In our first exercise, we looked back before looking forward – we made a list of things that happened, things we did, books we read, and things we learned. Then we spent some time FEELING through this list – what makes me proud, sad, thankful, remorseful? Those feelings are a guide to what is important, and today is about naming those things that are deeply meaningful. You don’t have to do these exercises in order, and in fact I have done each of them at various times – I spent quite a bit of time over the past couple years reflecting on my core values and refining the words that represent them best for me. I simply want to share with you some ways that might help as we prepare our hearts and minds for the years ahead.
First of all, why are core values important? We all have them, but have you spent the time to define them, to capture them and assess them? A value is simply something you spend valuable resources on – your time, money, effort, and energy. I’ve heard it said that our thoughts drive our actions, our actions drive our habits, and our habits define our values. And there is a certain inner stress that comes when the values we live out don’t match how we want to see ourselves. We can re-engineer that inner stress out of our lives to a certain extent by starting with how we want to see ourselves, stating and claiming those values, and then building thoughts, actions, and habits that support those values.
If you have never written down your core values before, here’s a simple exercise.
Get a pen and paper (or laptop). Do a google search for core value examples and you will find plenty. What you are looking for is a list of words that can act as prompts.
Write down any that resonate even a little bit for any area of your life, and leave the rest behind. You are not choosing at this point, you are simply building your candidate pool.
Next, circle 3-5 of these that you think you would want to have as core values – you will come back to these.
Now, write down seven categories spaced out on a blank piece of paper
For each category, choose 2-3 words that resonate as potential core values for that area. If you need to add words to your candidate list, feel free to do so. These should be words that capture your best authentic self in each of these areas – how YOU aspire to be, not how you think you “should” be or want others to perceive you.
Now, go back to your original 3-5 words that you circled. Make any swaps or changes that you need to. These will be your overarching core values.
Likely there will be some changes after you have gone through this exercise. And you may make tweaks to the words over time to better serve you and capture your best authentic self. But for now, jot these down and keep them handy, because we will use them in our next exercise.
Download a free printable workbook with all six exercises here: