Use what you are to become what you’re not

Core values exercises are highly useful in helping us figure out what’s most important to us, so we can prioritize our lives accordingly.

As my mentor used to tell me, values make all decisions easier. Once you know who you are, all you have to do is execute your actions against that framework, and you’ll have a greater probability of authentic fulfillment.

But there’s another compelling aspect of core values work that most people miss, which is noticing what’s not important to us.

Because most of these exercises start with the same exhaustive list of common personal values. There may be a hundred or so to choose from. Participants are then encouraged to circle the ten or twenty words that resonate with them deeply, rearrange them into groupings, create a hierarchy for which values matter most, and come out with a short list that feels true to who they are.

However, let’s not overlook the values on the list that make us feel nothing. Or better yet, the one that make us cringe or laugh or tilt our heads like a confused puppy.

The last time I did one of these values exercises, several words caught my eye as laughingly antithetical to my core.

Patriotism, justice, loyalty, strength, ethics and competition, gag me with a spoon.

Nothing against those values, and no judgments for people who cherish them, they’re simply not for me.

Creativity, connection, generosity, discipline, joy and independence, now those values feel much more authentic to my core. And that’s a good thing to know about myself.

Are you clear on who you, but more importantly, who you are not?

It’s a useful starting place for reverse engineering what matters most. Doing so will help you make future decisions based on your values, not out of fear.

Because the big picture here is, living in a universe where your values have been successfully achieved, that’s about the greatest source of renewable fulfillment available. Each day is another chance to make yourself proud by living according to your values, not someone else’s.

The exercise itself might seem laborious and contrived, but the thoughtfulness you experience along the way is a worthwhile use of your time. 

What if you decided to practice your values, rather than simply professing them?


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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