Define Your Core Values to Find Purpose in Life

Lessons we can learn from Simon Sinek, Amazon and Google.

Why am I here?

Everyone has asked themselves this question at some point in their lives. It’s a question that’s brewed in the minds of great philosophers for thousands of years, and I would argue that it’s an inescapable human doubt. We’re conscious of our existence, and in turn, we understand that there is an end to it. So, it’s natural to wonder why you’re here; what you want to achieve, what you want to be remembered for, what you want to contribute.

We’ll all have a different answer to this question, because there will be different things we each want to do in this life before it’s over. So, there is no right or wrong answer. And yet, many of us struggle to answer it. Why? Because we don’t have a sense of purpose.

Having a purpose makes it impossible to merely exist. Once you identify your reason for living, there’s a “why” behind every action; you’ll be able to set the direction in which to channel your passions and talents to drive your life towards a happy and fulfilling destination.

Simon Sinek explains how some leaders and some organizations are able to inspire whilst others aren’t. Every person and organization will know what they’re doing, and some will understand how they do it. But few will know why they’re doing it; what their purpose is. Inspired leaders and organizations are those that start with the why. They’re able to inspire their employees, their customers, and change social norms by inspiring people with their core message; their why — their purpose.

The same applies to individuals. We define our successes according to whether or not we’ve achieved certain goals that we set for ourselves. But these are short-term ‘whats’, they’re the things we’re doing. To remain inspired and motivated to keep pursuing our path to success, even through tough times, when faced with competition, or uncertainty, we need to define why we want to achieve these goals — what’s our purpose?

One simple way to identify and sustain your purpose is to define your Core Values.

Define Your Core Values

The concept of “Core Values” is something that you will probably have come across in the context of business. For example, Amazon has 14 core values, which it terms its leadership principles; Google has its “10 things it knows to be true”; these are key words or phrases, that make the business’ purpose actionable.

A sense of purpose provides a sense of direction, but it’s often a broad, holistic ethos; a long-term, general ideal that we want to uphold. So it can sometimes be difficult to grasp how well we’re pursuing it, or to make decisions when it’s unclear whether they’ll align with our ultimate purpose.

Contrarily, Core Values are clear, concise words or short phrases that assist in making a broader sense of ‘purpose’ actionable. They’re necessarily related to your purpose, but they provide almost a checklist; guidelines that you can revert back to for reassurance as you take steps towards achieving our goals and fulfilling your purpose.

Here are 4 examples of how defining your core values can support you as you work towards living your life on purpose:

1. They Will Attract People Who Bring Out the Best in You

All successful people know that, in order to increase your wins, you’ve also got to increase your losses. If you’re a writer, I’m sure you’ll be able to relate. The more articles you submit to publications, the more wins you’ll get, but likewise, the more rejections you’ll face. The more followers you attract, the more negative responses you’ll receive in turn.

Getting to the point that you can ignore the negative responses comes with practice — it’s not easy to build the mental toughness required to be completely unaffected by negative feedback. Especially because, as explained by Business School Professor David Burkus, we’re not only influenced by our closest connections, we’re subject to a huge extended network of people that includes people we haven’t even met; friends of friends, a plethora of strangers on the internet, and not everyone in this extended network will have good things to say about your work.

Defining your set of core values will help you attract people with similar values to you; who have a similar outlook of life — people who agree with what you’re working to achieve. Identify and protect your tight inner network of confidants who support you no matter what, and who will help you uphold your values and sustain your sense of purpose.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” — Jim Rohn

2. They Will Attract the Right Opportunities

Having a core set of values provides clarity when it comes to deciding whether to take particular opportunities or not. If your goal is to uphold your values no matter what, you’ll be able to consider whether or not a particular opportunity allows you to do so or not. It might be shiny on the outside and a great opportunity for many, but is it the right opportunity for you?

Being clear about your values can make your decision-making process easier, and allow you to invest your precious time into doing things that are more productive. You’ll be less influenced by what other people have to think about the opportunity, so there’ll be less over-thinking the decision. Your core values can give you clarity, and provide confidence that you’ve done what’s right for you.

3. They Will Bring You Peace of Mind

Many of us will have been through a phase where we’ve felt as though we’re living ‘in limbo’; not sure of what we want to do, where we want to go, what we’re looking to accomplish.

This instability comes with a lot of insecurity, anxiety, and often an unshakable sense of loneliness that’s impossible to ignore. You could be sitting in a room full of people and feel as though you’re separated by a bubble that surrounds you, like you’re watching the world move at a different pace to you completely; like you’re a mere observer of your own life.

It’s a continuing cycle. This anxiety often leads to fear; a fear of stepping out of that bubble because you wouldn’t know where to go; you haven’t decided what you want to do, where you want to be, or why.

Defining your core set of values can give you a sense of ownership over your own life; these are the things that are non-negotiable to you, they’re what you stand for. It can give you a sense of comfort and confidence, knowing that wherever it is that you are, and whatever it is that you’re doing, you’re upholding your core values — you’re unapologetically being you, and doing what’s right for you.

4. They Will Propel You to Persevere

In any role — yes, including your ‘dream job’ — there will be things you won’t love to do. Whether it’s replying to a stream of emails, organizing logistics, or ensuring the required paperwork is in order, all roles will involve tasks that aren’t your preferred way to spend your time. So, you might begin to question our career choices and regret choosing a certain path.

This is an example of a good time to refer back to your values; to remind yourself of why you chose that path. Focus not on what you don’t love, but on the ways in which your role allows you to live by your core values. It’ll provide you with an instant internal gratification and motivate you to get as much as you can when carrying out the task, no matter how tedious it is. They can propel you to persevere with a greater level of motivation and satisfaction.

Your core values form part of your identity; they’re part of who you are now, who you want to become; they represent the lifestyle that you want to lead, and the impact that you want to have.

They can give you the confidence to live life on your own terms and provide you with peace of mind because you’ll be reassured that so long as you’re upholding your core values, you’re doing what’s right for you; you’ll be living your life on purpose.

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