Clarifying Your Core Values

Every decision you make in your life and in your business is governed by your values. As business owners we sometimes forget that people buy from people – not from businesses.

Customers and prospects are attracted to businesses and people within those businesses that have clear values that they identify with. Even more importantly, or at lease as importantly, your values make up the foundation for your goals.

Sometimes our goals, or what we think our goals are, may not be congruent with our values. When you go against your values, the incongruence causes you stress, anxiety and unhappiness. However often our values are hidden deep beneath the surface.

The goal of this article is to help you clarify your values. Once you clarify them, you can recalibrate your goals and the way you run your life and your business. I recommend doing this on a regular basis, as the sheer pace at which we run our lives means it’s very easy to get off track. Before you know it a lot of time has passed with you heading in the wrong direction.

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An exercise To Clarify Your Core Values

To help you clarify your values, complete the following exercise. Make sure you set time aside to do this properly – it will help you build your own compass and help you find your way.

Take yourself a long way forward in time; a very long way forward – to your own funeral. Imagine a coffin with your body in it and a group of people who have assembled to pay their last respects. There’s quite a large crowd. Four people who have known you move to the front of the audience and speak about you.

Firstly, a family member stands up and talks about having known you on an intimate basis.

What would you like this person to say? Not what you think they feel about you – what would you truly like them to say?

Take a few moments now to write down the key elements of their speech. Don’t worry about sentences – just catch the important words.

Next, a person who has known you through a club or organization such as the local church or sports team moves to the front of the gathering and speaks of their experience with you. What would you like them to say? Once again, not what you think they would say – what would you like to hear?

Write down the essence of their words.

Thirdly, a friend describes the nature of their friendship with you and how you have affected their life. What would you like to hear said by this person? Catch the key words or phrases on paper now.

Lastly, someone who has worked with you speaks, recollecting working with you under pressure and during less urgent times. What would you like to hear come from this person’s mouth? Get the keywords on paper now.

Take a look at what you have just written down about the way you would like to be remembered. You will have in front of you a description of your highest values, the things you treasure most as a human being. Whether they are kindness, compassion, strength or intelligence, these qualities and attributes will form the basis of your goals (and your time management strategy) – after all, they are the things you cherish most about who you are.

Houses and holidays, cars and careers all lose their importance when compared with these values. After all, did anyone at your imagined funeral say people “he had a nice car”?

Don't Sell Out

One of the greatest causes of unhappiness in a person’s life is when they sell out – when they trade in their values for something they thought would give them happiness. To quote Jim Rohn:

“Judas got the money – a small fortune at the time – was this a success story? No it wasn’t. Why? because he wasn’t happy with himself. He had got his hot little hands on the money but he wasn’t happy with himself because he had sold out. He tried to take the money back but they just through him out and he hanged his worthless self because of the betrayer he had become.”

Consider the words of eighteenth-century writer and philosopher, Joseph Addison:

“When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me… when I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind.”

If you consider carefully your definition of success and design your own compass and roadmap for the future, you will avoid much of the misery Joseph Addison describes Fame, achievement or money may not even be on the horizon anymore. As one man asked another on the death of a mutual friend, “How much did he leave?”, his friend replied, “He left it all. ”

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