I promised you last week that I would tell you about one of the things I learned from a challenge I have taken this month. The first day of the challenge I was asked to define my core values. I thought I had them in hand, but as I sat and really thought about them, I realized that I needed to look at this a little more closely. The challenge had some good reasons to do this that I wanted to share with you.
Core Values are the things in your life that act as your compass when the way seems unclear. You might not know what is right or wrong in a situation, but if you have your bedrock values, you can hold your situation up to them and see a more definitive path. When we make determinations that way, we are better able to remove some of the fickle attitudes or desires that come and go in our lives.
Defining our values gives us purpose. – If you don’t have a destination in mind then you will just go anywhere. The Bible backs that up quite well in The book of Proverbs:
I do not want to live a life of turmoil. The path of my life may have some rough spots in it, but it is a lot easier to endure a difficult day of travel when you have a destination mapped out.
Defining our values prevents us from making bad choices – Don’t get me wrong. we will still make mistakes, but this should keep us from making any really BIG ones. Knowing exactly what is important to you and breaking it down to its details will allow you to make decisions more easily when things are a little fuzzy because you have your values to all back on. If you are about to take action in something that conflicts with your values it will give you an unhappy feeling, and that should help you stop!
Defining our values give us confidence – When we really think about something and take the time to internalize what it means to us, we become more confident in what we are going to do about it. We gain a courage to take the next step because we have thought it out, and we can make the choice with commitment. Writing them down helps us with that!
Defining our values makes life more simple – If you know what you value, then you can make difficult choices more easily. You just ask, “Is this a conflict?” If the answer is no, then you go for it. If it is, then find another way. It sounds too simple, but some of the simplest things in life are the best. Much of the confusion in our lives is there simply because we haven’t sat down and really thought about what we want.
So, how do I do this? What steps are necessary to make a list of core values? Well, it is going to take some work, but when you take the time to do it, you will see the world a little more clearly. Some of the fog begins to lift where things have been undefined or have lacked priorities. In the end, you see a framework of what really matters to you, and you can then begin to build on that. Dress it up to reflect who you want to be, and then you will have the clear boundaries to help you be that person. So, here we go!
- Get relaxed. – This should take some time, and unless you have some type of martyr-like mentality, you should be comfortable as you sit down and think things through. Do whatever works for you, but get your stress level down before you begin. It will help you think more clearly. Take a walk, a nap, read a book, do whatever you need to do to minimize the mental noise.
- Have your tools. – WRITE IT DOWN! Paper and pen/pencil are necessary for this. You need to scribble things out and have a visual cue of decisions being made as you whittle this down to the things that really matter. There is an element of sorting here that cannot truly be appreciated with a “backspace” button. (I say that and I am a guy that would rather use a keyboard for almost anything!) Also, there is something about the activity of pen on paper that just feels more binding. Can’t explain it, but that’s the way it is!
- Ask, “What is truly important to me?” – This is not a question to be asked lightly. It takes guts. Think about the things that make you happiest, most satisfied. Maybe you will need to think about the things that make you the most angry or currently cause you the most frustration or confusion. Answers maybe in there that you will need to sort through to make a solid list.
- Write down EVERYTHING that pops is your head. – As you get the words out on paper it allows others ideas to take shape. There is nothing wrong with a big list. The more you have there to work with, the more likely you will find the things that matter to you the most.
- If you have more than five values, you have too many! – I know, you just did a bunch of work and went all the way to the back of your brain for ideas, and now I am asking you to cut it back to five. Make it the five that really speak to your heart. It needs to be the five things that you know you could not live without. When you can’t decide, just put two of them against each other and ask which one matters most. Eventually you will work the number down. Trust me. Five is enough!
- Make the biggest deal the biggest deal! – You have got to prioritize them. Rank them from most important to 5th least important. We can even have conflict within the five things that matter most to us. If we consciously put an order to our top five, then we can look again to our values when we are having a conflict of priority.
This type of exercise is being presented to us every day – particularly in the business world. We need our values to guide our actions and our attitudes in order to be better in our careers. Is that the only reason to do it? Is this a recent idea? I don’t think so.
Christ spoke in the book of Luke about what it takes to be a disciple. He was actually warning them that being His disciple was not just showing up for church or sitting and reading the Bible. It requires work, sacrifice, a Relentless desire to be made over in His image and lead others to the same! It is going to cost us:
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
– Luke 14:28
One of the ways we count the cost is to determine what we hold dearest to us. What are we willing to fight for, and what are we willing to let go? Do we put enough value in certain areas of our lives that we can give over to Christ? Are we willing to look hard at ourselves and see our deficiencies and give them to Christ so He can make us strong in them?
Your values can and will change over time. This is a great exercise for a person committed to Relentless Growth, and one that I will be doing every couple of years form now on. Call it a “recalibration.” Over the next few weeks I will be sharing my top five and why I chose them, as well as how I hope to see them work themselves out in my life.
How about you? Are you up to the challenge of picking your values? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to comment or message me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.