Your inner compass has several components but the foundation lies in your core values.
I'm going to give you an easy tool to flesh out your core values in just a moment. But before I get started, I want to acknowledge that the term "values" can have misleading connotations. It can bring up the moralistic "family values" of the 1990's or designations of good and evil that say, "My way is right and, if your way is not my way, your way is wrong."
I'm not talking about these. True values don't have that ugly layer of judgment. Values are not right or wrong - they just are. And they're different for everyone.
Core values are simply the forces that make us who we are and guide what we do, both consciously and subconsciously.
This quote from the book Co-active Coaching by Kimsey-House, Kimsey-House, Sandahl, and Whitworth sums it up beautifully:
"Values are intangible. They are not something we do or have. Money, for example is not a value, although the things you might do with money could be considered values; fun, creativity, peace of mind, service to others. Travel is not a value. Gardening is not a value. But both are examples of cherished activities that honor certain values, such as adventure, learning, nature, spirituality."
So, how do you know what your core values are? Here's a handy-dandy exercise to help you flesh out your core values and get super comfy so you can start using them in your daily life right away.
**For the sake of this example, I'm going to focus on exploring your own personal core values. However, it's also helpful to apply this same exercise to any group you may be a part of - such as your family, business, organization, etc. - especially if you're the group's leader.
Core Values Exploration
What you'll need for this exercise: a quiet-ish spot; about 15-30 minutes of fairly uninterrupted time; some means of creating a list (pad of paper and pen, computer, tablet, etc.).
Step 1: Brainstorming. Once you're settled in, start thinking about the concepts, forces, ideas, feelings, states, etc. that are important to you. As they come up, put each of them on your list until you have at least 20 (more is good). Try to do this step without judgment or filtering. If it pops up, put it on the list. You'll have a chance to weed through later.
If you're having a tough time getting started, here are some questions to help grease the wheels:
· Think of a time when you felt on top of the world, like everything was as it was supposed to be. What about that time or experience made it so wonderful. List these things.
· Think of a time when you felt completely awful, like everything was out of sync. What about that time or experience made it so awful? For each of these things, think of what the opposite would be and list those. For example, if the situation was awful because it felt unfair, one of your values could be justice.
· Think of someone you admire or are inspired by. What is it about that person that makes him/her so special to you?
Step 2: Expanding. Skim through your list and find any items that represent tangible things or actions - money, a specific job, a type of home or location, volunteering or involvement in a certain group, etc. Ask yourself what makes those things so important to you and write those answers on your list. These underlying forces are actually values and the tangible things are simply the symbols or embodiment of the values. Once you've replaced the symbols with values, cross them out.
Step 3: Weeding. Take another look through your list and cross out any items that don't really resonate with you but are on the list because you feel like they should be. Remember - values are not about right or wrong and they don't make you a good or bad person.
Step 4: Scoring. Go through your list gain and give each item a number between 1 and 10 to indicate how important that value is to you in your current life. (Although our values tend to stay consistent throughout our lives, the importance or urgency of them may shift, depending on our life situations.)
Step 5: Ranking. Go through your list once more, picking out your top 4-7 highest scoring values. Create a separate list of these values.
And boom...there you have it! This is your Core Values List. Get cozy with it. Memorize it. Create a sign you can put up on the fridge or a note you can keep on your cell phone to remind you. Being able to recall these core values at a moment's notice can be super handy in making decisions and guiding your life.
Here are just a few ways you can use your core values to make your life more balanced, calmer, and just plain better:
· When you're deciding how to spend your time, energy, money, and other personal resources, you can ask yourself, "Does this support my core values?"
· When you're feeling overwhelmed and stretched thin, you can go through all of the things on your plate and weed out or shelf the ones that aren't in alignment with your core values.
· Situations that cause you grief or tension usually indicate one or more of your core values are being dishonored. Identifying where this values conflict lies gives you valuable insight to use in finding a solution.
· Your core values list can also be a fantastic guide to help you figure out which life lessons you want to highlight and which battles you can let go of with your children, partner, and other relationships.
Stay tuned for my next post, where I'll show you how to use your core values to take the next step in building your Inner Compass - getting in touch with what you really want and creating your personalized definition of success.
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