Using Your Core Values to Follow Your True North
We've been talking about values a lot over here at BR. Choosing to operate within our values is something that's very important to us. When you choose to operate within your values, it can act as your True North. It keeps you on track and recenters you when you start veering off of your path. Early on in starting BR, we defined our personal and professional values as a means of establishing our identity as an organization. When we get training or consultation requests, we'll often stop to assess whether the request and/or the organization doing the requesting aligns with our values. It's an exercise we use to ensure we're on the right path and it helps us sleep at night knowing that we're still connecting with what matters most to us.
Brie and I define our company's values as: integrity above all, equitable access to education, mental health advocacy, personal and professional growth, and care for those in need. If anything comes our way that we feel falls into conflict with our defined values, we will (and have) politely decline the request. Frankly, we wish more people operated this way. With that in mind, let's talk about how you can define your values and establish your own True North.
First of all, what is a value? Steven Hayes, the creator of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) defines values as qualities within ourselves that we choose to work toward at any given time. They're a set of internal principles that we hold which can guide our decisions. This sounds wonderful, but if you're anything like me you might have a difficult time when you're initially asked to define which values you hold true. But if you stop and think about it, you probably have a few that you already find important. Is your family very important to you? That's a value. What about giving back to your community through volunteer work or donations? That's a value too!
So after pondering it a bit, you may find that you have some values that are already important to you. But here are a few more ways you can really nail down your core values.
1. Think about times when you were your happiest or your "best version"
What did that look like? Who were you with? What were you doing? When we're our best selves, we're often operating on our values. This can give you a clue as to what's most important to you.
2. Think of some people whom you admire or look up to.
How do they act and interact with other people? What values do they hold that you aspire to? That can help you to define what you may want to work towards.
3. Check out a list of values
This was something that I had to do, because there were values that I hadn't even considered that were actually very important to me. Here is a list you can use, but there are many more with a quick Google search.
There are also inventories that you can take online, here's one we like.
4. Talk to someone and get feedback
Whether you choose to talk to a career counselor, explore the topic with a therapist, or just a trusted friend whose opinion you value, asking other people how they see us can be a good way to define values that we may not see in ourselves.
When you can define what principles you want to live by, it becomes easier to make decisions that move you toward those values. Many of us have felt directionless in life from time to time, but having a True North can always bring you back. Define your values and help yourself find the direction that you've been seeking.