In our posts you will notice that we often talk about being intentional, and there’s good reason for it.
“Core values set the direction for who you are and where you want to go.” (Bergeron, 2017, 00:01:57)
We believe that every single person should have core values because it forms the framework through which all our decisions should be made, and ultimately sets the direction of our lives.
If we were a professional golfer, we could say that we compete in the sport of golf and our goal is to win a major tournament. Only saying our goal will not get us any closer to winning a major tournament. Instead, we need to determine the process. What are the daily actions we are going to take in order to achieve our goal?
What is the first step in defining core values?
“At your core, who are you? And who do you want to be? What is truly important to you? … The main thing is keeping the main thing, the main thing. What is the main thing in your life?” (Bergeron, 2017, 00:04:57)
“I think we all have this idea of where we want to end up in life, and we put it at this distant horizon … There’s this major gap, there’s no roadmap whatsoever between where we are, and where we want to [be] … If my life was exactly the way I envisioned it, it would include these things, and this is what it would encompass, but we’re no step closer to that today than we were yesterday, and we’re going to be no step closer to it tomorrow unless we put some definitions to what those things are, and start to define what the roadmap looks like to get there.” (Bergeron, 2017, 00:06:08)
Core values are about what’s integral to us right now. There is an aspirational aspect to it, but it’s about who we are right now.
If we were extremely overweight, smoked and ate a dozen doughnuts for breakfast every day, saying that health is a core value of ours would not be true. It might be something that we aspire to, but it’s not who we are right now, because our actions contradict this.
Core values are something that stick with us until the day we die. They’re not something that evolve or change as we go along. They are pillars that guide our daily lives.
Our core values already exist to some degree, it’s just about writing them down. Coming up with the words is the hard part. Type ‘examples of core values’ into Google and you’ll be presented with hundreds of different core values. You can select which ones you believe are your core values.
The process of establishing our core values is more important than writing them down perfectly.
“If your goal is to get fit, the idea is, get to the gym. Once you’re at the gym, whether you jump on a treadmill or [use] the squat rack it doesn’t matter that much. You’re doing way more than you were yesterday, which is just sit at home and watch TV.” (Bergeron, 2017, 00:10:28)
How many core values should you have?
There’s no magic number, but our advice is that less is more. It’ll be tempting to write down a lot of core values, but we believe having no more than 5 would be ideal.
“What you’ll also find is that some [core values] live together. If you have integrity and honesty, that could probably be in one. If you have empathy, compassion and service, that could probably be one.” (Bergeron, 2017, 00:11:15)
The Goal-Setting Process
In order to live our lives in line with our core values, we first need to define them.
Once we’ve defined our core values, we can begin the goal-setting process.
We start by setting annual goals; from there we break down our annual goals into quarterly goals; and from there we break down our quarterly goals into monthly, weekly and daily goals.
Armed with our goals, “Every single day I can be tracking up towards that one-year goal. That one-year goal tracks up toward my core values, and now I’m really moving the needle toward [living my life based on my core values].” (Bergeron, 2017, 00:14:50)
This is how we ensure that our core values are not just words on a page, or a screen, or a wall, but that they’re actually influencing our daily lives.
Define your core values with verbs
“Values have to be verbs … And the reason is because values are things you do; values are things you live by.
You can’t “do” nouns, you can only do verbs.
If you look at an organisation, for example, you see companies that have their corporate values on the wall and it says ‘innovation,’ ‘respect,’ ‘honesty.’ You can’t “do” innovation. You can’t walk into someone’s office and say, please, from now on, a little more innovation in all that you do. But you can say, look at the world from a different perspective … Instead of honesty, you can say, do the right thing.
You can hold people accountable to that; you can create measurements around that.” (Sinek, 2009, 00:00:15)
If the organisation was hiring, they now have core values by which they can assess the candidate.
It’s not, “Our core values are innovation, respect and honesty, and these are the bonuses you could receive.” It’s, “We look at the world from a different perspective; we do the right thing. This is the standard by which you will be hired and fired.” Now, instead of our core values being buzz words that look good on a wall, they’re actionable, measurable core values. It’s who we are, and all our decisions are made in line with this.
Practically implementing our core values on a daily basis
Until our core values become our identity, we’re going to need daily reminders.
This could be setting an hourly reminder in our calendar, it could be a wallpaper on our mobile phone or computer, it could be post it notes around the office or home. We need something to keep us hyper-aware of what should be guiding every decision that we make.
If we said that family time was important to us, and committed to leaving the office at 6pm every day, we could log off and go home at 5:30pm even if there were 15 unanswered emails in our inbox. Yes, the emails are urgent, and yes, they’re shouting out to us to answer them, but in 5 years’ time, what will be more important? That we answered those emails, or that we spent time with our family?
We’re constantly under pressure to deal with urgent things, but ultimately, it’s about what’s important in the long term. We have to prioritise important over urgent.
“The essential choice is this: you have to describe (and live) the difficult choices. You have to figure out who you will disappoint or offend. Most of all, you have to be clear about what’s important and what you won’t or can’t do.” (Godin, 2013)
The advice we share is always to the best of our knowledge and experience at this present moment. We believe in every word of advice we share, but if we were to look back on this post in 12 months’ time, we would probably make some additions or adjustments based on what we’ve learned. In other words, this advice will undoubtedly be helpful, but remember that there is always room from improvement.
Living Based on Core Values (2017) YouTube Video, added by Ben Bergeron [Online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvNIpl4KT4A [Accessed: 10 February 2020].
Simon Sinek: How Verbs are Useful When Setting Measurable Goals (2009) YouTube Video, added by Capture Your Flag [Online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE-sKK5X64A&fbclid=IwAR2SH0oLXTkC_gu5AO2_ZenFbKYIYuCENjiIvPtvhXxV1pRYKqQIe5-5Nuc [Accessed 12 February 2020].
Godin, S. (2013) ‘Your manifesto, your culture’, Seth’s Blog, 24 April. Available at: https://seths.blog/2013/04/your-manifesto-your-culture/ (Accessed: 12 February 2020)