What are core values?
How do I discover mine?
What does it mean to live by them?
And why should I care?
For most of my life I had no idea what core values even were.
I was taught plenty about social values, family values, religious values, cultural values - what others expected of me. But I was never even introduced to the idea that I might have personal values that differ from those around me.
Living by cultural values failed me, big time...
Growing up in America meant that I had the very strong belief that happiness came from success, fortune, and fame.
If people love you, you're rich and accomplished, you would be revered and your life was guaranteed to be good.
You would feel happy.
It turned out this could not be further from the truth.
I was fortunate at a young age, to be very successful at my first business venture. By the age of 21, I had several million dollars in the bank was driving a beautiful red Japanese sports car.
I was an industry leader in software publishing, and my software won top awards, including a private dinner with Bill Gates.
I had 25 employees in my company, nearly all of whom were older than me.
I owned a house on a golf course, and had a beautiful family.
And yet somehow, these things still didn't feel like what I was searching for.
There was something essential that was missing.
A lack of meaning and purpose in my life. I was just a hamster on a treadmill, running madly, and not knowing why.
By age 26, I had reached the very top of my mountain, only to discover I somehow climbed the wrong mountain entirely.
Even faced with a feeling of despair and purposelessness - for many years, I simply believed I needed more of the same. More success, more friends, more wins, a bigger company, more money, more houses...
But this only led to a deeper feeling of emptiness.
Discovering core values
For most of my life, I repeated the same pattern, trying to pursue happiness and meaning, and continually falling short.
Fast forward until just five years ago when I was introduced to the concept of Core Values.
So what the heck are core values anyway?
The basic concept is that every one of us has a unique set of central principles, core behavioral patterns that each of us values specially.
These values come in quite unique combinations, so much so that your core values are probably something like a psychological fingerprint.
Its thought that these unique values develop at a very young age - perhaps we are perhaps even born with them. When you watch a young child, between the ages of say 3 months and 5 years, you can see them express these values naturally.
And then they enter school and their world changes... at that point, children are compelled to develop towards a cultural norm. Their own core values get overshadowed by social concerns, cultural influences, and the expectations of teachers, parents and friends.
Living by your core values
At the root, core values are choices in behavior.
They are rational decisions that we make with the rational, "human" part of our brain.
Often, those decisions feel in competition with the feelings present in our emotional, "mammal" brain, for two reasons;
- Core Values drive rational choices that are based on our belief of right and wrong. This is done without much regard to future consequence- so the emotional part of the brain often freaks out. As an example, if I tell the truth about something, there may be an uncomfortable result.
- Shame. Our cultural imprinting often goes against our values, so choosing to live by our core values can often feel like it goes against cultural expectations, and that there will be social consequence. We're striking out on our own, rather than going with the flow... and others may disapprove.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say that for most of us, living by our core values will initially be met with emotional friction, as our emotional brain needs to reprogram and let go of our social programming.
Practicing honesty means that we might expose ourselves, or be forced to deliver uncomfortable truths to others. Our emotional brain imagines risk and negative consequence.
Practicing courage means moving forward with an action, even when you feel intense fear of consequence or uncertainty.
Practicing respect means treating yourself and others as equals, even when you emotionally feel above or beneath their social level, or they treat you without respect.
Practicing growth means investing hard work in yourself, and being open to change and possibility, even when sitting on the sofa eating potato chips is far more comfortable and easy.
Practicing curiosity is about the decision to explore options and possibilities, even when you are anxious to move forward with action.
Practicing acceptance is about seeing the past as acceptable, and useful to your life, even when it was painful, or you have resentment regarding past events.
Practicing responsibility is about choosing to own your own life, and accept full responsibility for your own success or failure, no matter how scary that is.
This internal emotional conflict is why most of us initially struggle to be authentic. Our values are always with us, but our sense of fear, confusion, and social consequence have overwhelmed them for a long time.
This emotional conflict also represents a huge point of growth. It's where your emotional mind learns to align with your core values, and get on board with your authentic self.
Why do core values matter?
So, so many reasons...
- Be the best that you can be. Being yourself is what you will always be best at. Being who other people want you to be can never come close.
- Living by values makes your life easier. Decisions become nearly instantaneous, in the same way that holding a good compass will always point you North.
- There is a deeper self, below your emotional brain, which experiences purpose and meaning in being authentic. When you live according to your values, your sense of purpose, self-worth, self-respect, and self-confidence grows dramatically.
- Find your people. When you practice your values authentically, your identity becomes clear and visible to others. The right people will be attracted to that, and you'll discover an incredible social circle that fits like a glove.
How do I discover my core values?
Figuring out your core values is often challenging.
They tend to be buried so deeply beneath our social and cultural conditioning that we often have lost touch with them by the time we are in our mid 20s.
We trade our own personal authenticity for social acceptance.
Don't feel bad- we are mammals and crave social approval. It's deeply wired into our psyche.
If you're not certain what your core values are I highly recommend the BROJO course, Discovering Your Core Values, which walks you through a series of exercises to start you on your journey.
This will be a lifelong adventure, but once you know your core values they act as a compass, for all of your decisions.
When you always know where your personal magnetic north is, it's very easy to make decisions based on the facts right in front of you, rather than trying to predict em guess which of five decisions will win you the best reward.
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My own core values are growth.
The desire to continually become more developed in my
knowledge, my mental capabilities. My self awareness, my physical strength and fitness.
courage, the willingness to face fear and see what's on the other side,
creativity that desire to express my unique thoughts, ideas, and emotions in ways that I can share with the world.
deep and meaningful relationships, which are which operate at the mental, emotional, and perhaps even spiritual levels. Simultaneously,
and compassion that desire to help those in need.
In a way that truly helps them without interfering with their growth,
practicing your core values also makes it easy for other people to find you.
And people who share your core values tend to make the best friends workmates and romantic partners.
If you are openly creative and aware of those who are creative.
You will often find yourself attracted to each other.
All of my hobbies are based on my core values, which means that I have a ready made community of friends who are very meaningful and special to me,
says you're making this exceptionally easy
decision making is exceptionally easy.
My sense of self confidence and self worth.
Growth grow exponentially. Every time I practice my core values.
And my identity strengthens and solidifies as well.