If we are not careful, our life can become a game of snakes and ladders: we find ourselves climbing up a ‘ladder’ one minute, sliding down a ‘snake’ the next.
We lose focus. We lose control. And the reason is that:
If everything is a priority then nothing is.
Finding our values reminds us what our priorities are. That tells us which issues matter to us and which do not. We regain our focus.
Then we can ignore the issues that do not matter to our values: they are somebody else’s fight. And for the issues that do matter to us, our values show us how to respond. That brings efficiency, effectiveness, and stability.
To find a first draft of your values, just follow these three simple steps:
- Think back to a time when you felt completely absorbed in your work. You lost track of time, felt fully alive. You were in flow, operating at your maximum potential, “doing what you are here to do.” Identify between one and three occasions.
- For each situation, ask yourself what values you were upholding in that moment. What values were you standing up for, taking action in support of? There may be more than one. Write them all down.
(If you find this difficult, try thinking of 1-3 times when you stood up against something. What did you stand against? What values are the opposite of that?)
You might ask a trusted friend to help, by asking open questions such as: “Why? What do you mean? Can you give an example?”
(This part will only take about 10 to 15 minutes each.)
- You now almost certainly have a list of more than three values. Group, merge, and combine them to distil them down to find your three core values. This might take a couple of hours, but the more effort you put into understanding your core values now, the more certain you will be of the results and the more benefit you will get from applying them later:
i) Does this issue matter to my values?
ii) What does a good outcome look like, according to my values?
iii) What shall I do?
The book of Inner Leadership contains more questions that help you to prepare more fully and connect more deeply with your values. But this simple exercise is enough to give you a solid first draft.
Knowing your values (and purpose) will bring you focus and stability in an uncertain world. Knowing them will enable you to avoid the ‘snakes’ and climb the ‘ladders’ faster.
What three core values are you standing for when you are operating at your maximum potential, in flow, doing what you are here to do?
Knowing the answer will enable you to achieve that potential and flow more often.
Adapted from Inner Leadership.