Compass, wood, direction, path

There are times when I feel a bit lost in the pursuit of growth. The more podcasts, articles and books I consume, the more ideas I am given.

Note that I did not say, “the more ideas I have.” There is a difference.

There are times when the waters that seemed so clear become muddied.

Seeking inspiration, knowledge or education is not in any way a bad thing, but without a solid foundation you can lose your voice when you’re relying too heavily on external direction. By listening to every message, trying to apply what works for each person that inspires you, and following the path that this woman took or that man followed can lead you to a junction at the intersection of lost and confused.

To help mitigate the noise, I have been journaling more lately; sometimes I write around a certain topic or idea, and sometimes it is more a capture of a stream of thoughts. One of the more clarifying topics I’ve been focusing on is who I want to be in five years, when I turn 40. Envisioning that woman – who she is, what she values – holds power and importance to me. It has helped to identify the goals I want to pursue and how I want to pursue them.

A step in the journaling process that has helped me define the woman that I am becoming is in defining my core values.

In order to know what you want to chase, you have to know what is important to you; you have to have a good handle on what you value.

You might think, “Well, that’s easy, I know what’s important to me.”

But do you, really?

If you don’t know your values, you are more apt to vacillate between options, to become torn between decisions. You’re more apt to make decisions that don’t align with the direction of your growth.

For example: You’re invited to go out Saturday night with a group of friends. You know that you want to get up early and have a productive Sunday. The arranged time to meet is later than you’d like. You know the invitation comes from a good place, and you’d actually like to get together with the group.

If you don’t have your personal principles in place, you’re more likely to fold.

And then, when Sunday morning rolls around, you sleep in. You crawl out of bed with a headache. You got in much later than you would have liked to, you had one or two more drinks than you would have normally, and as a result you have zero ambition.

Worse yet, the guilt creeps in. You start beating yourself up for being weak, having no resolve, not being as productive as you could have been. The inner critic starts chirping.

Having solid values established allows you to gauge your response to any situation to align with what you ultimately believe is most important. Making time for your friends can be important; building community and connection could be a core value you honor. Does it, however, come before a promise or commitment you have made to yourself? That depends on your hierarchy of values.

For instance, in the example above, weighing your decision against your core values would have better aligned your response to the invitation. If your higher core value is connection, community and friendship, you wouldn’t necessarily have felt so guilty the next morning. Or, you might have recognized that, while there is importance in those values, committing to yourself is of utmost importance; you might have suggested an alternate time or plan. You might have agreed to go out, but not been swayed from leaving early or having only one drink. Or, you might simply have said no.

I have a friend who does this admiringly well; she communicates her values, and those closest to her respect this. Those that don’t she has had to learn to give less energy to; ultimately, they don’t have her best interests at heart.

Creating core values creates a hierarchy of decision-making and refining tools, and depending on what your core values are, every decision you make is either working towards or against who you want to be. Basing your decision-making process on your core values allows you to create goals that resonate with who you are.

Defining your core values can be more complicated than it may seem on the surface; they may be buried under years of conditioning, of upholding the values of others, of trying to meet certain standards or fitting into a certain mold.

Distinctly defining your core values can help you focus, cut through the noise, and ultimately choose the voices that definitively align with helping you grow and be successful in your pursuits.