Personal Core Values via Inc.

If you’ve been reading along for some time now, or even passively, you know that periodically I like to dabble in the realm of self improvement, or “self help” as bookstores, libraries and other institutions trying to shame you out of this section like to call it.

(Reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown certainly changed the way I think about myself in the working world. That in and of itself required me to defer to self improvement over “self help.”)

A little while back I found on Inc., one of my go-to reads via Flipboard (oh how I love that interface!) this article: Define Your Personal Core Values: 5 Steps.

While I’m pretty certain I know what mine are at this point, it’s nice to check in with that internal compass to make sure I’m on track. Follow along if you like, I’ll be posting my reactions to the process, not so much my answers to them.

Personal Core Values Exercise:

Grab a notebook. It’s time to do some writing. Give yourself quiet space, no distractions, and at least an hour to reflect on each section.

Step 1–Think through and describe the following in detail:

  1. What have been your three greatest accomplishments? Get right to the ego boost with this one!
  2. What have been your three greatest moments of efficiency? I really struggled with this question because I think I’m a pretty efficient person. Does that mean I can juggle on a unicycle while riding the bus and drinking a latte? No way, José!
  3. What are any common rules or themes that you can identify? I like this question. Mine were Love, Share and Learn in the simplest terms. 

Step 2–Think through and describe the following in detail:

  1. What have been your three greatest failures? Do I have to think about this? I did. I’m glad I did. But it was still uncomfortable. 
  2. What have been your three greatest moments of inefficiency? Again, this was weird to think about. The shocking, most far-and-away obvious one? My wardrobe!
  3. What are any common rules or themes that you can identify? These were also unexpected: Need vs. Want and Rest more.

Step 3–Identify three or four brief sentences of advice you would give to yourself based upon these commonalities.

Step 4–Next try and reduce them to a few words. For example: If your advice is: “Don’t overindulge in food and booze at parties and get in trouble,” reduce that down to Keep Control Through Moderation, or even Moderation.

I hate having to tell myself to slow down and rest, but it was cool to see this surface as something I absolutely must have. 

Step 5–Now comes the fun. You need to test the value. Think of a situation where following your core value hurts you rather than helps you. For example you might thinkInnovation sounds good until you realize that your life thrives on stability rather than constant change. You have to think it through carefully. If you can’t identify a legitimate case where the value steers you wrong, you probably have a good core value.

Know that this process requires focused time and thought. I recommend doing it with someone you trust. Then you’ll get honest feedback and you can help each other. It may require several discussions over weeks or even months. Your values may adjust and develop over time just as you do, so embrace the change.

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