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The SeamLess Life

Issue #4 June 22, 1998

Live Your Values - Part 1: Discover Your Core Values

A colleague of ours, Bill Montgomery, says it best: "One of the most important things in Life is to decide what is most important."

We believe that, if you're reading this, you want a life that has value. That satisfies your real and deep longing for meaning. When you align your work and your life with your core values, you know their meaning. Your longing is satisfied.

If you've worked through our earlier steps to discovering and satisfying your current needs, then you're ready to take the next step. (Archived on The Sideroad in earlier articles.) Once you begin to get your basic needs gratified, then your strongest motivators and greatest source of deep meaning and satisfaction--your core values can begin to be the primary drivers of your life.

So, how do you do this? The first step is to discover your core values. That's what this column is about. The next step, which we'll write about next week, is to align your life with your values.

If your life and work aren't aligned with your values, you may be getting results. But you're unlikely to be thriving, being fully satisfied. Your life probably isn't on the road to becoming a SeamLess one. You may be bored. Or on the edge of burnout. Or just in a sort of comfortable rut.

The benefits of aligning your life with your core values is that it releases two things:

And, when these are released, your potential for outrageous success is maximized.

What are Values?

Our working definition of values is this: Your core values are those qualities which, for you, have intrinsic worth. That means that when your actions are aligned with your most deeply held values, the things you do are desirable or worthy of esteem for their own sake.

You know more about values than you may think. Take the value of integrity. How do you know someone has integrity? If a person values this -- they just naturally demonstrate it don't they? And don't you just naturally recognizeit? Actually, you're probably already an expert in recognizing values -- if you'll start noticing you'll find you're brilliant at this.

If one of your core values is service to others, for example, then helping someone in need is an action you'll take naturally because you believe its desirable and a worthy thing to do for you. It will feel good to you to honor that value by living through it and acting on it. Our values are unique to us: You may not expect others to do what you do or to get the same sense of self-worth from it. But you'll naturally act in accord with your values whenever you have the opportunity.

What's the Value of Knowing Your Values?

The real value in knowing and being able to clearly articulate your values is that you can give yourself more and more opportunities to honor yourself, to increase your satisfaction and sense of your life's meaning and worth. To find fulfillment. You do this by designing your time and your life so that you have maximum opportunity to live fully out of your values.

But first you need to be absolutely clear about what they are. Find the language you need to describe them compellingly to yourself and to others. Knowing what you stand for is critical before you start setting your goals around values and redesigning your life.

Discover Your Values: Four Ways to Find Your Core Values

Most of us have 3-5 real core values, ones that have been with us for some time and are abiding. They'll be our core values for many years. We want you to find those 3-5 for yourself. Here are four ways we've used with our clients. Do each of the four. Create a 3-5 item list from each of them. Then, put all the work together. Cross out items that repeat. Select the words that have the most "resonance" for you. Like a tuning fork, you can feel yourself "ring," almost vibrate subtly, when you say the word aloud. When you imagine yourself living out of these values fully, the thought should bring you a great sense of satisfaction and joy.

(What if it doesn't? Then, you may be listing what you've been told you should do, should believe, should value. Not your very own real core values. If so, go back and start again. Living out a list of "should's" won't bring you joy and satisfaction. That's not on the path to the SeamLess Life™.)

  1. Think back to the qualities you had as a child. List 5-10 qualities that were true of you between the ages of 6 and 12.

    You've been naturally drawn toward certain things ever since you were a kid, when some qualities just naturally were part of who you were. You might havebeen naturally creative. Or thoughtful. A lover of nature or beauty. A natural helper of others. Drawn to things that were new or different. An experimenter or explorer.

    These qualities may be your core values. Or clues to help you find them.

    Sit down and quickly list 5-10 of these qualities right now. Circle any and all that are things you still do and are naturally -- that is, no effort involved. You just create, explore, help, etc. Include things that you would do and would be if your work, time and life supported you in fulfilling them. Think of things people cannot STOP you from doing.

  2. Make a list of 10-12 times in the past 2-5 years when you were being and doing at your absolute best. That is, you felt that you were living out your "best self" out of your values.

    Write out a list of bullets for each of these, or a paragraph. Go back and ask yourself, What's the value I was acting out of here? Write down a word or two that indicates what the value was that was being fulfilled in each example.

  3. Ask 3 people who know you well what your values are.

    Sometimes our values are more obvious to others than they are to us. Our values show up, no matter what. In some ways, our values are who we are. Our values are one of our key driving forces. Our values show up in the decisions we make, in the work we choose, in what brings us pleasure (and pain when we don't have values fulfilled).

    Write down what you hear. Ask questions for clarity, but mainly just listen. Don't argue with what you hear ---treat it as a gift and a potential window into who you really are.

  4. Select your values from a list of values we've drawn from the work of researchers and experts in motivation. We'll be glad to send you a list of values -- just fax us at (713)461-0554. You'll get a list of values faxed back to you. You'll want to start by circling 10 or more of the words, the ones that you are drawn to. Then, use the 3 exercises above to help you whittle your list down to 3-5 core values.

We created our lists from research that looked at people who seem to have it all and yet they still strive in healthy ways to attain things.

Our list offers values drawn from 3 major areas of our lives:

Experiencing: Values that gain fulfillment through what you experience, through what comes to you and how you respond, through acting on the world outside of you, through achieving.
Examples: Discover, Quest, Catalyze, Achieve Mastery, Excellence, Teach, Entertain, Minister, Communicate, Appreciating What Is, Playing Sports, Joining With Others, Inspiring Others, Leadership of Others, Showing Expertise, Sensing Fully, Participating, Exploring, Guiding, Nurturing, Being a Model, Dance, Pleasure, Doing, Acting with Speed, Etc.

Creating: Values that gain fulfillment through what we bring into existence through our unique selves.
Examples: Clarity, Beauty, Innovating, Ordering, Creating Symmetry, Ideas, Self-Management, Discipline, Novelty, Originality, Intuition, Designing, Personal Strength, Artistry, Play, Architecting, Etc.

Being: Values that gain fulfillment through our attitudes, our mind-sets, the qualities of our character, through our emotions.
Examples: Integrity, Joy, Love, Peace, Truth, Uniqueness, Loyalty, Empathy, Spirituality, Authenticity, Godliness, Be in the Flow, Energy, Etc.

Now What?

Create one list from the four steps above. List your 3-5 core values on one sheet of paper.

This week, find out how much you are really living out your core values. Track the way you are spending your time. Each time you participate in something which gives you a real full sense of satisfaction, record it on your Values List. Find the value it is fulfillment.

At the end of this week, you should have listed at least a half dozen examples under each of your core values.

Our next column will help you identify ways that you can help yourself fully realize your values.

Join us for Issue #5

Live Your Values - Part 2: Redesign Your Life
Debuting Monday, July 6

Do you have any questions about this article? Need advice on your life? E-mail us! Diane can be reached at, and Sherry can be reached at

Diane and Sherry's book, Discovering Your Best Self Through the Art of Coaching, can be ordered at

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Text © Diane Menendez & Sherry Lowry, 1998, 1999. Part of the original Sideroad.
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