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One of the great attributes of the rising generation is their desire to live a life of good ethics. While everyone wants to have a center from which they operate, a center that is the root of who they are or want to be, actual development and articulation of these core values (ethics) are rare. Ask anyone if they have a core value statement, and the answer will almost always be no.

The idea of wanting to just be a good, honest, and upright individual is a good baseline, but unless these attributes are outlined with some clarity, they will be as shifting sands, subject to the winds of life. There are certain things in life that must be articulated to be made legal—such as wills or a power of attorney. Though not binding as a legal document, a core value statement has a measurable impact on who you really are.

When I flew airplanes, it was protocol go through a run-up checklist before entering the runway for takeoff. It was there I would test such things as the magnetos, oil pressure, fuel systems, prop, flaps and radio, to name just a few. Many times a private pilot taxis back to the hanger after a run-up, rather than enter the runway for takeoff with any question of performance capabilities. Little things that don’t check out can become a life or death situation at a thousand feet. It’s better to be sure about the aircraft before flying. In many ways, establishing core values becomes our safety check as we live out every new day.

Establishing core values is a process that should not be rushed. You wouldn’t do a run-up before take-off without having taken the time to learn to fly first (though I have a story to tell about that someday). The process is dynamic. To the liking of young adults, what is created, while foundational, doesn’t have to be set in stone. In other words, you can sharpen and shape your core values over a lifetime. Let’s consider five simple steps in this process:

  1. Find uninterrupted space. Find a spot that speaks peace to your soul and detach from the world. Make this a spot where you can feel centered, and where you can THINK about the characteristics you desire to shape your life.
  2. Think and ponder. Daily mindfulness is such a part of becoming who you desire to be. This is a practice that becomes a part of every successful person’s life. The process of thinking and pondering is referred to by the French scholar Pierre Hadot as “spiritual exercises composed to provide a momentary stay against the stress and confusion of everyday life.” In this realm consider the path and journey you are walking.
  3. Write it down. Write down key attributes of the ideal self you envision.  Think on these attributes for a period of time and make them the center of your core values statement.  Practice this exercise in three steps.  I’ll use the attribute of being authentic as an example:  1. Definethe attribute (as you define it); “Authenticity is being true to yourself and God,” 2. Place this in an active statement; “I desire to live my life in an authentic and congruent way, so there is never confusion of who I really am,” and 3. Include a positive affirmation; “I am an authentic person.”  From this and other attributes you identify, you could rank order your attributes, and from that draft your own unique core values statement.
  4. Does it align? The reason core values and ethics are important in life is that they create a world wherein the good of all can be synergized. You might ask, “What should my core values align with?” All good that lasts, stems from the fountains of God—do your core values align with both your purpose and the purpose God has intended for you?

While this process may seem simplistic, it can obviously start a journey that requires considerable thought and time. We have had many Millennial participants in the Launching Leaders course and readers of the Launching Leaders book comment on how this practice has changed their lives.

When your actions of the day stem from the core of who you are and are trying to become, then you are cleared for takeoff.  Every journey begins here.

For more on core values, watch this 2-minute video from the Launching Leaders online course: