Holland & Usry October 2019

How Stephen Covey’s Technique Can Help You Write the Story of Your Life EVALUATING YOUR VALUES

What are the values that define you as a person? Why do they matter?

WRITE THEM DOWN. Writing helps us think deeper. It makes it easier to memorize, and it gives us something to go back to.

HERE’S THE POWER OF THEM. As you begin to live from those values, you give yourself the power to write the story of your life the way you want it to be written. If you stay true to your core values, you will no longer be tossed about so much by the tidal waves of life and work. You have something to fall back on, to frame your response to a situation that reflects who you are. Your values become your guide in life. They release you from slavery to your own desires and feelings. You learn to act in accordance with them, even when you don’t feel like it. For example, if one of your values is making time for your children, you’ll find the energy to throw the football with your boy after a long day at work. You value time with him, not your exhaustion. They can also guide you in response to the pressures of life. Say you have honesty as a core value. When you make a mistake at work that you could blame on a coworker, you’ll remember you value honesty over avoiding responsibility. There are two amazing things about deeply considering your core values and living from them. First, you might be shocked by what they really are. Second, once you internalize them, they become the basis for every decision, every response, and every use of your time and talents. And don’t worry — developing your core values isn’t trendy or “just the latest thing.” For those of us raised in the South, it’s nothing less than what so many mamas have told their children when they left home: “Remember who you are and who you belong to.”

They matter because who you really are is how you respond to the decisions and pressures of life. If you aren’t using basic principles and beliefs to guide every decision and respond to all the strains of life, you’re a ship without a rudder. You’ll be cast off and thrown about by the waves, always unsure if or where you’ll ever land. I’ve evaluated my own values using a time-tested technique, and I can tell you the results are truly surprising. If you invest the time and effort to really think deeply about this, I predict you’ll be surprised to learn what it really is you value. And molding your life around those values can change it for the better, forever.

The method I used comes from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” It’s kind of morbid, but it really works. In the chapter on his second habit, “Begin With the End in Mind,” he asks us to imagine that we’re attending our own funeral. He urges us to consider what we’d want people to say about us in the various roles in our lives — as children, parents, spouses, professionals, and friends. In other words, what would we want the folks we impact the most to say about the kind of person we were in that role?

From that exercise, you’ll develop a list of the most important qualities you want to live out as a person. These are your core values.

If you aren’t using basic principles and beliefs to guide every decision and respond to all the strains of life, you’re a ship without a rudder.

Write the story of your life the way you want it. It truly is your choice.

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