One of my favorite sections of our Dreambook occupies only two-thirds of a page. It’s about discovering your core values. It’s easy to skip it. I know you could go through life only rarely, if ever, giving a thought to your core values. Or you could complete this part – choosing some appealing words from our list of suggestions, such as kindness, honesty, openness and love – and then quickly forget what you chose and why.
But what if we called them needs instead? What if I said, virtually everything you do is motivated by an attempt to get one or more of these values / needs met, and the same is true for everyone else? How might your communications be different if you could perceive the core values that are driving you and others?
A lot changes when we understand the underlying needs that move us, especially when we’re in conflict. For instance, the other day I was on the phone with a company that had really under-delivered on the large sum we paid for their services. I found myself getting angry and raising my voice even though I realized that the agent I was speaking with probably had nothing to do with it.
As I tuned in to figure out the underlying need that was pushing me, I realized it was fairness. Just to name it out loud felt better. “This isn’t fair,” I said. “It was reasonable to expect your company would do . . . but you didn’t, and then you still charged us the full amount.”
When we hit upon the value at the root of some conflict, we often feel more grounded in the situation – even if the circumstances don’t change. Here are five reasons why:
First, if we’re unaware of the core need behind our upset, we’re usually run instead by our feelings and the belief that things aren’t going our way. As soon as we see the need, there’s clarity: “Ah. This is what I value. This is what’s really driving me.”
Second, when we discover the underlying need and recognize that it’s a value, it’s easy to expand from “I want this for me” to “I want this for everyone.” This gives us perspective that lifts us out of the small feelings that are often engendered by the involvement of our inner child. With regard to fairness, the inner child of course understands “no fair!” from a self-centered point of view, but the mature inner adult grasps big picture fairness in a way that goes beyond one’s personal wants.
Third, it makes us more effective at getting another person to see our point of view when we know the core value that’s inspiring us.
Fourth, we can make rational, direct requests to achieve resolution because we know what we’re aiming for.
Fifth, when we know the need, we can almost always find more than one way to get it met.
I encourage you to consider this perspective when you’re working on the Core Values section of your Dreambook. If you’re having trouble, consider something you feel strongly about and ask yourself, “What would I get out of this?” Keep asking until you get to a refined, one word answer.
If you have about a situation like mine that you feel unsettled about, ask yourself, “What could have been done to resolve this or make it better?” And then ask yourself, “Why would that be better? What would I have?”
Also look at positive motivations. For example: Why do I like running? It keeps me healthy. What else? I release stress. I feel free. I feel strong. I feel connected to my higher self. These are great ways to home in on underlying values. Besides the list of sample core values in the Dreambook, consider these others: Peace. Security. Choice. Freedom. Creativity. Organization. Loyalty. Cleanliness. Clarity. Ease. Justice.
As you go through your day, check in a few times and see if you can discern what needs/values are currently moving you. Let’s try it right now. What motivated you to read this article? What do hope to get out of it? A feeling of peace? A feeling of achievement? Learning or greater self-awareness? Better communication and relationships? Clarity? Whatever you come up with, is that the value itself, or do you need to take it a step deeper to get to the value?
I believe that when we do the work to know ourselves deeply, this not only serves us personally, our clarity also benefits the community around us.