Have you ever sat down and truly defined your core values and what is important to you? Do you know your core values and what you stand for? My wife and I held a workshop at St. Mary’s College this week on life planning and one of the topics was personal core values. In order to live on purpose and support what is important to you, your core values are decisions that need to be made – by you – by digging deep down inside of yourself.
Without knowing your core values and what you stand for – you’ll be in a state of confusion and potentially in chaos. These values are like the foundation your house is built on. When your values disintegrate, everything around you also disintegrates because your actions are not in sync with your belief system and core values. This is also known as cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is “the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values”. Wow, that is a mouth full. In today’s technology and interconnected world, we are getting introduced to new ideas and others beliefs at crazy speeds. It is more important than ever to know what you stand for, your beliefs and your foundation.
Take a step back from trying to understand your core values and simply answer this question. Do I know what I will absolutely say YES and NO to? If you can’t answer this question (which is normal), it is time to define your core values – and that is not a one-time event.
One important fact you must keep front and center is that as you get into this process of identifying, clarifying, and writing down your core values, it is not a single event. You do not do this once and forget about it. This is a dynamic and evolutionary process. In order to start the process of defining your core values, you have to open your mind to new possibilities of thinking.
Remember this “Your mind is like a parachute – it only works when it is open.”
Here are some questions and exercises to get you ready to define your core values.
Are you playing an infinite or finite game of life?
- Finite games have a definite beginning and ending. There are rules with the goal of someone winning and the game ending.
- Infinite games do not have a beginning or ending. They are viewed as a game of continual play and sometimes others are brought into the game.
Do you live as if your days are numbered?
- When you plan out your days, weeks and years, do you have the attitude that you have a specific number of days left here are earth?
- Do you prioritize the appropriate tasks as if your days are numbered?
These are not fun questions, but very real. In fact, you do have a specific number of days here on earth – we all do. Understanding this fact should be a driver for you to live… on purpose… for a purpose… as it is defined by you!
Define Your Core Values using this core value template.
- Step 1 – Define your roles in life (Parent, Spouse, Brother, Sister, Friend, Manager, etc.).
Step 2 – Think about what is the most important thing about each of your roles.
- Your answers will start to reveal your core values.
Step 3 – Write down a core value for each role.
- See if you can narrow down your number of core values. You should try for a list of not more than 7.
Core Values should be adjusted as you go through life – priorities change, maturity kicks in. On the journey of life, you are in charge of the guardrails to keep yourself moving in the direction you want. Below are my core values as an example.
Good Luck defining what you stand for – as these can keep you on the path toward the life you want to live.
My Core Values (as of my second life plan)
- Do The Right Thing
- Help Others
- Family First
- Have Fun
- Learn Forever to Make a Difference