The other day a consultant-friend of mine took me through an exercise that I had performed a number of years ago but had since forgotten. The subject was personal core values and the exercise was a simple method to identify them. I will confess that introspection is not one of my strong suits. I tend to blow and go and not spend a lot of time reflecting upon what I’ve done or why I’ve done it. In the past I’ve considered this a waste of precious time – my philosophy has been that life is too short and every second should be spent moving forward.
What my friend helped me understand is that people in my organization want to know what I stand for. I have always thought my actions speak louder than my words, but sometimes the words help add clarity and context. Whether we really think about it or not, we all have a set of core values. Here’s the exercise in a nutshell.
Write down on a piece of paper the name of ten people you admire most. They can be living or dead and may even be fictional characters. My list included parents, presidents, scientists and a couple of everyday people. Next, make a list of reasons why you admire those people on your list. Perhaps a particular person is extremely loving. Another is very passionate. Still another might be wise and insightful. The people on your list could have two, three or even four characteristics that resonate with you. Write them all on your list.
Ultimately you are looking for repetitive patterns of characteristics among the collection of people whom you admire. Out of ten names, you might find that seven of them share a similar trait that is important to you. Four might have still another characteristic and so on. You are looking for three to five traits or characteristics with which you identify. Obviously the people we admire serve as a mirror for our own core values. My exercise revealed core values of integrity, optimism/positivity, perseverance, creativity/innovation and calmness. The calmness value threw me for a moment because most people who know me probably think I’m anything but calm. But I realized that the calmness I value may be less of demeanor and more of mind and spirit. In order to juggle a million balls at once, my mind must remain calm to create a sense of order that leads to accomplishment.
If you haven’t spent time recently thinking about your own core values, try this simple yet powerful exercise. Not only is it a lot of fun but it will be revealing for you. And once you clearly understand your core values you can strive to live them on a daily basis.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.