How to Easily Improve Your Core Values in 15 minutes

Core values - What are they?

Core Values are often clearest when scandal arrives at our door. But by then, it is often too late to stop the damage.

It seems that every day there is a new scandal in the news. Most are forgotten within a few days. But one recent scandal has stayed in the public eye for months and does not appear to be going away soon. It is called Operation Varsity Blues. The college admission scandal where several notable universities and parents were charged with bribery, fraud, and money laundering. Several of the university employees and participants have pleaded guilty.

One of the most recognizable parents caught up in the scandal is Lori Loughlin. She was an actress in When Calls the Heart, a show on the Hallmark Channel. Her public and personal values appeared to conflict, and she was fired from the show and the network.

This conflict in our public persona and our core values are played out daily. We see our leaders, coworkers, and sometimes ourselves acting in direct conflict with our stated values.

We know of core values because corporations and individuals seem to write them beautifully and then abandon them in the name of profit or expediency. So, we instinctively run when the subject of core values comes up. 

As men, a discussion of our core values is an absolute necessity if we want to avoid failure in business and relationships. I believe that this short article can help us answer three important questions. What are core values, their benefit to us, and how do we identify our core values?

What are Core Values?

Core values are traits or qualities that represent your highest priorities, deeply held beliefs that influence your actions and interactions with others.  

You already have some core values. You might not be able to identify them, but they do exist.

What is important to you? Money, prestige, relationships, success, health? These will all reflect your core values.

The good news is your core values are not set in stone. Your current and future choice reflect your core values.

What are the benefits of defining your core values? 

Improved Physical and Emotional Health. According to Stanford Professor Kelly McGonigal, in her book, The Upside of Stress, “It turns out that writing about your values is one of the most effective psychological interventions ever studied. In the short term, writing about personal values makes people feel more powerful, in control, proud, and strong. It also makes them feel more loving, connected, and empathetic toward others. It increases pain tolerance, enhances self-control, and reduces unhelpful rumination after a stressful experience”‘

A remedy to decision fatigue and stress.  Recent research has shown that we have a finite capacity for making decisions. That as the day progresses, our brain actually suffers from fatigue in making decisions. This is why we make so many bad decisions when we are exhausted. If our values are predetermined, they will reduce the stress in making decisions and bring clarity. If one path supports my core values and the other choice does not, the decision should be easier to make.

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy Disney (1893 – 1971), Walt Disney’s Elder Brother his Efforts’ Financier.

How do we identify our core values? Where do we start?

Core Values
Core values

Our core values are revealed by our actions, our investment of resources and time, and by who we admire as role models. Pursuing them will cost us something, but it will bring a solid return on the investment.

Several online resources are available and are included near the end of this article if you need a place to start.

We will determine our core values or someone else will do it for us.

“He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own.” —Aesop.

Actions. Our past actions reflect who we were, but our future actions can determine who we will become.

“Anything that changes your values changes your behavior.” – George Sheehan (1918 – 1993), American Fitness Author.

“Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” A quote from Atomic Habits, An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. A wonderful book providing practical steps to modify habits and behavior. I highly recommend his website.

Investment of Resources and Time. “Your priorities are a reflection of what you value. By watching how you spend your time, you can get a grasp on what you put the first day after day,” says Melody Wilding. Human Behavior Professor, Hunter College.    

Role Models. You have probably been impacted and adopted the core values of your role models and peers. In a leadership training course, I was asked to review one of my role models who impacted my life and to look at their core values. Later we did the strength finder course. Eventually, I grew comfortable identifying and naming my strengths and core values, and I forgot the exercise.  Months later, I read my notes and saw that many of the core values I aspire to were listed in my description of my favorite role model.

Months later, I read my notes and saw that many of the core values I aspire to were listed in my description of my favorite role model.

Your core values will either positively or negatively influence others. At work, at home, with your friends and strangers, you meet. For example, if one of your core values is kindness, it may be evidenced in every encounter you have with every person you meet. You have probably been impacted and adopted the core values of your role models and peers. They probably have adapted yours.

Living with your core values will come with a cost. Recently, I skipped a weekly men’s group that I love to assist my wife with a craft show. I love that men’s group, and I love my wife,  but loading and unloading for a craft show are not one of my favorite activities. I had to determine which I valued more, time with my men’s group or time-serving my wife. Ironically, our study was about improving our marriage. It was not a hard decision when I considered my core values. But it did mean I had to give up something I enjoyed myself.

Living into your core values may cost you a job, a relationship, or an opportunity. But it may also save you from a frustrating career, a soul-sucking relationship, and allow you to pursue opportunities that bring you joy.

The good news is that our core values can change; they are not fixed at birth and immutable. We need to make them our own.

I highly recommend Values in Action and Find your Values as a good starting point with excellent resources. Both provide free online tests that will guide you in determining your core values. I am sure that both websites have a way to monetize the service, but it is worth the hassle.

In the meantime, take time this week to examine your values. Can you name them? If not, consider the values of your favorite mentor and write them down. Or you can take one of the surveys listed above. I encourage you to take ownership of your life by determining what you value.

Next week, I will discuss my core values, my mentors, and some additional resources for you.

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