Before the age of the internet, cell phones, and GPS, when lost explorers were in need of finding their way home, they turned to the compass.

Reliable, trustworthy, and ever-consistent, the compass still remains a vital navigation tool within any traveler’s journey.

In the journey of life and love, we are faced with many forks in the road. When making decisions, we must rely on our internal compass, our values, to show us the right way. Just like a compass leading a sailor safely to shore, when our lives feel like they’re going South, turning to our values will direct us back North.

What are values?

According to psychologist Barb Markway and Celia Ampel in The Self-Confidence Workbook, values “are the principles that give our lives meaning and allow us to persevere through adversity.”

Essentially, values are the things that we consider most important in our lives. Our values identify what kind of person we are, or at least, strive to be, while providing guidelines, or imperatives, for our actions.

All in all, values are the qualities that form the foundation for our decisions, and ultimately build the life of which we live.

However, actually honoring your values in everyday life is not always so easy–especially when entering into a relationship.

While we all naturally process intrinsic values—we learn them from our family, peers, and experiences—putting them into practice is a whole other thing.

As the new year comes upon us, now is the perfect opportunity to reflect on what we value most in our lives. Regularly questioning, defining, and redefining our values helps us to navigate the complications of love and dating, make decisions with ease, and accomplish our goals for the year ahead.

So, how do you know what your core values are? In honor of the new year and new resolutions, here are six steps to discover and practice your core values in life and in love.

Step 1: Brainstorm

Before defining a list of core qualities, it’s important to meditate and reflect on your actions in the real world.

Big or small—everyday we are faced with decisions. Without thinking, our intrinsic values tend to lead us one way or another.

A great way to hone in on your values is to reflect back on experiences when you felt happy, sad, or angry.

For example, think of the last time a romantic partner said something that really upset you. What did they say? What about it felt wrong? What was your reaction?

When have you felt disappointed in yourself or like you were a fraud? What behaviour led up to that?

What do you want to change about the world or about yourself?

Now, think of the things in your life that make you feel happiest.

When do you feel your best? With who? What are you most proud of? What’s important to you in life?

If you could have any career, without worrying about money or other practical constraints, what would you do?

These are just a few questions to get you started. Be sure to write your answers on a sheet of paper so you can look back on them and reflect. Your answers reveal the unique qualities that make you special, and show what you value most in your life.

Step 2: Create a list

Now, it’s time to take all that you’ve gathered from brainstorming and compile it into a simple list.

Review what you have written and see if any particular qualities stand out. For example, if finding a romantic partner is the most important thing in your life at the moment, you might mention “companionship” as one of your core values.

To make things simpler, here is a list of possible personal values from which you can choose. Try to be as specific as possible, and only choose the values that feel most authentic to you.

  • Achievement
  • Adventure
  • Beauty
  • Compassion
  • Connection
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Dependability
  • Health/Fitness
  • Honesty
  • Independence
  • Integrity
  • Intelligence
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Learning
  • Love
  • Loyalty
  • Peace
  • Security
  • Self-discipline
  • Simplicity
  • Sincerity
  • Spontaneity
  • Success
  • Wealth

Try to limit your list to only the values that truly resonate with you. If you’re having trouble, think about someone whose opinion you highly value. How do you hope they would describe you? Write those qualities down.

Step 3: Prioritize your personal values

After compiling a list, it’s important to order them by level of importance to you.

Why? Because ordering them will help to define what values are of highest priority to you.

A general list is a great start, but at some points in life, we will be faced with choosing one value over the other. For example, if your values include success, connection, kindness, and beauty, but your number one priority is connection, there may be times when beauty and success have to take a backseat.

By placing one quality at the very top of your list, you establish it as the most important value in your life. With it as your core value, you can build a routine designed for its success.

If you put ‘connection’ as a top value, you’ll know that carving out quality time for you and your partner should be your top priority–even if it means disconnecting from work sometimes. On the other hand, if ‘adventure’ is at the top, it might be a good idea to prioritize planning an exciting vacation in a country you’ve yet to explore.

Step 4: Put it to practice

Now that you’ve defined and prioritized your values, it’s time to put them into action. The first step is by letting your values design your goals.

If you were to zoom out and look at your life as it is now, could you say that you are living in harmony with the values you’ve defined for yourself now?

If not, don’t worry–you’re not alone. For a number of reasons, life has a way of diverging us from our values. What’s important is that you’re making the changes to get back on course.

Perhaps parts of your life are more in line with your values than others. For example, maybe your professional life aligns excellently with core values like success, wealth, or achievement.

But, what about outside of work? When it comes to your romantic or personal life, are you spending time on the things that matter most to you?

Now, it’s time to make a plan. Go back to your list and, for each value, write a small step you could take to honor that value within your life.

For example, if ‘beauty’ is important to you, some simple steps could be booking regular salon appointments, joining a gym, or making sure to get enough hours of sleep each night.

After writing action plans next to each value, the next step is to break them down into small, attainable goals. Start by setting daily objectives, then expand to weekly and monthly targets. By starting small and making gradual changes, you will be able to look back at the end of the year and see how far you’ve come.

Step 5: Set daily reminders

In order to reach your long-term goals, it’s important to dedicate a portion of each day to reflect on your values.

Although they seem small at the moment, the day-to-day decisions are what eventually define our personalities, futures, and ideals.

In order to stay on track, set daily reminders for yourself. Whether it be a sticky note on the fridge, a push notification on your phone, or a text from a supportive friend, make sure that everyday you are reminded of the reasons why you started this journey in the first place. Living within your value system means disconnecting from life on autopilot and taking ownership for the decisions you make. It’s not always easy—but, it’s worth it. By incorporating your values into your daily life, you will start living with intention, focus, and peace of mind.

So, stay on track with constant reminders. Every time that you express and incorporate your core values into your daily life, you will be actively working towards your goals.

Step 6: Remember to redefine

Whether your aim is to define your values professionally or personally, with enough time and dedication, you will see yourself, your relationships, and your life transform.

As you continue to continue to grow and incorporate your values, eventually you will accomplish the goal you originally set out to achieve.

When this happens, remember to reassess.

For example, maybe at the beginning of the year, your top values relate mostly towards your professional goals, prioritizing values like ‘work,’ ‘achievement,’ and ‘success.’ Then, after months of hard work, dedication, and living in harmony with your values, you achieved your professional goals.

After accomplishing milestones in your life, it’s time to reflect and reassess your current values.

While you will probably always value more or less the same qualities, it’s common that some values change in priority as we progress in life.

So, if after achieving all the professional success of which you’d ever dreamed of having, it’s possible you start to consider having someone with whom to share it all.

In that case, values like ‘work’ or ‘wealth’ might go lower in priority as values like ‘companionship’ and ‘love’ start to move up.

Take time to regularly reflect on the state of your life, and whether reassessing your values would be worthwhile. Doing so helps you stay on tract, allowing you to accomplish your goals quickly and with ease.

Know thy values, know thyself

By living in line with your core values, you communicate to others that you are confident in both yourself and the decisions you make. There is nothing more attractive than a partner who knows what they want.

If your goal for the new year is to find love, defining your values will make the process remarkably easier. Defining your values requires self-awareness—an important quality that, unfortunately, is not possessed by everybody. By knowing who you are, you will likewise know what you want in a partner, creating a clear vision of the relationship you want and deserve. Not only will you save time by dropping dates with incompatible suitors, but you’ll protect yourself from falling victim to becoming overpowered within a relationship.

Often, those who don’t have their values clearly defined end up looking to others for direction. Even with a perfect partner, this can be dangerous and lead to loss of self and codependency. However, this becomes dangerous when falling into a relationship with a narcissistic partner. There is nothing that a narcissist loves more than a partner who can’t stand up for themselves. Those that cannot define their values subconsciously let others define them for them. In the hands of a narcissist, someone guided by negative values, this makes easy grounds for manipulation and toxic behaviors.

Strong values, strong relationship

As we settle into the new year, it’s important to keep a clear focus on our goals, values, and how to live in harmony with them both. By defining our values and being mindful of them in our everyday life, we can make the changes to set this year apart from all the rest.

No matter your values, goals, or circumstances, building self-awareness and reflecting on your life will make you both a better partner and person.

Remember, if you ever feel lost in the journey of love or life, rely on your values like a compass. Focusing on your core values will always lead you the right way.