This content was published: August 7, 2018. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.
Steering from Our Center – Core Values as Signposts on the Journey to a Fulfilling Life
We all want to make good choices that will lead us to fulfilling work and lives, but how do we know we are on the right road?
We are often told that we need to know our life purpose or at least to have a goal and a plan. We all know people who had a clear sense of their life purpose early on – folks who had a clear calling. For them, that’s a good way to steer. But my own response to the what’s your life purpose question is “only one?”
For many of us, it’s not about finding a clear and simple single calling. And having a goal and a plan is great, but how do you choose a goal that you can be sure will bring you a life you love? How do you steer to that goal as the challenges and opportunities keep shifting around you, or when you learn something that makes you wonder if that goal you set is the right one?
What are core values?
We want signs to tell us we are moving in the right direction, but often there is no clear path in front of us that feels right. In truth, we make the path by walking. We create the future we want in the present, once choice at a time. Knowing whether we are creating the right path doesn’t require a clear picture of where we are going, it requires a clear sense of our core values, and of what is happening when we feel great about who we are being. Values – discovery, connection, focus, engagement, honesty, hard work, joy, listening, order, spontaneity, authenticity, and respect – are not principles, ethics, or expectations; they are the things that make us most ourselves.
When we live in ways that are consistent with our core values, we feel fulfilled.
The best way I know to make decisions is asking will doing x move me more deeply into living my core values, or away doing so? You can also get a better sense of why particular decisions are difficult by listing your core values and rating (using a scale of 1-10) how much each option honors and supports you in living into each of those core values. Sometimes decisions are hard because there is a big conflict between our shoulds and our core values. Sometimes they are hard because each choice support some of our core values and not others. Each of these patterns will show up on the list. If it’s the latter, then you can get curious about ways to honor the core values that might otherwise be negated or neglected in a given choice.
I invite you to make a list of your core values, being careful to leave off any words that make you tense up or feel constricted (those are shoulds, not core values). Once you have a list, play with it, explore what those values feel like in you and your life. Then you’ll have enough of a sense of them to turn to them as signposts on the journey toward creating a life you’ll love, now and in the future.
Tasha Harmon is a co-active coach, trained by the Coaches Training Institute, and a facilitator, living in Portland. She teaches the “Tools For Getting Unstuck” workshop at PCC’s Southeast Campus.