Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Importance of Core Values

Most people look at me sideways when I mention personal values or core values. I’m sure it’s because they either think of the lame corporate values that executives try to push down on their employees, or they think of moral or religious values. Let me spare you all of the spiritual, religious, corporate, or new-age mumbo jumbo and get right to the point – core values have an extremely practical application when it comes to goal setting and goal execution.

Simply put, your personal core values serve as a decision filter for the 10,000+ decisions you make each day. Decisions are conscious choices with real consequences that will either help us achieve our goals, or lead us astray. Unknowingly, most of us make decisions with little to no regard for our personal values. And some decisions carry weight, making it absolutely critical that we have our core values in order before we charge off into another day of a thousand questions.

What are values? How do you come up with your core values?
Start by thinking about someone you admire – either a family member, a friend, or someone you’ve read about in the news or history books. What qualities did they have that made them special? Was it unrelenting integrity? Generosity? Did they put their family first? Were they adventuresome? Why are you drawn to them? Core values can then be determined by the qualities it takes to put those things first in your life. In other words, if presented with two choices, you would choose this value over something else.

Let’s look at an example of how these values might act as your decision filter.
After the birth of your first child last month, you’ve recently put some time into reflecting on your core values, and you review them regularly. Your core values, as you’ve ranked them, are 1) Family First, 2) Service to Others, and 3) Explore the world.

Your best friend calls to tell you that there’s an airfare sale to Las Vegas this weekend and that the two of you should go live it up while prices are cheap. You’ve never been to Vegas and it sure sounds like fun!

What do you do?

Does going to Vegas on the spur of the moment fit your core values? It’s a new city, and would meet your criteria for value #3. But clearly, leaving your spouse behind with a newborn violates your most important core value.

Image Courtesy of Destination360
What makes it so clear is defining your values prior to the tough decisions. If you haven’t taken the time to think about and write down your values, these decisions become murky and all of sudden you find yourself at the craps table in Mandalay Bay.

Living your personal values takes discipline, but if practiced over time, you will find yourself “living from the core” and grounded in making the right choices in your life.

Next question to ask – how will your core values impact what you choose as your life goals this year?

Aligning your core values and personal goals will dramatically increase your likelihood for success and happiness.

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