Define Your Personal Core Values to Help Fulfill Your Destiny

Woman with backpack hiking along mountain ridge

“‘Cheshire Cat,’ asked Alice. ‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to go,’ said the Cat. ‘I don’t much care where,’ said Alice. ‘Then it doesn’t matter where you go,’ said the Cat.” ~ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

If someone were to ask you to list your top 5 values, would you be able to name them? Would you be able to answer right away, or would you need time to think about it? 

If you know your top 5 values right away, congratulations! A person who has clarity about what they value most generally have an easier time making decisions, solving dilemmas quickly, and know what to say ‘yes’ (and ‘no’) to quickly and without regret. 

Now, if it took you a little longer, or you struggled to complete your list, no worries. Many of us don’t keep our values top-of-mind. We often shoot from the hip, hoping we’ve chosen well, and then move on to the next decision. Maybe we have not ever stopped and thought about them. This goes for your Business values as well. Sometimes as Business Leaders, we may take the time to think about our Core Business Values but do not take the time to discover and voice our Personal Core Values.

When we become more mindful of our values, we become better decision-makers, and we also get greater clarity of our sense of purpose and the meaning of our life. We feel motivated and have more discipline in setting and accomplishing our goals. Our values reflect what we consider to be important, creative, useful, desirable, and beneficial. They help us determine right from wrong and act as a type of personal code that governs our behavior, habits, and decisions in all areas of our lives. So think if you have a handle on your Business Core Values but not your Personal Core Values, how they could be out of alignment.

When we’re not in touch with our values, we’re out of touch with our truest nature. It’s easy to surrender to others’ expectations, follow societal norms, or succumb to peer pressure. When we’re disconnected from our values, we can feel stuck, inauthentic, and unmotivated. Even reaching the goals we set can bring about a sense of disappointment if we’re not in touch with what we value most for ourselves.

 So what if you’re uncertain of what your core values are? Maybe you are not sure where to start.

One of the best ways to determine core values is by examining our peak experiences in life – moments when we felt like our truest selves. 

Take a moment to try this exercise to identify your core values. Take out a piece of paper and a pen.

Describe a peak experience in your life – a meaningful moment, accomplishment, or when you mastered a skill – any time when you felt most alive. It could be that presentation you led, helping a troubled friend out of a sticky situation, or running a Marathon.

Write a paragraph describing your peak experience. Let’s take running a marathon as an example. It could read something like this:

Running a marathon had been a long-time idea. I started my training with some fear of being able to get to the finish line. I had to battle self-doubt of being strong enough to do this. At times during the training, it seemed like an insurmountable distance. But I got to the starting line, and I made it to the finish line, and it was a GREAT TIME – every single mile. I felt alive and powerful and accomplished! It was one of the best experiences of my life. I met some lifelong friends, and my first marathon inspired me to plan another one! I learned training for a marathon might kill you, but finishing a marathon is a piece of cake – I learned I could accomplish a really hard thing if I am willing to put in the work, effort, and belief to get across that finish line!

Now it’s your turn. Describe in detail a peak experience when you felt truly alive and in your element. What made it one of the greatest moments of your life? Engage all your senses. Describe what it felt like. What were you thinking? What smells do you remember? Was it hot/cold/dry/wet? Were you alone or with others? Describe the environment? Don’t leave out any details.

Based on your paragraph, what values can you distill from your experience?

Choose two or three values that resonate with you most. Write them down on a piece of paper. Here’s a small sample of core values to get you started:  

Accountability, courage, belief, faith, comfort, family, honesty, stewardship, adventure, independence, justice, hard, work, fairness, risk, creativity, genius, spirituality, support, temperance, logic, love, toughness, status, drive, wealth, wisdom, power, playfulness, etc.

Next, describe one of your chosen values and what it means to you. If adventure is a core value for you, it could read:

Adventure represents a sense of my free-spirited, gregarious nature. Being adventurous means that I’m living an exciting life, learning new things, and letting my curiosity challenge me instead of holding me back. I’m not afraid to take risks. In sharing my adventures with others, I’m helping the world become more aware of how fragile and important our natural world is.

Think about it – what made you choose your value? How does your chosen value make you feel? What comes to mind when you think of that value? 

Try doing this exercise several times. Once you’ve identified your own set of personal core values, you can prioritize your top values and use them to help inform you of what you really want from your life. You will also be able to see if your Personal Cores Values align and are mirrored in your Business Core Values.

Don’t leave your life to chance as ‘Alice’ did in Wonderland. Discovering your personal core values will help clarify your life’s purpose, make decision-making easier, and leave you with fewer regrets. 

Life is too short to live by the influences and expectations of others instead of your own. Live life as the best, most authentic version of yourself by being honest and clear about what you value most. You won’t regret it.

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