How to Discover Your Core Values – Tap Into Joy and Experience Success

True success comes from knowing your cores and making decisions that honor those values. You can figure out your values by examining something that makes you very angry as I did when I examined my strong reaction to Don Draper of Mad Men. Now let’s complement that with an experience from the opposite end of the spectrum: joy.

Joy: A Peak Experience

Think of how great you feel when you are doing something that brings you joy. Chances are that when you experience true joy, you are doing something that is very important to you. And that’s what values are: the important things in your life. In fact, in doing this exercise, many people will go to a turning point or a defining moment in their lives because once you have experienced true joy and you decode the clues of why that was so important to you, you will want to have more of those moments in your life.

Allow me to share my defining joyful experience with you. I was in a career that did not bring me a lot of fulfillment. Fortunately, I had a lot of other wonderful things in my life, including a passion for music and the ability to play the piano. One of my favorite things was a periodic get-together with a group of friends who were amateur musicians where we, along with our children, would all perform for each other. On one such occasion, I decided to do something a little different. I was studying a piece of music by one of my favorite composers, the early 20th Century French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy and was so taken with the piece that I created a lecture demonstration for my friends. I practiced hard, I did a lot of research and I thought a lot about the work. At the performance, I played my heart out and was thrilled to share my research and my insights. I felt creatively supercharged and really excited that my friends were so engaged in my material. I thought about that experience and realized why I felt so great:

o I felt incredibly creative, not only because I was playing the piano but also because I was presenting material in a new and unusual way;

o I was learning something new and teaching something that excited me;

o I was interacting with people who meant a lot to me and inspiring them to feel excited as well;

o I felt alive and vital and truly authentic.

In other words, I was honoring principles that turn out to be among my top values: creativity, relationships and connection, authenticity, life-long learning,

This episode became the turning point in my life because I realized that my legal career was not satisfying these important principles. Instead, I wanted to be able to get up every day and pursue a career that honored my values. And so, I began my journey that led me to leave the law and embark on a fascinating career, first in the arts and the non-profit world and ultimately to what I do now as a coach. Knowing my values was a powerful motivator and that experience of joy was the defining moment for me in putting me on the road to my authentic success.

What is your defining moment of joy?

Think about your moment of joy. When did it come up? At work? In a relationship? In a creative moment? In contact with nature?

What values does your JOY experience represent?

Action Steps:

1. Write down the values that came out of your JOY experience.

2. Compare these with your values from your peak ANGER experience.

3. Make a list of all the values that are important to you.

4. Rate these values on a scale of 1-10 where 1 represents “not at all important” and 10 means “indispensable”.

5. Prioritize your values and pick your top 5. You now have your list of Core Values!

6. Remember your values by posting them, emailing them to yourself or finding another way that you can easily call them up.

7. Continue to test your values the next time you have an important decision to make by seeing what values are at stake, what values you are honoring and what values you are ignoring when you make that decision.

Now you are ready to experience authentic success. Enjoy how great it is to be in alignment with core!


(C) Astrid Baumgardner 2010




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Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success.  In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and  Personal Branding and Networking.  She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success.