Part Two: How to find your core values
Part Two of the Intentional Living Series by Kelsea Bolin
If you read part one of this mini-series about reclaiming your time you know that I touched a lot on core values. That is because I like to think of core values as an internal navigation system for decision-making.
Having well defined core values can help serve as a filter through which you can evaluate all of the decisions and opportunities that come to you. It helps you gain clarity on what makes it into your day and the why behind it.
The problem we face is that many of us aren't aware of our core values. We have an idea of what we value in general, but core values really get down to the center of who you are and how you are wired. They set the foundation. They are the why behind the things that we do, and they always align with our spiritual gifts and the things we feel God has called us to do. Without going through some sort of discovery process, it can be difficult to articulate what is most important to us. It is easy to idealize what we should value, but knowing and accepting what we value takes some effort.
Core values are not selected, they are discovered. They are the things that light you up. The things you have a strong emotional attachment to. These are often revealed through joy, positivity, and excitement. But also anger, negativity, and angst.
Last summer when I allowed time to reflect I went through this process of discovering my core values. I don’t want to give too many examples of my own because I really want to challenge you to look within yourself and determine what your unique core values are. I understand that having examples can help kick-start the process so here are a couple of mine.
The first one is growth. To me, growth is of value to my faith, to my physical fitness, and my mental state. Progress comes when we step out of our comfort zone. I thrive when I challenge myself physically and mentally, but it is not always easy. Often times my faith calls me to do things that I am uncomfortable with, but trusting and acting when it is uncomfortable, can lead to great prosperity.
Last spring I felt God calling me to get involved with the teens and young adults of our community. To be a mentor and role model by spreading positivity and sharing God's word. At the time, it wasn’t clear to me how to put that into action, so I asked God for guidance. A couple days later, I got an email asking if I’d be interested in teaching a Learning Community at Ohio University (Isn’t it funny how God works?). Learning Communities are made up of incoming freshman who have similar majors and interests. They are intended to help incoming students transition from high school to college and touch on topics from time management and study skills, to drugs and alcohol.
I was excited about the opportunity but if you know me personally, public speaking is one of my worst fears. I knew that I would be very much out of my comfort zone and that intimidated me. I chose not to let my fear and anxiety keep me from experiencing something beautiful. The semester went smoothly; I made great relationships with the students in my class and at the end of it all, I found not only fulfillment but also nominated as an Outstanding Learning Community Instructor for the 17-18 school year. Something that would have never happened without God giving me the courage to face my fears and act on his will. Through that experience, I grew in my faith, because I trusted and acted on it. I know growth comes from stepping out of our comfort zones and pushing forward through all the emotions, and I value that.
My relationships are also something I value. My friends and family mean the world to me. I want to make sure they know they are loved, respected and safe with me. That means being intentional in my interactions with them. Listening and understanding their feelings, and most importantly making time for them. The older I get the more I have come to realize that the most precious thing you can give someone you love is your time and undivided attention. I have to remind myself daily to be present in the moment. As I stated in my first post, the world is busy and full of commotion. Don’t let it distract you from the things that matter. If you find yourself valuing your relationships but never have time for connection, carve out time for you and your spouse and make it a habit. When I get home from work in the evenings I try to unplug from email and social media so that my family gets all of me for a few hours each day.
Speaking of spouses, if you are married, you and your spouse grew up in homes that each had their own set of values. Something that is of value to your husband may or may not be of equal value to you, and sometimes that causes conflict. For example, my husband, Wes grew up in a very conservative Christian home. His parents were strict, went to church every Sunday, and prayed before every meal. I grew up in a much more lenient environment and while my parents believe in God, they are definitely not conservative and encouraged us to express ourselves and find faith on our own terms.
As you can imagine, being raised in different environments caused some conflict when it came to parenting our own child. My husband and I practice the same faith, one that lays out the foundation for many of our core values and family values and yet we still face conflict.
Wes is stricter in his discipline than I am and that is because he has a strong value for obeying and respecting your elders with little question. I also have a value for this but I was allowed more expression as a child and so I have a deeper value for meeting kids where they are at and understanding their feelings while still encouraging them to be obedient and respectful.
If you are looking to reduce the amount of conflict you have with your spouse then I think it is important to discover your core values individually and then come together to see what values you have in common.
The ones you have in common will likely become your family values and be the things that you enjoy doing together as a family unit. The ones you have that are different are the ones that can cause disagreements in your marriage if you do not recognize them and determine how you can honor each other’s differences. Honoring your spouse’s core values when they differ from yours comes by trusting that you understand each other’s needs and then allowing each other space and time to meet those needs.
For example, my husband is very extroverted and I am not. I don’t look at his extroversion as something that is wrong with him. Instead, I look at it, as this is how the Lord has made him, and I will be supportive of that even though I am not that way. So I challenge you to look past the disagreements and focus on acknowledging your differences and honoring them in a meaningful way.
It is my hope that through this post you will be inspired to think through the things that strike you at your core, and use them as a filter to cultivate more time in your schedules for what matters most.
Tips for discovering your core values:
1. Start with white space. Take a deep breath and empty your mind, getting in the right mental state is an important first step.
2. Write down a list of personal values. This can be an intimidating task, but some things to think about that will help get your juices flowing are *peak experiences—a meaningful moment that stands out what values were you honoring at this time? *pit experiences—a time when you got angry, frustrated or upset what value was being suppressed? *Code of conduct—besides your basic human needs what are the MUSTs you need in your life to experience fulfillment?
3. Piece your individual values into related groups if you have too many to be actionable.
4. Underline the fundamental theme of each group and select one word that represents the group.
5. Determine your top personal core values by asking the following questions. What values are essential to your life? What values are crucial to supporting your inner being? There isn’t a set number you should end up with but you want to make sure that you capture all the dimensions of yourself, awhile not going overboard. Too many and you’ll forget them instead of acting on them.
Thank you Kelsea for writing this incredible post. I know you've personally helped me through this series and I will forever be grateful for your friendship and wisdom.