Identifying and living your core values is essential in you living an abundant, authentic and resilient life. Personal and organizational values seem to be popular topics of conversation that generate a lot of energy. This energy can fuel and sustain an individual or organization, or this energy can hang and die as words on a wall.
Brene Brown defines a value as “a way or being or believing that we hold most important.” Core values are important. They provide a guide post or a standard; they are a calling to raise the bar on yourself and others. Our core values show up in our daily
Think of someone you admire; what about them do you admire? What are their values and how did they show up in their behaviors?
I worked with many great Army leaders. One in particular had a core value of People Matter. He lived this value in many ways both with his family and with the Soldiers he led. He always took the time to connect with individuals and make them feel valued. This bolstered their confidence and helped them achieve greater success. When people were treated as numbers on a page he spoke up and fought for them to be seen as people again. He didn’t always make the easy choice or the popular choice. He worked hard to make the choice that aligned with his value.
What are you values? There are some variations on how to identify your core values, but follow a similar process. Starting with a long list of values, circle all of the values that are important to you, then you whittle this list down to your top 2-5 core values.
Take some time to go through this list, circle any value that resonates with you. Then go through the list of circled values and select your top ten. Then go through your top ten and identify your top 2-5. These are your core values.
In my work helping people identify their core values, I think an important step is often missing; and it’s a hard truth. If your values aren’t showing up in your daily behaviors, if they aren’t showing up in all domains of your life, they’re just lip service. They sound good, they may deeply resonate with us, but our core values are supposed to be standards or ways of being, they are priorities. If they aren’t showing up in our daily behaviors, across all domains of our life, they aren’t our priorities; they aren’t standards or ways of being.
For example, if health and wellness if one of the core values I identified from the worksheet, but I consistently skip the gym and eat fast food, it’s not really a core value; it’s not a way of being. Replace the word value with priority. If I’m skipping the gym and eating fast food, health and wellness isn’t a priority for me right now. It’s not guiding my decisions and behaviors.
Therefore, the missing but important step in clarifying your values is to identify the behaviors you need to engage in regularly to support and live that value.
There is happiness and peace in the alignment of our behaviors and our values. When our values and behaviors are congruent, we are living authentic lives. However, our core values may sometimes call us to live in a way that goes against the grain, which can cause distress and discomfort. For example, a core value of integrity or fairness may call you to stand up and call others out for inequity and injustice. It can be a deeply uncomfortable experience to do this, and there may even be fall out of what you thought were good relationships. It would be easier to stay quiet and under the radar, but it is deeply uncomfortable to live against your values. It is deeply uncomfortable to look back and see you did not stand up when your values called you to stand. The difference is the duration. To stand up and live your value might be intensely uncomfortable in the moment, requiring immense courage, but the discomfort dissipates. To act against your values and stay quiet might be more comfortable in the moment, but the discomfort of acting against your values is longer lasting and can trigger shame.
We are called to live our best life. Our best life requires us to live in alignment with our values on daily basis and across domains of our lives; to let our values be our guide. Do you have a core value that isn’t showing up in your life? What behaviors do you need to engage in to live that value?
Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts. New York: Random House.
Brown, B. (2017). Braving the wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. New York: Random House.
Coyle, D. (2018). The culture code: the secrets of highly successful groups. First edition. New York: Bantam Books.
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2017). The leadership challenge: how to make extraordinary things happen in organizations. Sixth edition. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.