In 2013, I attended a small, immersive leadership training program led by Warren Rustand, a brilliant leader who has become a mentor in the years since.
The program was not focused on externally-facing leadership skills. Instead, Rustand pushed us to reflect on our own personal principles and determine how we could use them to lead authentically. The program sparked my belief that I had strong core values, but I could not clearly articulate them at that point. I spent the next six months working to build a refined list, without the benefit of a playbook to follow.
Several years later, in 2019, I interviewed my friend Garry Ridge, the CEO of WD-40 Company, an acclaimed workplace that is known for its strong core values. In our discussion, Ridge noted that anyone who makes a decision in his company guided by one of the company’s values is “safe,” meaning they will not be censured even if mistakes are made.
This made me reflect further on personal core values. How can we know if we are safe with our decisions in life if we aren’t clear on what our values are?
Clarifying my own core values was the most important step I’ve taken in my personal and professional development. This knowledge has led to lasting changes in my life and guided me to make much better decisions with my time, energy and relationships.
Your core values are the non-negotiable principles that are most important to you. They serve as your guideposts or “swim lanes.” When you do things that align with your values, you feel energized. When you do things that violate your values, you feel drained, frustrated or even isolated.
Even if you can’t clearly articulate your values, they have likely existed within you for most of your life. They may even be the result of certain formative life experiences. Therefore, articulating them is a process of discovery, not invention.
Consciously or unconsciously, your core values impact many of your most important decisions, including what I call “the Big Three.”
- Your chosen vocation or place of work.
- Where you choose to live.
- Who you choose as a spouse or life partner.
My experience is that these “Big Three” decisions turn out poorly if they are not aligned with your core values. You don’t need to have identical values as the people you work with, the people you live with or even your partner, but it’s crucial to be in harmony regarding the big stuff. For example, if one of your core values is generosity, you will never feel whole in an environment or relationship defined by selfishness. You will likely never adjust to this core value discord—it will bother you every day until you exit the situation or abandon your values.
It’s also very hard to be an authentic leader without this degree of value-awareness. This is why we’ve developed a curriculum to help emerging leaders discover their personal core values as part of our leadership training at Acceleration Partners. I’ve continued to refine this method over time and have seen great outcomes. We’ve even had several team members use their newfound clarity to achieve personal and professional breakthroughs.
Having written about core values and the subject of Spiritual Capacity in my book, Elevate, I am often asked how to start the process of identifying personal core values. Before now, I never had an easy answer and would point people to several of the free resources in the book and well as the Whole Life Dashboard.
But last week I launched a course detailing this process, with the aim of helping tens of thousands of people answer this question for themselves. The course itself is an hour, but it will prompt much deeper work and reflection beyond the lessons it contains. If you have been looking for clarity on your most closely-held principles, this is a proven exercise that will get you started.
As we move further from a year that tested many of our values and prompted several agonizing decisions, now is the ideal time to get a deeper sense of what you value most.
Quote of The Week
“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.”
– Elvis Presley