Find Your Core Values

We all have a deep aspiration inside of us, waiting to be discovered, owned, and realized. How do we find it? 

I offer four exercises to help you find your aspiration. This first one is exploring your core values.

Mark Twain said: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Knowing your core values is a good start to finding your why.

Your core values are the feelings, experiences, and activities that you care about the most and want more of in your life. They are the stuff that your aspiration is made of. Here are some examples:

AmbitionAssertivenessBeautyEnjoymentExploration
FamilyLoyaltyFreedomFriendshipProductivity
ProsperityPurposeRespectSecurityFun
CommunicationCompassionConfidenceAwarenessControl
CreativityCuriosityGrowthHappinessHealth
StrengthHonorHumorIndividualityInnovation
WisdomIntuitionJoyLeadershipLogic
LoveMasteryServiceSkillSpirituality
EmpowermentEnergyExcellenceMeaningOrder
OriginalityPassionPeacePlayfulnessTruth
RecognitionArtKnowledgeHomeLegacy

Go through this list—or create your own list—and highlight your top five values. Then reflect on the questions below. 

  1. How do you spend most of your time (apart from work)?
  2. Where do you spend most of your money (apart from life essentials)?
  3. In what area of your life are you naturally most focused, reliable, or disciplined?
  4. What do you most think about, desire, and dream about?
  5. What do you love to learn, read about, and explore?
  6. What inspires you the most?
  7. What types of injustices really piss you off?
  8. What virtue(s) do you admire the most?
  9. What do people who know you well say about what you are made to do?
  10. Fast forward your life ten years and look back. You are proud of achieving one thing. What is that?
  11. Think of three peak experiences in your life, when you were at your best. What was going on at that time? What values were you living?
  12. What relationships or people have most influenced your sense of purpose? How have they inspired you?
  13. If you had unlimited resources (time and money), what would you set out to do?
  14. If your efforts could not fail, what would you choose to do, be, have, or achieve?
  15. If you had only two years to live, what would be the most important things you would do in that time?
  16. Suppose every experience of your life, including all your failures and successes, was to train you for your destiny. What has your whole life prepared you to do?

In your answers, look for patterns. What values did your answers point to? Group similar values in themes, and rank your themes from most to least important.

This exercise requires some time and attention. Give it time and space. If you struggle to find clarity, seek support from someone who knows you well, or from a coach in this space. Set aside thoughts of an aspiration at this point. Just look within, be honest, and let your findings come up.

The result is that you will understand the things you really care about. Collectively, your top values are your North Star. Your aspiration(s) in life will always be an expression of one or more of these values.

To learn more about this exercise, and also the other four exercising for finding your aspirations, get the Mindful Self-Discipline book.

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