One of the first questions I always ask someone I am coaching is, “what are your core values?” Another way of asking that same question: “what are the human qualities that you find inherently worthy, no matter what else may play out?” It lays at the heart of our self respect, which in turn is fundamental to how much we trust ourselves and our self esteem.
How do your values affect every area of your life? And how does determining what they are have such a powerful impact on your relationship with yourself?
Often life is confusing, and we are stuck with a decision that seems to be choosing between bad or maybe worse… both choices seem undesirable enough that we really feel stuck not knowing what exactly is the “right” thing to do. If we are clear on our core values, this is our north star or our compass. Even when we cannot clearly see the best path, if we use our core values to drive our decision making, we can feel good that no matter what the outcome is, we can look at ourselves in the mirror and feel like we did our best. That is clarity, and that builds trust.
Feeling worthy of love or “good enough” is one of the pillars of self esteem, and I haven’t ever met someone who doesn’t struggle with this on some level. We are wired from birth to be seeking everything that we need from the outside in: food, love, validation. Did I do well enough on the test? Did I get a good enough time in the race? Did I get into the school? Did I get the promotion? As we all know, any given outcome can go either way, which means at any given moment we can be falling short.
If instead we look from the inside out, and use our core values as the litmus test for “good enough”, and the process of living those core values with the highest amount of integrity, we have the power to insulate ourselves from outcomes that fall on the “I learned something today” side of the coin instead of the “woo hoo I knocked it out of the park” side. Even when the outcome falls short, if we did our best, we were brave, we were kind, we can look in the mirror and feel proud. We always have control over our integrity with our core values, and that is where we can hold ourselves to high standards, focusing on the process instead of the outcomes.
If we go deep enough, we share core values with all healthy humans – they are powerful bridges to connect us, not meant to be used as walls to keep us apart or defend ourselves with. Relationships are one of our core needs in life, and studies show that social interaction is the number one activity tied to longevity. Focusing on our core values and the core values of others and seeing how we can find the commonality even when there are different hierarchies or perceptions is a powerful tool in our quest for connection.
The next time you are in an interpersonal conflict, pause and ask yourself which of your core values are driving your perspective on the situation and try and figure out the other person’s core value perspectives… and see how you might find a way to meet both in a potential solution.
Life is a seemingly constant source of stress. Our core values can give us the peace and quiet and rest that we desperately are seeking. When we are in moments of pain and struggle, we can focus on those core values and practice being that, and it will ground us and empower us.
Think about gratitude, humility, compassion, courage, and think about practicing those qualities in the really stressful moments, and you will see what I mean. It takes practice, which is why I always say practice when it is easy so it will come easier when it is hard. As soon as you realize you are out of alignment with this practice, just come back to it, and that returning to your core values in and of itself will make it easier next time.
Pamela Gold is a best-selling author, speaker, mind/body/spirit strength expert and entrepreneur. Founder of Peace Power Parenting and HACKD Fitness, Pamela grew up on her family’s apple farm in upstate New York, graduated from Yale University, and was the point person on an IPO at the age of 24. After becoming a mom, holistic wellness became her passion and all of her work stems from that calling.