How to uncover and develop your core values.
We don't normally spend time contemplating our core values. Yet all of us consciously or subconsciously live by them. They are the driving force behind our lives.
Life coach Tony Stoltzfus defines a core value as "a distinctive set of core beliefs by which one measures his or her priorities in life." Values are an essential part of our lives; they play a key role in keeping our lives on track. When we clarify our values, we begin to lay down a plumb line for all our decisions and can navigate future crossroads in our lives.
Many of our core values don't originate from ourselves but were given to us by others hand-me-downs, if you please. Others form as we journey through life, while God uses these experiences and His Word to impart yet others. Although most of us seldom search out our core values, we all intrinsically desire to know them; it's a God-given desire, a lifelong search. God sets purpose in our hearts (see Eccl. 3:11).
So how can you recognize your core values? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you become more acquainted with them and begin to live your life accordingly.
Core values show up in the form of life patterns. Author and speaker Doug Fike says, "Life's patterns are what values look like when lived out in real life." A pattern is something you do consistently because you have a certain value. When you discern patterns that crop up in your life, both good and bad, you can begin to understand the underlying values behind them.
Core values can often be described in simple one- or two-word phrases. See if you can detect a value pattern in the following: Spirit-filled and led. Intimacy with God. Quiet time. Prayer. These are some of the short phrases I use to describe my own values on spiritual life.
Take any category'marriage, personal development, family and jot down phrases, images or a short series of words to describe the way you feel about it. These are your values. Keep working on them, refining and rephrasing them for a more defined set of core values.
Core values are discovered by scrutinizing your negative responses to life. Ask yourself, "What makes me wince? What upsets me?" Your answers will help reveal your core values. Do you scorn tardiness? Then you probably have a core value for promptness and respect for others. Do you despise waste and misuse? Then it's obvious you value thriftiness and frugality. The same assessment works in the spiritual, emotional, vocational and physical realms.
Core values are often discovered by noticing your energy flow and effectiveness in life. God created you to operate according to your design. That doesn't mean you can't operate outside this, simply that you function best within certain parameters. Staying outside your design produces drag, which is an aviation term describing the friction caused by external forces working against the airplane. Reduce the drag, speed up the plane; increase the drag, slow down the plane. This works in every realm.
So do you know your core values? Are you working within your design? Learn to reduce your drag and you'll improve your energy flow. You can begin by practicing the above suggestions in a few key areas of your life (e.g., family and children, work, church and ministry, financial stewardship). You'll quickly see how important core values really are.
A certified professional coach and trainer, John Chasteen is also the assistant dean of Southwestern Christian University Graduate School in Bethany, Okla. You can read his blog at heycoachjohn.com.