(I wrote this in 2012 just before releasing my book Discovering Your Authentic Core Values. This is the result of the process I went through that I document in that book. If you’re thinking about getting clear about who you are and where you’re headed in life, this is a great starting place.)
This evening I spent a quiet half-hour watering our newly planted garden. I’m not an experienced gardener; I’m not really a gardener at all. I’m mostly the hired help for my wife’s garden. But she’s away on a trip and so I’m keeping the thing alive for her.
As I watered, I was thinking about the new, young plants forcing their way through our soil and the small weeds spreading quickly in every direction. There are hours of work in our future–watering, weeding, pruning and caring for these little plants.
All of this brought to mind my own life and the new season I’m in. Like the spring weather that’s calling these little plants out of the soil, I’m in a new phase of life. I’m working through what I’m calling an emotional recovery. As the lead pastor of a small church with big dreams, I came very near to burning out. (If that story is interesting to you, you can watch me tell some of it here.)
The scars in my own heart and my closest relationships are still fresh. I’ve been in counseling for a year. I’ve been reading about a deeper, more emotionally healthy way of living for the past three. I’ve opened the door of my heart to new friends, to counselors and mentors, and increasingly to my wife. Which, by the way, is a big deal for someone who has lived just over 40 years keeping his heart to himself. I’ve been journaling intensely for the past two years.
God seems to be doing gardening work in my heart. Turning the hard-packed soil. Pulling up some weeds that have taken deep root. Tilling in some much needed nutrients. The process is still painful, but something new is emerging, like the little plants fighting through in our garden.
Where Am I Going From Here?
I turned 40 last year. I’m looking at the next 20 years of my life’s adventure. I’m taking stock of all I’ve learned and thinking about where I want to go from here. In support of this, my counselor took me through a process of identifying my personal core values.
The difficult part was that I was suppose to identify my actual, authentic core values, not just come up with a list of values that I thought I’d like to have. It’s about authentic values instead of aspirational values.
Your authentic core values are the real values that currently motivate your choices. Wrestling through this process has been one of the most helpful things I’ve done in a long time. It wasn’t easy; sometimes it was painful. But having come out the other end, I feel such a clarifying focus. I wish I’d done this work years ago.
If you are interested in a more wholehearted life, a healthier spiritual journey, a renewed sense of focus, I want to recommend this to you.
In the next few posts I’m going to walk you through the process. First, we’ll look at the difference between authentic and aspirational values. Pursue the wrong ones, and you can end up with more shame and fear than hope. Then, I’ll give you a step-by-step process for identifying your authentic personal core values. Finally, I’ll walk you through how knowing and naming your authentic core values can help you move into a much better, more healthy, more life-giving future.
My Personal Core Values
But today, I’ll end by sharing with you the results of my process. I call this my Ethos. Ethos is the Greek word referring to the character or culture of a person or group. It’s the “feel” of a group that everyone just “gets” through experience. It’s the tone of the life I want to live.
My Ethos includes my personal purpose statement and my authentic core values. Additionally, since I’m a follower of Jesus, my Ethos includes a spiritual focus statement and a passage of scripture that I want to shape my life. These few words are the filter through which I am looking at the future. They will shape what develops here in this blog and the writing and speaking I get to do. Here they are:
I create relationships and experiences that offer belonging, redemption and growth.
My Authentic Core Values:
A good life for me is one that grows out of these values. A significant life for me is one where I am a part of other people experiencing these values
Belonging. In relationships of grace and understanding there is a space where failing isn’t fatal and we are encouraged to be our best selves.
Redemption. Forgiveness creates the opportunity for people, relationships and opportunities to be restored, opening the door to a better future.
Creative Intentionality. We bring beauty to the world when we think creatively and bring our best effort to what we are doing.
Growth. Healthy things grow, including people. Growing spiritually, emotionally, interpersonally, intellectually and in competence is the sign of deeply engaged and healthy life.
My Spiritual Focus:
As a follower of Jesus, I find these values embodied in His life and message. His grace creates a safe and belonging place for me to live from, where I can be truthful about my own limitations and weaknesses. His missional call motivates me to share these value with others through my words, my actions, and the things I create. His example challenges me to live firmly from my own beliefs and truth, while always speaking and acting in love. I believe the church is meant to be a place where others can experience these same things through and because of Jesus.
My Motivating Scripture:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 ESV
Have you ever thought about your own core values? Have you written them out? Have you considered the difference between what you *want* your core values to be and what they actually are?
This is part 1 of a 5 part series. Catch up here:
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