group, Ratan Tata, is a person known for living life by his values.

Apart from values and ethics which I have tried to live by, the legacy I would like to leave behind is a very simple one – that I have always stood up for what I consider to be the right thing, and I have tried to be as fair and equitable as I could be.

Ratan Tata, the former chairman of the TATA group

The above statement of this visionary declares how important it is to live a life of our personal values. Now, let’s see the important values of Ratan Tata.

  1. Visionary – it was he who took the TATA to the global level. Until then, the TATA group adopted only a conventional business approach.
  2. No past regrets – “There’re so many things that, if I have to relive, maybe I will do it another way. But I would not like to look back and think about what I have not been able to.”
  3. Self-belief – “I don’t believe in taking the right decisions. I take decisions and then make them right.”
  4. Open to criticisms – “Take the stones that people throw at you. And use them to build a monument.”
  5. Humble – He has personally visited families of over 80 employees who were affected during the 26/11 attacks.

APJ Abdul Kalam’s values

abdul kalam core values
  1. Inspiring young minds – I think it’s needless to say how I identified this as one of his values. This is his fundamental and most important core value. Guess what, he was nominated for ‘the youth icon of the year’ at the age of 70.
  2. Kindness – He was kind not only to fellow human beings but also towards birds and animals.
  3. Patriotism – He had aspiring visions for India and spelled out three of them in his book, “The Wings of Fire.”
  4. Self-discipline – It was this value that brought him a lot of laurels as a scientist, president, writer, poet, etc.
  5. Courage – “My message, especially to the young people is to have the courage to think differently, the courage to invent, travel the unexplored path, the courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed.”

Having read the core values of these eminent personalities, I hope you would’ve understood what core value means. Now, it’s time for you to identify your core values. What are the most important principles that you want to abide by? Real life success comes from living a life of values.

Should we strictly follow our values?

Sometimes, strictly following your values, can create a lot of problems. For example, one of the core values of Gandhiji is freedom. In order to live his life pertaining to this value, he fought against the British who ruled India. He could have used weapons to fight against them. But another core value of Gandhi is Non-violence. So combining these two values, he fought for freedom, adopting a non-violence strategy. And it created a lot of problems for him. But our hero was never going to give up. He taught us that one can fight for freedom without violence. He strictly followed his values in-spite of all the troubles that he faced. And now the world sees him as an example for non-violence and peace.

So following your values can be difficult at times. But don’t ever give up. Stand up for what you value the most. If you don’t stand up for your values, then who will? If you value kindness, then never miss an opportunity to help the one who needs your support. Never miss a chance to show your compassion towards people and other living beings.

If you value your family, show them your love for them. Make them realize how important they are in your life. Be with them whenever they need your support.

If one of your values is loyalty, then stand for it in all circumstances, just like Karna of Mahabharata.

Never miss an opportunity to give your honest suggestions for improvement to a friend in need, if you value honesty.

Values we need for a better life

We have seen what core value means and how to find your true values. It’s advantageous to adopt some good values for a better life. By saying a better life, I mean better mental and physical health, better relationships, better work-life balance, etc.

Even after trying if you’re unable to adopt these values in life, then it’s okay. It means it’s not natural to you. So there’s no point in acting out as if these were your values. I don’t want you to live an artificial life. Life is natural, and it should unfold naturally. My opinion is that, try these values. If it suits you, you really can have a good life. If it doesn’t, still you’re awesome.

  1. Living life without regrets – we all make mistakes. It means that we’re human beings. You may know the famous proverb, “To err is humane.” Don’t keep replaying the scenario where you made a mistake again and again in your mind. I know it’s better said than done. But if we focus too much on the past mistakes that we made, we fail to live to our fullest potential in the present.
  2. Health – without this, you cannot enjoy the marvelous moments of life. By health, I mean both physical as well as mental health. Health should always be your priority. Regular exercise, meditation, etc are a need.
  3. Self-discipline – ask any successful men or women, how they were able to achieve something great. A common answer you’ll hear will be self-discipline.
  4. Love – the world needs this more. Compassion, kindness, and empathy come naturally if one values love. If you can understand another person’s emotions and address them with concern, you’ll gain a permanent place in their heart.
  5. Relationships – you may win a lot of accolades and gather numerous rewards, but when you come home, you need someone to celebrate it and be happy for you. This maybe your mom, or your spouse, or even your best friend.

What to do if your values hurt others?

Sometimes when we abide by our values, someone might get offended. For example, if you value honesty, you’ll be frank with your friend and point out any mistake that he or she makes. In this case, he or she might feel offended or hurt. What to do in such cases? Should you not point out the mistake? No. You should say it. But as far as possible in a polite manner.

Some people value hygiene a lot. When their hygiene standard is not met, they get furious. Sometimes out of their extreme anger, they hurt even their loved ones. This may even cause trouble in relationships. So, try not to be very stubborn with your values when it comes to your family or loved ones. They’re the ones who’ll be with us in our ups and downs.

Summing Up

Values make us stronger and happier. If you’re a parent, try to instill good values in your children right from their childhood. Some people’s childhood made them believe in some bad values. So your child’s childhood is very important for a bright future. Let them embrace good values and lead a life of fulfillment. Let them value peace over chaos, love over hate, discipline over procrastination, character over beauty, nature over artificial, kindness over anger, and EQ over IQ. Our values are the ones that people remember about us on our final day on this earth. They won’t talk about how rich we were, or how famous we were. But, they’ll talk about what we stood for, and what we valued the most. Our values are the ones that speak about us. So, remember to leave behind good values. So what are your values? Share them in the comments below.


A role model in the light of values: Mahatma Gandhi” by Hakan Dundar, Erdi Erdogan, and Erdem Hareket, from where I learnt the core values of Mahatma Gandhi.

Here are the core values of Ratan Tata from the website,, and credits to Bipradip Chatterjee who wrote this article on

The values of APJ Abdul Kalam mentioned here are inspired from his quotes.

My previous series of posts on “Redefining success.” Here’s the Part 1, part 2, and part 3 of this series.

I mentioned that your child should value EQ more than IQ. Here’s the reason.

The images of Gandhiji, Rata Tata, and Abdul Kalam are copyright-free images. I give my credit to the makers for making it available in the public domain for free. Image of Ratan Tata – Indiandevu, Abdul Kalam’s image – Saptarshighosh (both of these are available in the Wikimedia commons), Gandhiji – from Pixabay.

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