What are Core Values?
Core Values are intrinsic to you — they come from inside of you. They have a little bit of “nature” (you’re born with them), and they also have a little bit of nurture (they’ve been shaped by your experiences).
Core Values are the guide posts that help you determine if something feels “important” or not. The reason we use Value to both discuss monetary things (the value of money), as well as emotional aspects, is that it’s the same feeling — somethings are more important to us that others, so we need a way to talk about how to compare what is more and less important.
As I work with my clients around Core Values, what we are looking for are the things that light you up — they are descriptors of an experience that are knowable, understandable, and you can direct your attention to experience more (or less) of them.
When we honor our values and the choices we make in our lives, we feel an internal “rightness.” It’s as if each value produces its own special tone. When we live our values, the various tones create a unique harmony. — Co-Active Coaching 3rd edition, by Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandhal, and Laura Whitworth
Let me give you an example: when I was seventeen, I played in a Christian pop-punk band. At one concert, we ended up playing the headlining set — so we had a full crowd of youth, all of who were really excited to be out listening to live music. One moment in particular sticks out from that night — we were playing one of my favourite songs, and there were people dancing right in front of the stage, our band was in sync with each other and with the audience, I was leading the other musicians in a way that we were all equal, each getting to shine for our strengths. It’s a moment that still feels magical to me twenty years later.
As I deconstruct that experience to define core values there are aspects of creativity (playing music), team work (being in the band), leadership (leading the band and leading the audience in an experience). There is a potential aspect of “service” (as I’m creating something for others to engage with), also a potential value of connection (connecting both to the band, and connecting with the audience). When I look at later moments in my life that have been equally important, I can see aspects of Creativity, or Team Work, Service and Leadership all arising at positive moments. At times when I was deeply disengaged or frustrated with my life, those experiences were absent from my life.
Drawing in Neuroscience — Dopamine is involved in “anticipating” positive experiences. Yes it also is raised when an unexpected positive event has happened, but the core purpose of dopamine is to anticipate if something will feel good or not. My theory is that when we are living our Values in real time, our brain experiences greater levels of dopamine — both because we anticipate success and feeling good, and also those moments create positive reinforcement by naturally feeling good. What has programmed my brain for that boost is a little different than yours — so we may find that our values are different, but the effect is still the same: when we live our values out loud, we feel more intrinsically motivated and engaged in our work and in our life. We feel physical engaged and mentally engaged. And afterword, we still feel good, a positive glow remains from the experience.
So, if you are ready to start exploring your own values, you can click the link below to download my Core Values Discovery worksheet. It contains five questions for you to explore, to look for those key moments of excitement, and the experiences that reinforce meaning and purpose for you.