Back in the beginning of the year I posted a blog Write Your December 2019 Holiday Letter and one of the prompts to help you write your letter one year from now about your desired future was to ask yourself what were the values that guided you in 2019.
More often than not, when asked about our values people kind of draw a blank and then say something like, “Uh, well, honesty and integrity, for sure. And probably _______.” (fill in the blank with one other value that comes to mind and that you identify with.)
But it usually stops there. Not because we don’t have core values – we all do, but because we may not ever have been given the guidance to explore what they are, why they are, and the structure to live into them. Many of us would say we value honesty and integrity, but most of us don’t really think about what that really means for us, personally, day to day.
I spent New Year’s day at a meditation and journaling retreat called, “2019 The Year Of Integrity”, and when we talked about what integrity means to us, for as many people as there were in the space, there were that many definitions. Not that we didn’t all have similar notions, ideas, and variations of, “Say what you mean and mean what you say,” but the deeper dive on what that meant for each of us was where the juice was.
My all-time favorite experience of integrity is “Doing the right thing even when no one is looking.” It lights me up just thinking about it. Why? Well, for starters, because it feels liberating (another value) when I “do the right thing,” whatever the means to me, regardless if anyone’s ‘watching.’
Our values give us our sense of individual identity. They help guide our decisions and motivate us to take authentic action.
Living our values highlights our natural abilities, talents, and strengths and provides the foundation on which the things we consider important are built. Living into and honoring our values is a lifetime labor of love.
Helping the folks I coach to clarify their values is one of the first and most important activities we do together because when our actions and decisions align with our values, we experience harmony, flow, and deep fulfillment. And when they’re not in alignment, we experience an inner dissonance and disconnectedness, even if we’re not fully conscious of it.
There are many ways to clarify our values, but, for now, let’s start with one. Discovering what our core values are isn’t so much an intellectual exercise as it is an exploration of who we are and what really matters to us.
DO try this at home:
1. Think about a moment in time when you felt on top of the world, exhilarated, in the zone, lit up. What was happening? Where were you? What were you doing? Who was there? Now keep probing what values were being honored during this Peak Experience.
2. After you’ve identified one of the values that really stands out, ask yourself, when was the last time you were honoring that value. The value might have been “adventure”, “connection”, “nature”, “love”, “freedom.” Or maybe a phrase comes to mind, like, “Fire-Breathing Dragon”, “We’re In This Together” – one of my TOP core values:), or “Brave-Hearted Warrior”, you get the picture.
3. For 5-10 minutes, journal the following inquiry: What does my value of _______ mean to me and how am I (expressing, living, creating) this value?
4. Use what shows up and then, each day, for seven days, ask yourself, “Just for today, how will I express this value?” The expression may look bold or “ordinary” – however it shows up, enjoy playing with it.
Cliche, or not, as Gandhi has been known to have said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”, really comes alive when we are living into our values.
Have fun and feel free to share what shows up for you!