Your values are your guideposts. They are the things in life you can be counted on to stand for and stand up for. Even if you've never identified your values before, you have them. They are the criteria you use to make decisions about where you apply your energy and focus. Do you feel compelled to attend all the weddings of your friends? Ever considered why? It could be that friendship is a top value of yours. Or celebration. Or support. Do you refuse to feel guilty if you take a little "me time"? Maybe solitude or introspection is a top value of yours. Do you find yourself defending other people's right to speak up or get upset when you see injustice in the world around you? I bet fairness or equality is a top value. So why do we need to identify our values if they are already guiding us? One big reason - noise. The world around us is very loud and most of us are surrounded by people with values different than ours. If we are not careful, we can get confused about our top values. If you are in a high-pressure, fast-paced career, for example, you may begin to behave in the ways that get the most recognition and praise - staying late, fighting for credit, pushing past the point of balance and good mental health. Pretty soon, without your established values being top of mind, you'll adapt the behaviors of those around you. That's just one example. It's also easy to be wooed by super attractive and positive values because they *seem* like they *should* be a top value of yours. Let's say your friend has a top value of compassion and service and is constantly volunteering for community projects. You look at your friend and see all the good he is doing and you may start to think you should be acting in the same ways. But what if your top values conflict with those? Maybe you have a top value of travel or intimacy that would have to be sacrificed in order for you to participate in all the wonderful activities that support your friend's values. See? It doesn't matter if something is right or good. In order to live a life consistent with your values, it has to be good and right for you. Which is why we ...
determine our top values!
There are many different ways to determine your top values. You may already have an idea just by getting this far. We will discuss two different options.
Option One - Values Card Sort I really like using the values card sort method. You can download a copy of value cards here. Once downloaded, simply cut the pages into individual cards and do the following: 1) Make 3 piles of cards - Very Important to Me, Important to Me, and Not Important to Me. Try to do this without over thinking it. Use your gut and instinct to do this first sort. While sorting, be aware of the process and thoughts that go through your mind. This first sort should take you less than 7 minutes. 2) Now that you've done the first step, note how many cards are in each pile. How many cards ended up in "Very Important to Me"? Why do you think that is? What voices (other than yours) were present while you did this first sort? What does that tell you? 3) Look at your cards again. Are there any cards in the Very Important to Me pile that don't need to be there? I bet there are. Typically values can end up in this pile simply because we are worried what it says about us if they are NOT in that pile. Listen deeply to yourself and YOUR voice only. Remove any cards that don't need to be there.
Option Two - List Another option is to simply make a list of the top things you think may be values. Once you've created a long list (you can use this as a starting point), begin to narrow your values by asking, "Do I make decisions based on this value?" and "Would anything change if I didn't value this?" These questions should give you insight into your top values.
Regardless of the method you use, you must narrow your values down to no more than 5. I'm going to say that again. This time, with Cap Lock ...YOU MUST NARROW YOUR VALUES DOWN TO NO MORE THAN 5. Narrowing your values is important for the simple truth that if everything is important, nothing is. You are doing this so you'll be able to evaluate and measure how well you are living a life consistent with these values. Too many values, and you'll feel scattered and ineffective. It's okay if this seems difficult- it is! But it is a very important step in living a crazy good life. Once you've narrowed your list to 5, put them in order of importance. Now that you know your most important values, you can begin to align your activities to support them.
"you can do everything, kiddo" - my grandpa
SO WHAT'S A PURPOSE STATEMENT, ANYWAY?
Pretty simple, really. A purpose statement is just a single statement that sums up what you do, for whom and why. It's the statement that tells the world (and more importantly, you) why you are here. It becomes your mantra. Your rallying cry. The thing you doodle on napkins and the way you impress your rudderless co-workers at parties. It's your spot on the horizon, your North Star, your compass on a dark and moonless night. The more you think about it, the more empowered you'll become. It doesn't justify your existence, it determines it. Sound exciting? You bet it is! So let's get yours written.
Okay. don't panic. You can do this. Remember, all we are doing is writing a statement - THAT CAN BE CHANGED OR EDITED AT ANY TIME - so take the pressure off. Here's how I like to start:
Grab a sheet of paper, a napkin, an empty Google doc or anything you can jot notes onto. See? Cinchy!
Think about a time when you were wildly proud of yourself. Jot down a few notes about that time. What was going on? What was your role? Which aspects were you most proud of? Who else was involved? Write as little or as much as you want.
Now, identify, what characteristics were present in those moments? Think about WHY you were proud. Was it WHAT you did or the WAY you did it? Was it a combo of both or was it something else completely?
Don't stop now!
Next, answer the question: What can *I* do, that no one else can do? This could be because of your unique mix of skills and talents or because of your circumstances, where you are and who you’re exposed to. We are searching for what's UNIQUE to YOU and ABOUT YOU. For example, if you're a parent, you can impact your child's life daily in significant ways. If you're wildly artistic, perhaps you can articulate concepts with paint like no one else. Maybe you have chronic pain and can relate to others with pain. I promise you, there is something unique about you, what you've been gifted with and your circumstances.
Now, you're ready! Put your pen to paper and write a statement that sums up what you do, for whom and why. Don't like it? Write it again! Just get the words down. Here are a few examples to help get you started.
EXAMPLES - to be used as thought starters - no cutting and pasting!
I am here to help others become who they are meant to be so they live a life with meaning and not an empty existence.
I am here to provide financial and emotional stability for my family and to protect the legacy that has been passed down to me so that my children can choose to pass it on one day.
Because so many people don’t know happiness and contentment are within their reach, I want to be an example of someone who has not let his circumstances define who he is.
I’m here to do things that other people won’t do and serve as an example of what the universe can do with an imperfect life.
I am here to live fully the life that has been given to me and not get caught up in the day-to-day b.s. that brings so many people down. By living life fully I will be able to make it easy for those around me to live life fully too.
I want to make things better – at work, at home, in my own life. I’m here to pursue greatness in whatever ways it comes to me so that I focus on others and not on myself.
Often I will get asked the question: "Do our values and purpose ever change?" The answer - YES! As our circumstances change, often our values change. Big life events (think career change, health scare or having kids) can impact your values and purpose. Sometimes, you may need to proactively change your values in order to make something a priority that has never been one before. Don't feel like you are carving these in stone. All we are doing is determining what your guideposts and criteria are right now.