The value of values

What if, right at this very moment, you are living up to your full potential? My first reaction to these words by playwright Jane Wagner was, “This can’t be all there is for me.

What if, right at this very moment, you are living up to your full potential? My first reaction to these words by playwright Jane Wagner was, “This can’t be all there is for me. There is so much to learn. I am capable of so much more.” She labeled her comment “a sobering thought.” I agree! One of our greatest gifts is the lifelong opportunity to invest in personal growth. No one is a finished product. We are all works in progress.

With this new column, I invite you to take a monthly journey with me to unleash the potential that lies within us. If you feel like I do, you are curious and excited about what you could become. You may not have a clear picture of your potential. You may not know how to activate it. But are you ready to explore? Let’s discover the possibilities together.

Every journey benefits from a road map to the unknown. Ours will be “The Four Essential Questions:”

What do I believe in?

What is my purpose?

Where am I going?

How will I get there?

Your immediate reaction may be to rush straight to Questions 3 and 4. Most of us do just that! Resist the temptation. There will be time later for creating your vision - the new skills you want to acquire, the learning edges you want to develop, and the new activities you want to incorporate into your life.

Now is the time for reflection and discovery. Before you begin to shape the next chapter of your life, call time out. You must catch up with who you have become. The place to begin is with Question 1.

Your foundation for growth

Personal growth needs the support of a solid foundation - a stable platform from which you can unleash your untapped potential. Your beliefs form the first half of this foundation.

“What do I believe in?” is answered by clarifying your core values. Core values describe your ideals, your behavior, and your character. They are a small number of guiding principles which will drive everything you now choose to do.

There is no universally correct set of core values. They are not right or wrong. They are personal and particular to each individual. You express your values through the choices you make. Your core values act as a compass as you move into the next chapter of your life. They point you to what matters the most. You will make better decisions because you have clearly defined what is important to you. You will also have the comfort of knowing you will be living in closer harmony with your beliefs.

Identifying your core values is a process of discovery. There is no magical formula, but I have found this two-part process to be helpful:

1. Consider peak moments in your recent life - snapshots of when you felt the best. Where were you? Who were you with? What were you doing? What specific values were being expressed, acted upon, and honored?

2. Consider recent times when you experienced great frustration, anger, or discomfort. What was going on? What caused these feelings? What specific values were being suppressed?

Use these experiences to become closer to the ideals, behaviors, and aspects of character which deeply move you. Write down your initial thoughts and impressions. Revisit this process regularly over several days. As your core values surface, complete your written description of them. You now have the answer to “What do I believe in?”

The test of congruence

A value is a value because you live it, not because you say it. If your life does not honor your stated core values, then they are not really your values.

Test yourself by analyzing how you spend your time and money. Review your calendar and checkbook for several weeks. Find out:

1. What five things have you spent most of your time on?

2. What five things have you spent most of your money on?

3. Have your actions, behaviors, and patterns been congruent with your core values? If so, what does this mean? If not, what do you need to do now?

Next month, we will address the second half of your foundation for growth, “What is my purpose?”

Doug Young, MBA, and his spouse, Marlyn, MCC, have a professional speaking and executive/team coaching business in Parker, Colo. They share an interest in leading-edge business concepts, achieving personal and professional potential, serving the patient, and improving the way people work together. Marlyn’s insights into people and relationships and her coaching skills complement Doug’s motivating and mind-expanding presentations. They can be reached by e-mail at dmyoung@ix.netcom.com, by phone at (877) DMYOUNG (369-6864), or at www.dmyoung.com.

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