As a coach, my heart lights up when my private clients have a lightbulb moment that uncovers their personal core values. That’s because we all are created with a specific purpose to be fulfilled with our individual, secret sauce kind of way. The self-discovery process of identifying who we are, what’s important to us, and how we will live it out is a life and business game changer that results in greater personal fulfillment and greater impact on others. It’s a win/win situation.
Core values are short words or phrases that pinpoint what truly matters to you. These are the heartbeat to your “why.” You are totally satisfied in yourself when they are expressed, and totally frustrating and depressing when they’re not. For example, an entrepreneur may value freedom, creativity, and leadership to work on her own terms while a social worker places emphasis on justice and empowerment while she advocates for orphans. A mom may make decisions based on family, relationships, and faith while a writer cares about communication and ideas. Everyone has a distinct set of core values that acts as a compass to guide us and remain true over time
Once you’re able to identify your core values, you can articulate what is important to you. You’ll make better informed decisions and align your actions to what matters. Another benefit is more effective conflict resolution by understanding your needs and the needs of others. An added bonus is the confidence of living a life that honors who you truly are.
So, the real question is: what are your unique core values?
Here are five questions to get you started. Keep in mind that you may have many values (6-8) and that you will have different values in your various life spheres. Answer thoughtfully, honestly, and have fun with the process!
- What was your favorite work environment? Why?
Unpacking a time when your work was meaningful reveals what matters to you. Hone in on the details that allowed you to thrive. What were your responsibilities? What was the team dynamic like? How did your boss treat you? How did you feel? What impact did you make on other people?
- If you could do something — anything — before you die, what would it be?
Often times our dreams and goals indicate a desire on our hearts. Be specific about what is it you actually want.
- What makes you angry?
Frustration and anger can be tied to an “anti-value,” or the opposite of your value. When are you upset about something, it usually means a personal value is not being honored. Also, creative solutions typically start from solving a frustrating problem or meeting a need.
- What are a few characteristics of someone you admire?
Characteristics tend to be values in action. What you admire in someone may be something you want to create for yourself.
- How would other people describe you?
Core values are so ingrained in you that you will naturally live them out. That’s why sometimes it hard to notice them for yourself. Pay attention to what other people say about you. It indicates what people appreciate about you and the value you bring into this world.
After answering these questions, notice any patterns or words that really stand out to you, or come up repeatedly. Chances are, these are your unique set of core values.
The challenge is to take it one step further, and align your actions to your values.
For example, if you really value peace, what are some ways you can incorporate it into your life? Or, if you care about financial stewardship, how would you like to practice it in your life?
Ultimately, our core values define who we are, and who we are becoming. They guide our beliefs, decisions, and how we see the world. When we know what’s important to us and how other people value us, we can live our lives and run our businesses with clarity, confidence, and purpose.
Your turn: What’s one core value that is super important to you? What’s one action you can take to honor that value? I would love to hear your responses in the comment box below!