Core values are the foundation of self-leadership. All success, impact and fulfillment begin with your ability to manage your life well. If you’re already aware of your core values, this is an opportunity to strengthen that awareness with more clarity. If you don’t know what your core values are, now’s your chance to discover and claim them.
Core values are aspirational. You express them as your ideal way of being in the world. They are what’s uniquely essential, although others may have similar values stated differently. Core values are what you consider to be the qualities of your best self. They are the principles that empower you. They make you feel good about who you are and how you interact with others.
There are no right or wrong core values. Your life is unique and so are your experiences. You are the Chief Choice Officer (CCO) of your life. As such, you get to choose your core values.
As you work through this exercise below, remember that the right core value will resonate with both your mind and your body. In other words, when you think of or say this core value, you will have positive thoughts and images in your head as well as enjoyable feelings in your body. When you’ve hit on the right word that represents a core value for you, you’ll have a positive mind and body response to it.
For example, if accountability is a core value for you, you might feel stable as you say it. You may stand straighter and see yourself assured and in control. If trust is a core value for you, you might feel your chest expand and your shoulders relax. You may feel happy and see yourself working through difficulties with agility.
The goal of this exercise is to identify your top five core values. Five is a manageable number to remember and work with daily. However, you can and often do have more than five core values. At the same time, many can overlap. Feel free to expand the number of core values if you need to.
1. Write down your answers to the following questions by choosing the appropriate core values from the suggested list that follows. You can also select a word that is not on the list. Respond to each question with as many core values as you need. You’ll have a chance to narrow down your choices afterward.
- Envision an event from any area of life where everything went well. You felt in sync with the situation and at the top of your game. What core values (qualities, traits or ways of being) did you express at that time?
Core values I expressed were:
- Envision an event from any area of life where everything went wrong. You felt out of sync with the situation and at your worst. What core values (qualities, traits or ways of being) did you NOT express that in hindsight you wish you had?
Core values I wished I expressed:
- Think of three people you admire. What core values do they embody to you?
Core values they embody to me:
- Think of someone you often conflict with. What core values do they disrespect by the way they speak or behave to you?
Core values they disrespect are:
Core Values List:
|Enthusiastic||Making a difference|
2. Group all the core values from your answers into five groups with similar themes. Recognize that your selections may not fit neatly into five groups, so try to think of ways they could be related. For example, you might group compassion, love and kindness. Or reliability, accountable and commitment. If you need more than five groups, then feel free to add more.
From each group, circle the word that most powerfully represents the theme of that group. These five words are your core values.
3. Anchor your core values. Make them part of your mindset. Commit more deeply to them by realizing what they mean to you. The following questions will help you clarify your core values and reinforce their significance to you.
What are the specific thoughts, feelings and behaviors that I link to this core value? How would I react if others did not honor this core value? What would my life be like without this core value?
Core Value 1:
Core Value 2:
Core Value 3:
Core Value 4:
Core Value 5:
If you feel overwhelmed at any time by this exercise, stop and return to it later. A little distance can help you regain focus. You can revisit this exercise at regular intervals. As you grow, develop and take on bigger goals, your core values can shift in priority. It is critical to be aware of this to meet your higher-level ambitions.
Have questions about how to work with core values for yourself, your team or how to integrate them with organizational values? Feel free to reach out to Jo-Aynne at email@example.com.