Find your internal compass

Feb 10, 2020
Dr Eddie Murphy explains how personal values can support and enhance your wellbeing.

Personal values are a set of beliefs and qualities by which we strive to live. They are key qualities and psychological concepts that are deeply important to us and our sense of the world. When we live by our values, what we do and how we do things match the internal qualities that are most important to us.

Positive psychology

Amid the constant stress and activities in our daily lives, it is easy to lose track of what we truly care about and value. Identifying and working to incorporate personal values into our lives can not only be fulfilling, but can also deepen our sense of purpose and meaning. Prof. Martin Seligman, who is known as the father of positive psychology, talks about a life of pleasure, meaning and engagement. Indeed, if you follow my work, you will know that I see meaning and engagement as a dynamo that constantly replenishes our wellbeing.

The importance of values 

Our values act as an internal compass that guides our direction in life. It is, therefore, important to be aware of what they are and use them to make key decisions. Values are influenced by our social background, family, birth order, generational factors and genetic inheritance to mention just a few. Values serve as your guide, acting as a Garda, judge, doctor, psychologist and social worker.
Psychologist Steven Hayes describes values as “chosen life directions” that are “vitalising, uplifting, and empowering”. A value is not merely a goal, but it can be thought of as a continuous process, direction and way of living that helps direct us towards various goals and live a meaningful life.

Identify your values

It is now time for you to do some work. There are various ways to identify your values including choosing which domains or areas in your life are most important to you, and specifically what you value within each domain. Which areas of your life, and how many you choose, can vary. They can include relationships, career achievement, parenting, self-care, spirituality, community involvement, and education/learning.

  • Take some time to reflect deeply on the areas of your life and ways of living that give you the most meaning, interest and sense of fulfilment.
  • Pick an area and examine how this value is expressed in your current life, including daily activities, lifestyle and relationships.
  • List ways you can make your chosen value more prevalent in your life. These do not need to be major life changes but can be small actions or activities.
Now, imagine you are 80 years old, in good health and have fulfilled your life dreams and goals. Your family and friends are planning a testimonial party for you, and your childhood best friend has been asked to write and read a tribute to you. Write the tribute you would want your friend to write. It may be short, long, nostalgic, humorous, biographical or visionary – but it must be responsible. It must capture the spirit and essence of the ideal life you hoped to have lived. As you write this tribute, refer to your core values. Incorporate the essence of these values into the story. Be as realistic, specific and as honest as possible. 

Find your purpose

Going through life without a sense of our values is like walking into a store and buying a new pair of shoes with our eyes closed: chances are they will be the wrong size, the wrong style and not at all what we wanted. Equally, we may end up with a life that doesn’t suit us, leaves us feeling uncomfortable, dissatisfied, awkward (even in pain), and a life that is more something that just happened to us, rather than something we consciously chose.

Discovering our core values is one of the first and most important steps in living authentically. Find your values and re-find your purpose in life.  

Members and students can phone CA Support on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294, contact us by email at casupport@ or visit our website at

Dr Eddie Murphy is a clinical psychologist, mental health expert and author.