Everyone has their own core beliefs, guiding principles or boundaries, and values. Core beliefs explain what we believe about ourselves, others, and our surroundings. These are often developed based on our personal observations or what we have been taught. Beliefs tend to change and evolve as we grow older. For example, a younger person might believe a shoplifter should be placed in jail for the rest of their lives. The same person might come to realize that everyone makes mistakes, and can learn and grow from them. They might now believe a shoplifter should have to do community-service rather than be punished with a life sentence behind bars.
Guiding principles, or boundaries, pertain to our relationship with ourselves and others. They help us determine how we treat and interact with ourselves, others and various situations. They define our personal sense of morals, and what is okay and what is not okay. Boundaries are always personal. For example, a person may decide they do not smoke cigarettes, but it is okay for them to be around others who do. On the other hand, a person may decide not to smoke cigarettes, and not to associate with others who do. These boundaries do not change the person who smokes. They change the behavior of the person who chooses whether or not to be around someone who does.
While core beliefs and boundaries may change and evolve over time, our values tend to stay fairly consistent throughout our lives. Our values are what help us prioritize actions, and make decisions. For example, take a person who is given the opportunity work late on an important project on a Friday night or go to dinner with friends and family. A person who highly values a personal sense of achievement might choose to work late, while a person who highly values the closeness of friends of family might choose to go to dinner instead. A person who has both values might find themselves in conflict.
While values do not often change, they can and do change in prioritization. For example, a young professional might value personal achievement over family and friends during their 20’s, but value family and friends over personal achievement in their 30’s.
Core beliefs, boundaries and values often cross over. And it is important for each person to learn and understand their own. When a person’s beliefs, values and boundaries match up, they are said to have integrity. On the other hand, when a person’s beliefs, values and boundaries do not match up, they tend to experience conflict in themselves and in relationship to others. One of the most important aspects of developing and understanding core beliefs, values and boundaries is differentiating between what a person thinks they should be, versus what they actually are. Learning about, evaluating (and sometimes reevaluating) and living your own personal values, boundaries and core beliefs enables a person to live authentically.