Most successful businesses operate by following a fundamental set of core values. Their vision and mission statement reflect these values, the day-t- day operations are driven by them and they dictate how major decisions are made. Having core values provides clarity that fosters focus and makes prioritizing easy.
As human beings, we all have a personal set of core values that reflect the essence of who we are. We all have them. However, having them and consciously allowing them to guide you through life are two entirely different things. Understanding and living a life driven by your own personal values is one of the major keys to success, happiness and inner peace.
What Do You Value?
The first step in living a life full of purpose and passion is to understand and establish your own personal value system. Your values, though tied to your morals and ethics are not a system of right or wrong. Your personal values are the things you matter most to you.
What drives you? What makes you feel alive, energized and invigorated? Is it love, family, money, career, popularity, serving others, social justice, rescuing animals? The list goes on and on. What do you love? What matters to you?
After you’ve determined what you truly value, it’s time to move to step two. Write them down. Research shows that the simple act of writing down your core values can have tremendous long-term benefits, such as:
- You get a true picture of who you really are and what you stand for. To get what you truly want, you must be who you truly are.
- You will begin to manage your time better. You will learn to make better choices about where you spend your time.
- Knowing and being true to what really matters to you will ignite your passion for your purpose and being able to fulfill your purpose fuels that passion even more. The two are interdependent and keep you motivated and moving forward.
- Our values are like our internal compass. They keep us headed toward our true north. When we get off course, having them written down helps us notice sooner. Writing about our values helps remind us of where we need to be and it helps us get back on track more easily.
- Our values are our roots. They keep us grounded in what’s important. Having them written down visually reminds us to stay true to who we really are.
In short, discovering, defining, writing down and living your core values helps to ensure that you get more of the right things done and makes the journey more enjoyable, targeted and intentional.
Having Your Value System In Writing Reduces Stress
Dr. Kelly McGonigal, Stanford Professor and author of the book The Upside of Stress, has studied the impact that connecting our personal values to our experiences–specifically journaling about the connection–has on our overall health, well-being and ability to cope with stress. According to Dr. McGonigal’s research:
“In the long term, writing about values has been shown to boost GPAs, reduce doctor visits, improve mental health, and help with everything from weight loss to quitting smoking and reducing drinking. It helps people persevere in the face of discrimination and reduces self-handicapping. In many cases, these benefits are a result of a one-time mindset intervention. People who write about their values once, for ten minutes, show benefits months or even years later.”
McGonigal believes that writing about how the events of our day match up with our deepest personal values can mentally and biologically improve our ability to deal with stress. In the cases she studied she found that:
“Stressful experiences were no longer simply hassles to endure; they became an expression of values… small things that might otherwise have seemed irritating became moments of meaning.”
Putting it on paper
When our actions and activities don’t align with our values, we feel less authentic and become demotivated in our daily lives.
Below are a few simple steps to assist you in aligning your actions, activities, goals and life purpose with your own unique set of values:
Writing it down:
- Choose the top five (or less) things you value most in life and write them down.
- Define what each of those values means to YOU.
- Reflect on your day (or week). What went well? When did you feel stressed? Why?
- Select one or two highs and one or two stressful events and briefly jot down how they connect to at least one of your core values.
- Select one or two core values and jot down something you can do the next day (or during the following week) that will positively reflect that value.
- As time progresses, keep a tally of how many times you purposefully and intentionally engage in activities that positively reflect your value system
- Assess your stress levels. Are you feeling more or less stressed/anxious since you began the exercise? How are your passion and motivation? Do you feel driven?
- Assess your physical well-being. How are you feeling overall? What changes have you noticed (more or less: headaches, neck and back pain, tension, upset stomach. etc.).
- Plan your action: what can you do to keep this moment going?
The most important thing you can do for your personal success today is to not only know your core values but live them. Allow them to become a part of your day to day life. Write about them and learn to see them in everything you do. A life lined-up with personal values will yield a well-lived, purpose-filled existence.