Core values are principles or beliefs that a person views as being of central importance to them. Everyone has different core values, that have been developed and influenced both by everything that’s happened in their lives, as well as their own individual personalities. So, even if two people were brought up in exactly the same way, their innate core values can still be dramatically different.
When people “live by their values”, they tend to experience a greater level of emotional fulfilment than if they go against their core values in the things that they do. Core values can be thought of almost as a “code of conduct” that we have developed for ourselves, that helps us choose how to act and react in a way that is congruent with the things that we value most.
Many people (clients) are unaware and unfamiliar with the idea of core values, so it’s (generally) unlikely that your clients will already know their own core values.If a client has done a core values exercise in the past, it’s still worth going over them again in the present, as core values can change over time. Also, some clients may have tried to figure out their own core values for themselves, however, this may not have been executed correctly. It’s easy for clients to speculatively imagine what they’d like their core values to be, but finding their true core values can take a bit more work.
Core values are best used alongside goal-setting techniques with your clients. From a solution-focused therapy perspective, goals formation is an integral part of the therapy process. Ideally the goals that are set should connect to as many of the client’s core values as possible. If a goal connects to none, then it may not be as strong as it could be. Also, by becoming aware of core values, clients are able to make their day-to-day decisions and plans strongly connected to their values too, so they can begin to live by their values more in everything that they do.
From a therapy perspective, core values can also show up areas of conflict. Sometimes a client’s core values may be in opposition to the therapeutic outcome that they desire, such as a weight loss client whose most important core value is “comfort”. The conflict may arise during their therapy process, as weight loss isn’t always a comfortable process, so learning in advance that there is this potential challenge to the process, means that you can plan ahead to help the client work through being less comfortable during the weight loss process.
Where therapeutic change is focused and congruent with core values, it is likely to receive more physical and psychological commitment, motivation and engagement. Popular applications of core-value congruent change include; addictions, anger, anxiety, bereavement, grief and loss, binge eating, bruxism, confidence, disordered eating, exam/interview/test nerves, fears and phobias, goal achievement, insomnia, nail biting, memory, pain management, performance anxiety, public speaking, relationship issues, sadness / low mood, self-esteem / self-confidence, smoking, sport performance, stress management, weight management, and much more.
Ask the client to take the whole deck of cards, and to deal them out into three stacks. These stacks are for low, medium and high priority (i.e. high=is most important to them, low=not important). Have them sort each core value according to their immediate, gut response. They are to do this quickly, without deliberating/over-thinking:
Once that’s done, discard the medium priority stack immediately, as these are ‘neither/nor’, so they are no longer required. You’re left with the low and high priority cards:
Ask the client to briefly look through the low priority stack to see if any of these core values were previously high priority. If so, ask them to consider, for a moment, why they might have changed… Then discard the low priority stack too, so you’re left with just the high priority cards:
Now ask the client to select their ‘top ten’ core value cards from the high priority stack, and to arrange them in order from top priority down (i.e. put most important at the top, and least important at the bottom). Once this is done, you can then have them discard the bottom five (least important).
The remaining five cards are the client’s core values:
There are various techniques that you can use once you have discovered the core values, in order to help the client engage with them, and to get the most from this new knowledge.
A great way to help clients connect with core values is to have them notice where the values were linked to past positive experiences. Have them think about a time that was amazing, perhaps an achievement, or something that went really well. Get them to notice which of their core values it resonated with. Conversely, they can think of a time that was horrible, maybe a negative experience, something stressful or upsetting, and notice which of the core values the event went against… This simple exercise lets us demonstrate to clients how their core values are an inherent part of how they react and respond to situations.
Suggest that your client considers each core value individually, and ask how they feel when they think of each. Is each value congruent with the client? Do they ‘feel right’ and ‘fit’ well with them? Are they realistic and compatible with their nature and personality? Suggest that the client reflects on their core values every two or three months. Have them take time to notice how much of their life is congruent with their core values. Are any values receiving less attention? Has something changed? Are they going in the right direction? You can even have the client write down their core values, and create a list of things that they do that meet each value, and notice if any columns are lacking. Here’s an example, and as you can see, ‘wisdom’ is not being fulfilled:
When they are faced with challenging decisions, have your client consider each of the options and notice how many of core values are positively connected, and whether any options work in opposition to a core value.
Have them consider their undesirable habitual behaviours from the perspective of any friction being generated against core values. Then, ask them to consider an alternative, desirable new habitual behaviour, assessing compatibility with core values. If the proposed behaviour is only connecting to one or two core values, consider whether the new behaviour could be adapted or refocused to address more core values.
Initially, work to explore present, unhealthy, undesirable or intrusive thoughts. Consider both the thoughts and the consequences of those thoughts (e.g. emotions, behaviours, symptoms) for any friction against core values. Then, focus on generating alternative, more healthy and positive thoughts. Consider these for compatibility with core values. If the proposed new way of responding is only connecting to one or two core values, consider reviewing the proposed approach with the possibility of adapting or refocusing to better resonate with more core values.
At times, there may be benefits from maintaining a dysfunctional habitual behaviour or cognitive process. These may result in symptoms or conditions that give the individual a benefit or ‘gain’. For example, work-related stress, leading to physical symptoms, which result in time off work. It can be worth using the core values questioning process to help the person consider the advantages and disadvantages of continuing how they do at present:
At times, new behaviours, thoughts or responses might seem a good idea, in theory, but until we do them, we may not be sure they are well focused or accurately targeted. It can be helpful, when working on new behaviours, thoughts, or responses, to ask the client to imagine themselves engaging in their life, one day, one week, one month, one year (or other timescales as appropriate) in the future, and to notice how this resonates with their core values. Is there any friction? How many core values connect? Could anything be amended or changed to strengthen the engagement with their core values?
So now you have an idea of how to best use these Core Value Cards, there are many different ways that you can apply Core Values to your work. If you have any comments or feedback about the cards or if there’s anything that you would like to see added to this page, do contact us and let us know. Thank you for purchasing the cards, and for your continued support!