Tonight at midnight, my family was supposed to wake up and hit the road. We were going to have the car already packed, put our three sleeping babies in the backseat and start a journey from the chilly southern Indiana spring to sunny Panama City Beach, Florida. Sand, sun and the Hafeles…it sounds so nice. I would have never dreamed two weeks ago deep into our vacation planning that instead of a beach dream, we’d be cooped up at home, afraid to go to the grocery store or to talk to our friends and neighbors.
Life in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic is anything but normal. Schools are closed and our children are learning online for the foreseeable future. Restaurants have closed to diners and are only providing carry out. The grocery store shelves are empty as people panic and have started to stock up on dry and canned goods. There are no sports, no activities, no parties. I don’t recognize this life, and it is scary. But I don’t have to tell you all of this…because you are living this new life too.
In these times, how do we ground ourselves? How do we face the unknown? My devotional this week stated, “Who we really are, what we truly believe, is always evidenced in turmoil. Good and bad, the future must come. God’s children must grow.”
Just a month ago, before China and Italy were in the news, before the word Coronavirus was the center of every headline, before anyone had ever heard of “social distancing”, I had a conversation with a friend. We talked about the importance of knowing our core values, those values that define our innermost motivations. We talked about how knowing and identifying these values can lead us to consistently be true to ourselves regardless of circumstance.
I had heard all of this before. I’m a self-help junkie, so I’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, understood the concepts, and tried to put this very idea into action in my own life. But to my own confusion, I had not had much success. I could never quite connect my values to the tough conversations and circumstances in my personal or professional life. I couldn’t make my values work in my every day life.
My friend asked me what my values were. Immediately words started to fall out of my mouth. I believe in hard work…in being kind always…in always doing my very best…and on and on. He asked me how I could apply these things to a difficult conversation I had just been through, and again, I was stumped. I just couldn’t translate these values to my life. I left the conversation a little frustrated with myself, but excited. I knew I was missing something. I needed to dig deeper.
It hit me! These values I had identified…hard work, kindness, doing my best…these weren’t values at all. These were the symptoms or results of my values. So I had to ask myself, what are my actual values? What are my words? What drives me to work hard, to be kind, to do my best? What is going on in my soul to make these things so important in my life?
Eek! I had a project! So I did what any nerd does…I began to look up words in a thesaurus. The words that I felt like described me and that I believed in…I looked up synonyms and antonyms….I made lists….I wrote pages of words. And then I slept on it.
I woke up the next day and looked at my page of words. They didn’t work. There was no spark in these words for my inner feelings and drive. I knew I had to start again and this time, rely on my own mind and leave the internet on it’s own. Yes, I know, shocking….there are some things the internet can’t do. It can’t tell us who we are. We have to uncover that on our own. I was able to find a great article on a process to follow to uncover your values, and I recommend it to anyone looking to find the same meaning I have found in this exercise: https://scottjeffrey.com/personal-core-values/
I followed the process I had read about online, and I wrote words upon words. Then I slept and took these words and put them into groups. Many of the words were similar or related in some way. Once the words were broken into groups, I looked for the word in each group that stood out to me, that I connected with most. And there, on the page were five words. Five words that perfectly spoke to who I am, what I believe in and what drives me: grace, gratitude, purpose, joy, and potential.
I write about this exercise in values because I had no idea a month ago how vital these words would become in this crazy life we’re living. I cannot count the number of times I’ve found myself panicked, scared, upset, worried, unsure…and I’ve been able to fall back on one of these words to ground me in the moment, to guide me back to who I am, to bring peace to those around me, to see the good.
My Core Values
Grace – Grace first, for myself and for others.
Gratitude – A deep gratitude for each and every beautiful, dark or mundane moment God has put in my path.
Purpose – The boldness to live with the purpose my creator has designed just for me, and the courage to lead others to do the same.
Joy – To approach every moment in joyful celebration of life’s abundant blessings.
Potential – The determination to continually seek out undiscovered potential within myself and within others.
If you find yourself swimming in the chaos of the current world, you are not alone. It’s hard to know how to move forward in such uncertain times. Knowing our core values, knowing what defines us, understanding those unique qualities given to you by your creator, centering yourself in those words, I assure you these things will carry you through.
Your words will look different than mine, because what makes you wonderful and beautiful is unique to you. I encourage you to take some time to focus on your words, because our values will be what carry us through this time. I’ve seen this play out in our community as my co-workers order lunch every day to support our small businesses, as our local companies create programs to protect and support their employees, as our school systems work to educate and feed our children even outside of the traditional school setting, as our internet companies provide free wifi to children so they can continue to learn…all of these actions…these are humans connecting with their values.
What will your list look like? What words will you rely on?
You have purpose, and it is in the darkest times that that purpose shines. Shine on. Let our words redeem us, define us, lead us. “We know all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
With my values tucked safely in my heart, I am moving forward day by day, enjoying my family, taking this time to love every moment and just be thankful. I hope you can do the same.