Whenever I start a coaching relationship with somebody new, I always begin our journey together by really digging in and exploring the client’s core values.
Now when I say “core values,” I don’t mean your moral values (though those are certainly important!); I am speaking more about the essential core qualities that describe who God made you to be deep down. Core values are like the DNA of your heart and soul. They are the specific joys, passions and interests that make you uniquely you. When you are living out your core values in an abundant way, they make your life sing and point you powerfully toward God’s greater purpose for you in the world.
Usually, when I first ask someone to tell me about their core values, they give the standard response – “My core values are my family, financial stability, health, church, close relationships,” and so on. Those are all great priorities to have. But they are not core values. Core values go deeper than our common priorities. They are about your essence; the deep truths about who you are as a unique and beautiful creation of God.
So what are your core values? What are those passions, joys and interests that truly make your heart come alive? Such values are deep, and because of that, they’re not always easy to name. But if you are willing to take the time to really dig down and explore how God made you, then you can uncover them for yourself.
Here’s a simple tool I often use with clients to help them dig down to the deepest level of their hearts where their core values live. I call it the “So That …” game. Let’s say I ask a client what really makes him come alive, and he says, “Sailing. I love to go sailing.” Now, sailing is not a core value; rather, it is an activity that provides the means to experience a core value. So I instruct the client to complete this sentence, “I love to go sailing so that. …” In response, he might say something like, “I love to go sailing so that I can get away from the busyness of life and just feel the wind and listen to the quiet.” We’re still not to the level of core value yet, so I have him complete another statement. “I love to feel the wind and listen to the quiet so that. …” At this point, he pauses. After thinking a bit, he might say, “I don’t know. Everything slows down. Life is simple when you’re sailing. It’s just you, the wind, and the boat. It feels pure, almost sacred.”
Now we’re getting somewhere. In your own exploration of your core values, you can tell you’re getting to the final “so that” when you start having trouble describing your experience with words. That’s because core values speak to the essence of who you are; and essence is never an easy thing to name. In the example above, this fellow’s core value might end up being something like, “Sacred Simplicity” or “Pure and Simple.” The name of the value can be anything, so long as it captures the essence of that deep core thing that genuinely makes you come alive. But here’s the really powerful piece: Once you know that core value, you can begin to explore what it would look like if you lived out that value in every area of your life. For example, what would it look like to bring Sacred Simplicity to your family life? To your business? To your dating life? To your relationship with God?
Do you see how this process of uncovering core values can help you identify and live out the deep truth of who God made you to be? As you go through the “So That” game yourself, you’ll probably find that you have twenty or thirty (or more) important values that make up who you are. But there will be on average five to ten values that together forge the deep, solid foundation of your unique identity as God’s child. And once you know what those values are, and begin to intentionally live them out in every area of your life, they will begin to point the way to the unique calling that God has prepared for you to accomplish in the world.
God’s purpose for your life is woven into the very fabric of your deepest soul. Uncover that, and you uncover your greater purpose in Him.
Michael D. Warden is a Professional Co-Active Coach, nationally certified through the Coaches Training Institute, and a member of the International Coach Federation. Michael’s clients’ one common trait is their passion to live a bigger life — to discover what they're here for, and boldly go after that vision with confidence and authenticity. Find more on his life and work at www.michaelwarden.com.