At the beginning of the year, most of us get wrapped up in this massive push to plan our lives, craft an ideal future, and become better versions of ourselves. Some of us set resolutions, others call them goals or mile markers. Whatever you name you choose, bettering yourself over time is a great exercise. It’s literally what life is all about: growth. Your life is worth every minute you spend thinking about your future and living into your purpose.
While you may want to jump straight into goal setting, a problem may arise… your goals will be empty. Ever said ‘Lose 15 pounds’ or ‘Get in shape’ or ‘Work out more’. Unless the goal is tied to something innately important to you, like getting healthier so you can play with your kids, or feeling more confident in your clothing, the goal gets lost. You need to dig deeper than the immediate goal. You need to start with why. Said another way, you need to determine your core values and build goals around these areas.
What on earth are core values?
A core value is something of great importance to you. This is a driver of happiness and worth in your unique life. A core value is something you hold dear, a pillar of belief that defines who you are. These values motivate you to prioritize based on what is important. Core values are the invisible forces that steer the life you have today, and determine where you go tomorrow. Core values affect you in both the present and the future. They are your foundation, your pillars, they literally get to the ‘core’ of you.
Before you start writing your own, some examples of core values include: family (husband, kids, etc), career growth, physical health, mental & emotional health, strong marriage, personal growth, abundance, financial security, success & achievement, faith, leadership, eating right, the list goes on.
Your unique core values
Now that you know what they are, what’s next? Discovering the ones of most importance to you.
Here are the 4 steps to illuminate your core values:
1 – Carve out 15 quiet minutes, ideally alone
Do it at work, while the kids are napping, or wake up a little early one morning
2 – Get a piece of paper
This could be a digital exercise, but most folks find that they like to see the values on a piece of paper first
3 – Ask yourself 1 question: What has been most important to me in my life?
Don’t think about it, just write these answers down
4 – Triage or bucket this list & put into hierarchy
Ideally about 4-6 overarching themes come into view
These are your core values!
Core values aren’t wrong or right, they just are. Over time, your values may change or reorder themselves as your life and priorities change.
Before you had kids, family might not have been on the top of the list. Yes, family may have been important, but spending time with Uncle Jimmy doesn’t compare to cultivating a relationship with your child. Career growth might once have been at the top, but in the season of baby-making and newborns, it may still be important though not number one.
What you see
Congratulations! You have identified your core values! So now what? It’s important that the core values you see on the paper don’t just remain words on a piece of paper. You have to put time, emotion, and energy into this!
For maximum benefit, take these values and find some way of visually reminding yourself of what they are. It’s important to see them on the regular. One option might be to simply put a piece of paper in your closet with these words/phrases listed. Another might be to write your values on your bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker. Some people really enjoy getting more creative and crafting a board with images or pictures that represent your core values – think vision board. It could even be a picture on the lock screen on your cell phone. Whatever you do, make sure you see your core values every day.
And what you don’t see
It’s important to see these words, but the words you don’t see are also important. For example if you find yourself staying late at work and missing family events, even though you’ve listed family as your highest core value over work, after seeing your values regularly, you’ll quickly notice the imbalance. You will be better equipped to recalibrate the amount of time you’re spending at work and the choices you’re making. Instead of hanging back to chat with a colleague, you may pack your bag a little faster and move on to the thing you said was most important.
Are you spending a significant amount of time volunteering because it’s what you’ve always done, but honestly aren’t getting much enjoyment out of that group or having to miss other important events because of your commitment? Maybe it’s time to drop volunteering off of your calendar so you can focus your time on an area of life that you have deemed important. Aligning our everyday life with our core values is critical.
Bringing it all back to setting goals
Now that you know your core values, think seriously about the goals you want to set for yourself. Do these goals tie into your core values? Do you see a natural relationship between the things you want to achieve (your goals) and the things you’ve said are a priority to you (your values)?
For example, have you decided to prioritize your physical health in 2020? Great! Now look at if eating nutritious foods, exercise, well being, or self care comes up on your list of values.
If these things aren’t on your list of core values, this is an empty goal and may be a reason why that goal of losing 15 pounds is such a struggle to meet each year. You likely need to reevaluate your goals or think critically about your core values.
If you find that there is a serious gap between the things you want to achieve and what you’ve said is important to you, there’s no reason why you can’t place a greater life focus on health in 2020. This may take some work as changes to our core values doesn’t happen overnight, but you can start to make health a priority.
Core values represent the foundation of any good goal.
Simply said, Core values + aligned goals = growth