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Defining Your Purpose & Core Values

Updated: May 10


If you had two minutes to explain your purpose and core values, could you do it?

All day, every day, we make decisions in just a few seconds. Should I call or e-mail? Do I want cereal or eggs for breakfast? The consequences of these decisions are generally small, and are really more like choices. We pick something and go with it, and don’t think about it again.


But some decisions have far greater consequences. And while the decision itself might seem small, the impact can be significant. Having clarity of your purpose and your core values provides a true north to follow and keep you on your intended path.


You will also find that when you have defined your core values you attract people - employees, partners, clients, friends - that share your approach to the world. And alignment of values is a force multiplier for accomplishing any objective.


So, how do you begin? Let’s start with your core values. These are your non-negotiables, your personal and professional guiding principles.


Core Values Exercise

The following process is written with entrepreneurs in mind, and the process is the same if you work it with a leadership team.


1. Start by listing key characteristics that describe you (or your team/company) at your best; think about a recent success, an achievement you are proud of, and what attributes you displayed during that time. There is no limit to the number of characteristics on your list at this point. Take as long as you need!

2. Now that you have a full list start to edit:

  • Cross off those that are less important, or don’t really resonate with you

  • Look for similarities and combine them

  • Keep going until you have narrowed your list to no more than 10 - 12

3. Review your short list and find the top 3 - 5 that truly represent who you are at your core.

  • At this point you may opt to solicit feedback from a few people who know you really, really well. It is likely that several options will jump off the page at them.

  • Think about sharing your Core Values with a trusted friend or colleague: would sharing your list with them feel authentic and genuine?

4. Write down your 3 - 5 Core Values and put the list somewhere you will see it for the next few days.

  • Each time you see your list ask yourself if it still makes sense

  • Allow yourself a few days to review and confirm; you will know when you have it nailed!


Your Purpose


With your Core Values clearly defined, there are a multitude of ways you can apply them. Understanding your Purpose provides focus to guide your choices, including: types of clients and business you partner with; types of assignments and engagements you accept; who you spend time with; and how you rest and recover.


Your Purpose is the fundamental “why” behind what you do. In the constant tension between all the things we are asked to do, and the amount of time and energy we have to give, you will be at your best when you prioritize those that serve your Purpose.


This does not mean that the things you say no to are not worthwhile; often times they are. But you can’t do everything! We will talk more about optimizing your time and energy next week (spoiler alert!)


Let me know how you do defining your Core Values and your Purpose - please share your thoughts, insights, and questions in the comments!


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