My Dad would often say "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." Ok, my Dad wasn't the originator of the quote, Google tells me it was actually Alexander Hamilton. All I remember is when I was young, my Dad would play a hokey country song with those lyrics, and sing them at the top of his lungs. I wouldn't know until years later just how important it was for me to establish my guiding principles (aka, core values) to achieve my personal and professional goals.
As a guide, I depend on my map and compass and my natural bearings to guide me from point A to point B. Whether I am "boxing in" the needle of my compass, or I am looking to the sky to find the North Star - I am depending on laws of nature that never change - True North will always be True North - and the North Star always points North. It's important in life, and in business to have steadfast, never-changing principles that will guide you through tough decisions. It's even more important to have them written in a prominent place where you can refer to them often. (Your Map) Guiding principles help you make faster decisions and prioritize, therefore making them a valuable tool in managing your time.
Core Values are what lead you through life and keep you from getting lost. Without them, you will never be able to prioritize or effectively manage your time or hit your target.
Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the principles that guide them. They often let their subconscious mind direct them in the decision-making process. The only problem is, often our subconscious level mind makes fear-based decisions or defaults to the “easier path” rather than what’s right. For instance, you may know you should quit that unhealthy habit, or exercise more often, but when left up to the sub-conscious mind, more often than not, it chooses the easier way out. When it comes to goal achievement – the conscious mind must play a part in redirecting behaviors and actions. Therefore, it's essential to take the time to write out your core values and be diligent in utilizing them in decision making and goal setting.
How do I identify my core values?
Guiding Principles are personal. You should take time to reflect, draw them out, and continuously shape them.
I highly recommend grabbing a journal and go for a walk in nature. Find a place that you can be alone with your thoughts and be still. Ask yourself a few questions - "What beliefs do I always fall back on when faced with hardships?" "What values do I hold high?" "What do I know as the truth?" Write down your answers and any other thoughts that come to mind.
While it’s easy to be tempted to google “core values” and pour over lists upon lists of keywords such as “accountability,” “leadership,” “happiness,” and "excellence" … I would encourage you to take this exercise a step further.
Core values are your guiding principles. They should be inarguable and impenetrable. Core values aren’t just a rote list of “best behaviors” – but rather they should push you to step out of your comfort zone, stretch you to be a better person, and make you well with pride when you think of them.
How do you know if you’ve selected concrete values? You should feel something (tingle? Excitement? Emotion? Pride? Joy?) when you read them. They should be memorable, easy to understand, specific to what you do and who you are, and support your mission and vision.
When establishing core values for a team, keep in mind that if one does not possess the core values of the organization, they probably shouldn’t be employed there. For instance, if someone works for a daycare, they should possess the core value of loving and protecting children.
As I mentioned above, identifying your core values is a worthwhile exercise that will provide you with an anchor for goal setting and decision making. When you are connected to your goals on a deeper level, not only will reaching them becomes easier, but the journey towards the goal will be rewarding, fun, and exciting.