Do You Know Your Core Values?
In my somewhat insidious attempt to understand myself better, and pursue a simple and beautiful life, I stumbled upon an interesting exercise designed to help you get to the bottom of your core values. I recognize I’m a total geek about this kind of stuff but I think you’ll find this activity unique, accessible, and enlightening.
What You Need
Offered by Threads Culture, this activity was originally designed for organizations. However, I found it easily adapted for personal use. Here’s what you’ll need for the activity:
1. Supplies – Gather a handful of notecards or post-it notes and a pen.
2. Space – Clear enough space to be able to spread out your cards/notes. Notecards and my dining room table worked great. If I was at work, I would have used post-it notes on the wall.
3. Questions – You’ll ask yourself two questions throughout the activity: a) What is important to me? b) What is unique about me? As you go along if you feel stuck ask yourself the questions in reverse. That is, “what’s not important to me?” And, “what’s not unique about me?” This gets your brain flowing again and provides important insight about your values in the form of what you don’t want.
Core Values List
Once you have your supplies and your questions you set your timer for 10 minutes and get to work. Write every answer that comes to mind. Put each answer/idea on its own card or post-it. Cards are displayed randomly at this point but each card should be visible. In 10 minutes you should have generated a minimum of 20-25 ideas. This is your core values list.
Organizing Your List
Now the fun begins! Begin to sort your cards into groups that feature similar ideas. The technical term for what you’re doing here is affinity mapping. Affinity mapping helps you find patterns in large sets of data by identifying the underlying relationships. As you make these connections, group these cards together. Keep in mind:
1. Keep all cards visible so you can easily notice new relationships.
2. Move cards that don’t seem to fit to the side. Come back to these cards later and determine if they now have a place.
3. Don’t discard any ideas and pay attention to repetition. Repetition is a signal of importance!
When you’re finished organizing you should have 5 to 7 groups.
Selecting Your Values
From your organized groups you will now select your core values. What keyword or concept summarizes each group of cards? If keywords or concepts appear on multiple cards remember this is a signal of importance to you. The terminology found in the actual cards should be used as much as possible. Your keyword or concept is your core value!
My Core Values List
Connection – One of my card groups involved words like connection, trust, and belonging. Connection and trust were duplicated cards. I landed on the term connection because it’s easy to communicate. I value a deep connection with the people in my life!
Contentment – A second card group emerged and included terms like simplicity, beauty, joy, and comfort. Contentment expresses the feelings of satisfaction, gratefulness, and serenity I value in my life.
Autonomy – This card group included quite a few “nots”. Freedom and independence were both duplicated but I also had “not” doing things the way others think I should and “not” worrying about others opinions. The clincher was the statement “having control over myself”. Nothing screams autonomy like that!
Service – For me, service is about having a higher purpose, contributing to something important and meaningful, and working in service of others.
Wholeness – Before this exercise, I might have been tempted to call this core value wellbeing or health. But my cards revealed a different take on the theme. What wholeness communicates is more accurate for me. Wholeness is unity; a state of being unbroken; a state of undivided oneness. Nothing missing, everything complete and a “state of robust good health”. Even the biblical interpretation of wholeness implies whole in body, mind, and spirit. This literally gives me chills!!! One of my long-time, deeply held values is that of oneness. I even got a tattoo of the “om” symbol to remind me of my oneness – with my dear husband; with Spirit; and with past, present, and future. I guess I knew this one all along…
“The quality of one’s life can never be greater than the quality of the food one eats and the environment in which one lives.” ~Annonymous
Most people use their personal core values, consciously or unconsciously, to make decisions in and about their lives. The core values you selected should start to drive your decision making. As you filter your options through your core values you begin to know both instinctively and objectively what is correct for you. Only then do you make decisions about your life that lead you toward the life of your dreams!
Til next time,