Brene Brown so eloquently says “our values should be so infallible, so precise, so clear that they are not a choice – they are simply a definition of who you are in your life. They should help you find your way in the dark, fill you with a feeling of purpose, you should feel a deep resonance of self-identification.”
There are many ways to discover your values. You can select from a values list, you can think about peak moments in your life and explore the qualities that made those so important or you can look to times of frustration and irritation to uncover the values that have been compromised. (When you are mad at your partner for spending money on frivolous purchases, for example, you may uncover a value around financial stability that is being violated!)
Living in alignment with your values, however, requires more than selecting qualities from a list. It requires that you translate those values into everyday action and behaviors. It means intentionally using those beliefs to guide your choices, your words and how you show up.
Brene Brown’s values exercise (see page 30-32 of linked workbook) from her book, Dare to Lead, is one of my favorites. The list is extensive and her challenge is to narrow it down to two core values. You can, of course, start with as many as you need to, but research shows that in order to effectively tether your behaviors to your values, it is important to prioritize only two. The challenge here is to be honest, not aspirational. The values on any list are all admirable qualities, but the goal is to find the ones that best define who you are, so you can use them as your compass for life.
My core value is Excellence. I know that I am living in alignment with this value when I am giving my best to any situation. It means being prepared, committed to the quality of my work and my interactions, it means going above what is expected and continuously looking for ways to improve. It also means discerning between my best and perfection. There is sense of striving but not towards an absolute outcome. Excellence is who I am when I am at my best and the filter I use to make hard decisions.
Lingering Thought: What are your core values? How do you know that you are living in alignment with your values?
*Exploring your values is the focus of Session 2 of the Women’s Coaching Circle, an 8-week program for women, that I cofounded with Laura Bennett. The Women’s Coaching Circle helps high-achieving women to discover a deeper sense of self, by firstly understanding what is most important to you.
The Spring Cohort of the Women’s Coaching Circle begins April 1. See here for registration details.