Finding motivation through your values: Part 1

The most consistent thing I've heard from friends, family, and members of our Summit community throughout the COVID-19 lockdown has been a strange lack of motivation. Not strange in that I don't understand it - I've felt the same way many days - but strange in that very few of us seem able to put our finger on why we're lacking motivation. While there's no one strategy to give you consistent motivation, one way to give yourself a leg up is to find motivation through your core values. If you can begin to tie the actions you take to the things you truly value, the decision to workout, eat healthy, read that book, start journaling - whatever the action you want to start - becomes way easier because you immediately see the value.

Shockingly, there is just not that much information about defining your core values on the Internet. There are a few good resources, but many of them are focused on building your company's core values. Beneficial for business owners big and small, but it's not really going to help you in keeping your motivation levels higher. Through my own trial and error process, I've started using the following steps to get my values more defined.

Step 1: List the people and things you are inspired by

Describing why you are a fan of something is difficult. For example, I am a huge Chicago Cubs fan, but I couldn't necessarily tell you why until I did this exercise and started listing out the people, brands, teams and things I really love. Here is a short list:

  • YETI
  • Real barbecue
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Fitness / CrossFit

On the surface, this short list looks like it has nothing in common. One is an outdoor lifestyle brand, another is a cooking method, and another is a fitness program. What do all of them have in common? That's the next step.

Step 2: Find the common traits among your list

Everything on my list above has extreme payoff from hard work. CrossFit gets results - but only if you put in the work for a consistent period of time. YETI is all about being tough enough to enjoy the great outdoors. The Cubs - bless their hearts - fail time and time again and yet us fans keep showing up, and barbecue is a labor of love. Eight to 12 hour cooks with constant attention to fire with the hope that at the end you get a delicious meal. But again, only if you are willing to put in the work through the long cooking process.

From this, I can determine that one of my values is effort/hard work.

Continue finding common values among your list and group them together until you have no more than five buckets of common traits/values.

Step 3: Pressure test your list with real life feedback

I got this tip from a wonderful book titled Dark Horse which was written by Harvard University researchers and talked about individuals who follow non-linear career paths to reach incredible levels of success. Here's how it works:

  • Every time you find yourself judging something in your life, ask yourself why. What is it about this situation you're unhappy about? Why are you judging the current environment?

To continue with my example of effort, let's say that I see someone cutting reps at the gym - this really irks me, but why? This person getting a less full workout isn't technically affecting me so why do I care? Because it violates my value of effort - doing hard things now to see a benefit later.

Do this in your own life. We all judge many, many things each day, so start to consciously think through which of your values is being offended when you judge something. You may even learn that some of the values you listed aren't your real values, because you don't seem to care in situations these values would appear to be applicable. It is really easy to fall into the trap of listing your values along with what is generally accepted - this is your failsafe for that mistake.

Values don't come to you overnight.

One of the worst things you can do when setting values is just wildly pick a few words that sound good and decide their your values. Integrity is the most overused word in the English language. Exxon had integrity listed as a core value. I bet Bernie Madoff did too. Choose the values that are real for YOU. Not real for your friends, family, or career path. Real for you.

In the next post on Thursday, I'll cover how to take those values and align them to your goals in order to increase your long term motivation for action.

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