Calibrating your Personal Compass

Why knowing your personal values is critical to self-fulfillment

I met with a former employee of mine last week to discuss her career aspirations. She’s in a sales role but doesn’t know if she wants to stay in sales long-term. She has a great relationship with her manager but doesn’t see a chance for upward mobility. She enjoys Wilmington but wants to see more of the world. There’s a lot of internal conflict at play as she weighs her opportunities. What started as a request for career guidance transitioned to a much bigger question: what would make her feel fulfilled?

Self-fulfillment occurs when a person’s decisions and behaviors align perfectly with their core personal values and goals. Finding this balance has been the pursuit of innumerate philosophers, businesspeople, religious practitioners, and psychedelics users in pursuit of their life’s purpose. Finding fulfillment brings a person a deep sense of peace and righteousness, freeing them from anxiety and social pressure. The first step on this journey is to identify a person’s core personal values and goals.

Core personal values (CPVs) are individually unique principles and characteristics that drive an individual’s behavior. Think of CPVs as the underlying decision-making protocol that makes people think and act in certain ways. For example, someone with a CPV of entrepreneurship likely wouldn’t stay in a 9-5 job longer than need be. Since the principle value is new business creation, a decision to stay at the 9-5 job would run counter to it. Therefore, the person would decide to leave the company as soon as possible. 

Core personal goals (CPGs) are quantifiable milestones an individual sets in their pursuit of self-fulfillment. CPGs are always derivative of CPVs, as the values are what set the trajectory for goal targets and milestones. A CPG for the entrepreneurship CPV mentioned above may be “I will have $1,000 in monthly income from my own business within the next six months.” It’s a measurable goal that, if executed on, further solidifies the importance of the CPV. This essay focuses on CPVs; I’ll cover CPGs more deeply in a follow-up.

At Beanie & Blazer we call the process of identifying a person’s CPVs, “calibrating their personal compass.” As a broken compass could set an explorer seriously astray on their journey, a poorly calibrated personal compass prevents one from knowing who they really are and who they want to become. As a person grows up it’s natural to adopt the values and beliefs of family, friends, and organizations to which they’re connected. This is a healthy and natural way to build an identity in youth. 

However, there comes a critical point when the person has to evaluate whether the CPVs and CPGs that were borrowed from society are actually the ones they want to carry forward on their path to self-fulfillment. This fork in the road often makes them feel isolated and scared of the fact they don’t know themselves as deeply as they thought they did. For some this exercise happens relatively early in life. For others it comes much later – this is a driving force behind midlife crises. 

Because the process of re-mapping a value system can be so overwhelming, many people choose to refrain from the exercise altogether. These folks live using borrowed principles and often can’t articulate why they believe in one ideal over another. When I meet people like this I always wonder what would be different if they took the time to reflect on their CPVs. It may be painful to go through the process but the result provides clarity of purpose and confidence in the path forward. 

Identifying Core Personal Values

There’s a 5-step framework to identify your CPVs:

  1. Play the biography reflection game.
  2. Develop a word cloud.
  3. Bucket into the 5 F’s: Family, fitness, finances, faith, fun.
  4. Email your tribe for feedback.
  5. Attribute and define your five CPVs.

The Biography Reflection Game:

Imagine that twenty years from now someone writes a book about your life. The book can only be five chapters long and each chapter represents a characteristic you upheld throughout your life. These characteristics should be adjectives describing how you behaved. Some examples are “patient, passionate, fearless, loyal, or enthusiastic.” You can only pick five so be incredibly thoughtful here. 

Develop a Word Cloud:

In addition to the biography reflection game, it’s valuable to take a 10,000 ft. future self-reflection view. Here, we brainstorm as many nouns about our ideal self-identity as possible. The point is not to criticize who we are today, but to set a vision for who we want to become as we mature and progress. Some examples for the word cloud may be “fitness, entrepreneurship, writer, builder, balance.”

Bucket into the 5 F’s:

This is where you begin organizing the amalgamation of five adjectives and many nouns. The 5 F’s create a structure designed to help organize the chaotic descriptions. Most people’s self-ascribed attributes fall within one of the following buckets:

  1. Family – anything related to the wellness of a family dynamic.
  2. Fitness – anything related to health of mind, body, or spirit.
  3. Finances – anything related to money.
  4. Faith – anything related to spirituality or religion.
  5. Fun – anything related to relaxation, adventure, or hedonism.

Take all of your nouns from the world cloud and sort them into one of the 5 F’s. 

Email Your Tribe for Feedback:

The previous three exercises are designed to show you where you want to go. You’ll use that data to build your vision for self-fulfillment. This exercise is designed to show you where you are today. Referring back to the compass metaphor from earlier, a compass is only helpful to an explorer if they know where point A and point B are. Exercises 1-3 shows you point B and exercise 4 shows you point A. 

Identify your five closest tribe members. Include some family, friends, and professional relationships. Send each person an email asking three questions:

  1. What are my biggest strengths? What am I great at?
  2. What are my biggest weaknesses? Please be as specific as possible.
  3. How else do you think I can improve?

Collect this feedback from five people and see what patterns emerge. This is critical in aligning how you behave today with how you want to behave in the future. 

Attribute and Define your Five CPVs:

Now that you have all this sorted data and detailed feedback from your tribe, it’s time to make your CPV Statement. This consists of five unique values and descriptions that bring specificity to the broader values. As an example, here is my CPV statement:

  • Fitness of mind, body, and spirit – I focus on my personal well-being to stay healthy and grounded no matter how chaotic life becomes. 
  • Learning through coursework, reading, and conversations – I pursue education and development across a variety of personal curiosities. Psychology, philosophy, and business are some of my core interests.
  • Dynamic adventures – I regularly do things outside my comfort zone to challenge myself physically, mentally, spiritually, and intellectually.
  • Entrepreneurship – I own my outcomes both positively and negatively. I build teams and systems from scratch to accomplish goals.
  • Quality time with friends and family – I invest in my tribe with my time and energy.

It’s likely going to be challenging to narrow all the information you collected from exercises 1-4 into five values. The goal is to have few enough values that you can gauge your adherence to them regularly while having enough scope to broadly define your characteristics.

Once you complete your CPV statement, memorize it and put it somewhere you’ll see it frequently. I opt to hang mine in my office over my computer. Some people use their phone’s wallpaper. The point is to engage with it often.

Why does this matter?

Without well-defined CPVs our decision-making is at the mercy of external factors that may not actually provide us what we want in the long-term. Referring again to the explorer without a compass, without knowing where point A and point B are, they’re helpless! It’s impossible to get somewhere when the final destination is unknown. 

Understanding one’s values provides clarity of purpose and direction. It is the benchmark for finding a roadmap to success. Without clarity, people succumb to the wills and desires of others. Life is too short to spend time living for other people’s benefit. It’s every individual’s responsibility to figure out what they want out of life and to engineer the lifestyle that accommodates it. Identifying CPVs are the critical first step in this process.

Clarity of purpose begets improved vision in decision-making. Opportunities that previously seemed to have murky upside now have clear advantages or disadvantages in the context of CPVs. This makes it easier to say “yes” or “no,” saving lots of frustrating internal dialogue and self-doubt.

Enhanced decision-making abilities grants power. The freedom to be decisive while remaining true to values is a mental strength booster. Folks who understand their CPVs are fortified from the input of other people whose opinions aren’t pertinent. This provides them with the confidence to move unabashedly forward toward their purpose and goals.

Identifying the values is just the beginning. The real power lies in the confidence and authenticity they provide those who actively try to live in alignment with them. 

What is Beanie & Blazer?

Beanie & Blazer is a lifestyle engineering company built to align people’s personal values and goals with their habits and behaviors. Our methodology offers our community clarity of purpose, a tribe of mentors and supporters, and reclamation of time in their busy lives. We systematically train people to become high performers.

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