In my book Master Your Code, I describe that each of us has a program – a set of subconscious, safety-based beliefs, values, and rules that automatically drives your behavior and limits your results. And I argue that you have a choice to construct a code – a consciously chosen set of beliefs, values, and rules that is purposefully designed to serve you and produce extraordinary results.
Today I want to talk specifically about values. Your values are the beliefs that determine what’s important to you. Values drive how you make decisions, what you prioritize, how you spend your time, and how you feel. Everyone has a set of values. Most don’t realize what they are (i.e., they are subconscious). And fewer yet intentionally leverage their values in service of an extraordinary life.
Understanding – and leveraging – your values are critical for two primary reasons. First, human beings flourish when they live consistently with their values. They suffer when they don’t. Knowing what your values are and when they’re not being met is like getting the results of a blood test that lets you know you are deficient in Vitamin D. The prescription is clear. Get more vitamin D in your system. The same is true with values. If you’re feeling anxious, fearful, or frustrated, it is likely that you aren’t living consistently with your values – what matters most to you. For example, you may have a strong value around friendship. If your ability to spend time with friends is compromised (as it undoubtedly is right now), you will likely feel frustrated. The solution is to take clear and directed action that meets the need underlying that value.
Second, if you want to lead an extraordinary life, you need to ensure that your values align with your purpose and vision in life. Most people live life with a set of subconscious values that are inconsistent with the life they really want. Here’s the good news. Times of extreme change and uncertainty present an incredible gift – the opportunity to identify your values and to examine whether those values are truly serving you. Every year, I examine and adjust my values. I usually make a small shift like reprioritizing values or adding a new value. I ask myself the following questions. What is my purpose and vision for my life? How do I want to live? And what do I need to value for this to happen? If my current values don’t completely align with what I want for my life, I will make an adjustment.
Over the past several weeks, I have noticed a shift in what’s important to me. I’ve begun to treasure the extra space in my life and the accompanying peace and calm that I have experienced. So I took the opportunity to do a mid-year assessment of my values, which resulted in the addition of serenity to my core values.
If you’ve never done a personal values assessment (or haven’t done one in a while), I encourage you to do so. Values clarification is the antidote to uncertainty. Values can act as a compass to guide you, particularly in times of extreme change and uncertainty. The exercise is relatively simple. Carve out an hour or two and find a space where you can think and are free from interruption.
The first step is to find an inventory of values. There’s no magic list. You just want to find one that is comprehensive enough but not overwhelming in quantity (e.g., a list of fifty to one hundred values). The author Brené Brown has a very good list here. From this list, choose ten to twenty values that really resonate with you. Don’t spend too much time deciding which values to choose. The idea is to just get a smaller, more manageable list to work from. And, for sure, add values that aren’t specifically on the inventory list. You want to make sure the values you identify and choose mean something to you.
The second step is optional. You may find it helpful to group your top ten to twenty values into categories. For example, I identified about twenty values in this first step. I noticed that health, vitality, energy, and well-being were similar so I grouped them together. I did the same for other values that were similar to each other.
The third step is to choose your top four to eight values. This may be difficult for you, but it’s essential to narrow the list. Then I recommend that you rank them in order of importance to you. Here is my current list.
I then put these eight values into a compass (note: thanks to Brian Johnson for the idea of a values compass). The first four are my core values, with my north star being self-mastery. My other four values, in some ways, represent the integration of the two adjacent core values.
You don’t need to create a compass like this. Simply list your values in a way that works for you. Most importantly, have fun with it.
Once you’ve identified your values, you need to be intentional about living consistently with them. I recommend revisiting your values each day for the next thirty days. Every morning, I take a moment where I commit to living consistently with each of my values. At a minimum, I identify one action that I will take during the day to embody my values. On most days, I list one action for each of the values. It’s amazing what a difference this practice makes.
If you are going to shelter in place, there’s no better place in which to shelter than your values. What would it look like to find shelter in the things that matter to you most?