Finding Your Core Values
“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”
-Roy E. Disney
Would you rather be right, or happy? Do you speak up if you see someone mistreating an animal? When, if ever, is it OK to lie?
Deep inside each of us is a moral blueprint that forms the foundation for how we distinguish right from wrong; what motivates us, what’s important, and who we are when we think no one is watching. These core values come from established social, cultural and familial standards, and our own personal experiences and beliefs.
When we find ourselves wrestling with making decisions, it could easily be because we’re not consciously aware of exactly what our values are. This is particularly true if you’re struggling to feel a sense of purposefulness.
Another important consideration is that in the course of our life, some of our values will change. While Conformity, for instance, may have been beneficial when we were in school, it could easily be replaced with Leadership and Energy values in the post-graduate corporate environment. If we haven’t consciously made the transition to the more dynamic values, we might be conflicted when trying to decide between maintaining a low profile, or stepping up to take charge with great ideas that are a win-win for all involved.
Taking an honest, introspective look at the values that define and guide you can be a valuable exercise for achieving more clarity, balance and happiness in your personal, professional and spiritual life. Here’s a quick exercise to get you started.
First, you’ll need a list of values. An internet search will give you lots of options – try to collect at least 30.
Some examples include: Compassion, Leadership, Integrity, Peace, Wealth, Joy, Happiness, Love, Success, Recognition, Friendship, Family, Fame, Truth, Authenticity, Wisdom, Power, Status, Influence, Justice, Faith, Accomplishment, Experience, Precision, Friendliness, Calmness, Sacredness, Grace, Awe, Fitness, Recreation, Sustainability, Courage, Logic, Teamwork, Vitality, Effectiveness, Wisdom, Energy, Enlightenment, Optimism, Wisdom, Passion, Drive, Virtue, Order, Philanthropy, Empathy.
After you have a good selection of values to pick from, make three columns on a sheet of paper with these three headings: Essential to have; Important to have and Nice to have. Start filling in the columns with the corresponding values.
What values do you feel are essential for a good life? Which ones are important? Which are merely nice to have? Dig deep, with a goal of having at least 10 values in each column.
Now, delete the “Nice to have” column, and studying both the “Essential” and “Important” values you chose, narrow both of those columns down to five values each.
Ready for the hardest part? Delete the “Important” column, and pare the “Essential” list down to three. If at this point in your introspective exercise, you feel any of the “Important” values are actually “Essential,” move them over there.
You can further narrow the “Essential” list down to a single value, but keeping it at three separate values still gives you focus, but with a little extra flexibility. Now you have the “short list” of your core values – and can weigh how each decision you make from this point on honors your authentic essence. This exercise can save you time, frustration and second-guessing your choices. It’s an effective way to help bring a better body-mind-spirit balance back into your daily life.
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