Living in Alignment With Your Core Values

Most people have three “versions” of themselves. There’s the version of themselves that they allow other people to see. There’s also a version of themselves that they show themselves when looking in the mirror. Then there’s the authentic version of themselves that they rarely allow anyone, sometimes including themselves, to see. 

One thing that separates less successful people from more successful people is that the most successful people show themselves, and other people, their authentic version far more often than less successful people. 

Some people don’t show themselves their authentic version because they have never contemplated what that version looks like. For instance, when asked to state your core values, those values that make you the person you are, how quickly can you identify them? Core values are your guideposts in life that guide, or should guide, every decision you make in your life. 

More than anything, the decisions you make in life will determine the life you get to live. When you know your core values it is far easier to make even the biggest decisions. If you have not taken the time to identify your core values you could end up living a life of contradictions and indecision. 

Core values are those values you will fight for. Your core values are qualities or standards that govern your behavior. Your principles are rules or beliefs that guide your actions. Whether you can state your core values or not, your principles are based on those values. Your core values are the foundation for your principles. Your core values are your deeply deeply deeply held beliefs that you carry with you regardless of who you are with.  Regardless of what you are doing or where you are doing it. 

People who tell you that holding on to anything thing that tightly makes you inflexible have not yet invested the time to identify their own core values. 

I am not a Bernie Sanders fan. At all. But I admire him. Anyone who is fine with being on the losing side of a 99-1 vote in the United States Senate has clearly identified their core values. They are also living them. 

One of the reasons there are so few Authentic Leaders is that very few people in leadership positions have ever taken the time to identify their core values. They can’t show their authentic self to others because they can’t even show it to themselves. They attempt to live the life of the person they see in the mirror. 

A mentor, one who is truly invested in your success, can help you bring your core values to the surface so you can see the real you. So you can live a life in alignment with your core values. That alignment is a big big deal. When your thoughts, words, and actions all align you’ll understand why you do what you do and why you respond to others the way you do. 

Living a life aligned with who you really are guarantees a life well lived. It ensures a life lived on purpose for a purpose. And this much I can promise you…there is no better way to live. 

Do Ethics Matter?

I don’t like starting posts with a disclaimer but for this post I think I have to. So here is the disclaimer: I am not as ethical as I think I am. Just for the record it’s highly likely that you aren’t as ethical as you think you are either. 

My personal battle to always be ethical is never-ending but at least I try…. or at least I try to convince myself that I try. I also sometimes try to convince myself that something that I think might not be ethical actually is. That way I don’t have to feel bad when I do it. More people than not are just like me in that regard.

Despite all that “baggage” I’m going to now write about the importance of ethics. 

There are really three levels of ethics to consider. The first is known as “pre conventional.” At this level a person acts almost solely in their own best interests. This causes them to follow rules only to avoid punishment or to receive rewards. At this level a person will willingly break moral or legal laws if they feel there is no chance of being caught.

The second level of ethics is the “conventional” level. At this level a person conforms to the expectations of others in society. They are very likely to try hard to uphold all morale and legal laws. 

The highest level of ethics is call the “principled” level. At this level a person lives by an internal set of morals, values and ethics. They uphold these morales, values and ethics regardless of any consequences or majority opinion. 

Researchers say that about 75% of people operate at the conventional level and that fewer than 20% of people live at the principled level. The other 5% appear to be running for President of the United States…oh geez, did I really just write that. 😉

The 75% of people at the conventional level clearly know right from wrong. They struggle with ethics because instead of finding ways to always do the right thing they invest too much of their time trying to justify why the wrong thing they want to do is actually the right thing to do. 

They convince themselves “it’s okay” and then they do it. Then they work their butts off trying to make sure nobody finds out what they did. Here’s a clue for those of us who one day hope to fully live at the principled level: if you wouldn’t want anyone to know that you did “it” then you also know that “it” isn’t ethical. 

If you invest even one moment trying to hide your actions from view then your actions were almost certainly unethical. 

Many of the people at the conventional level slip into the pre conventional level because they are willing, at times anyway, to trade their integrity and ethics for the appearance of success. 

That is a very very poor trade. 

We make it because in the moment that we make the trade it seems “worth it,” but in the moments after the trade the person we really are, the one who lives at the conventional level, feels almost immediate regret. That trade, it turns out, is NEVER really worth it.

Staying ethical can be a challenge for a whole lot of people but it’s vital that we never stop trying. When we slip down a notch we must regroup and try harder next time. We must try harder because ethics really do matter. They matter because without them society becomes unruly, unmanageable, and unsustainable.

We cannot let that happen so our goal should always be the principled level of ethics. We should never compromise on our ethics because a successful, happy life is not built on a compromising our principles, it is built on living them. 

Live your principles, no matter the cost and you’ll live the life you deserve.