The One Element Most Core Values Exercises Are Missing

By Lauren Gaggioli

There are a multitude of powerful core values exercises that those seeking to live with purpose can conduct. And they are incredibly useful as a first step towards naming your purpose in life


Because, when it comes to naming your life’s purpose, there’s nothing more powerful that setting a ley line that’s in alignment to the fundamental values that you hold.

However, there’s a problem with our lovely little human minds - clever as they are - that most core values exercises do not account for. 

In this article, we’ll explore the missing step in most values exercises, why this missing element is so vital to our own sense of inherent worthiness, and what we can do to include it in any core values exercise we choose to pursue.

You’ll also be invited to sign up for my free core values exercise that includes a 3-part mini course and a list of 111 core values for you to choose from.

The Missing Element In Most Core Values Exercises

When you work through a core values exercise, as many of us have, we’re prompted with questions about what matters most to us.

And while our internal sense of self is attuned to what we value, it doesn’t do a great job of distinguishing between what exists now and what we would like to exhibit later.

For example, we may think we value generosity but, if prompted, can’t quite remember the last time we lived that value out. Or, if we can recall the last time we were generous, we realize that it’s been a bit too long since that incident to be considered a presently held value.

If that’s the case, we’ve named an aspirational value rather than an embodied one.

Thus, we’ve fallen prey to the terrible trap of ever-present shoulds.

Should is a dirty word in my house. Because should is the enemy of good.

If we are constantly emphasizing what could be at some vague point in time in the future, we’re creating tremendous internal friction for ourselves. 

We get spun up and twisted in mental knots, feeling the delta between where we stand now and where we should be standing. 

And while we might not be able to fully articulate it, our body knows. We can feel it in our racing mind, our bottomless to-do list, our incessant and compulsive seeking outward rather than turning inward.

Worst of all, in using the word should, we are unintentionally undermining the inherent beauty and goodness of what already exists within us. Of who we naturally are.

For those of us with a predilection towards perfectionism, wantonly bandying about should keeps us from feeling grounded in the present and owning with integrity what already is. It wards off our sense of inherent worthiness today as we continue to knuckle under the yoke of imagined action tomorrow that will make our future, more perfect self worthy.

To quote Admiral Ackbar, it’s a trap.

And herein lies the fundamental flaw with most values exercises...

They make no distinction between currently held values and aspirational values.

Thus, many of us are setting True North on our life’s compass to a faulty heading.

We are seeking our purpose outside of ourselves, rather than delving ever deeper and accepting the truth of the seeds of our purpose that live within ourselves.

Just as I seek to be an archaeologist rather than an architect as I parent with purpose, I must approach my own work around naming my purpose with the same intention. I must approach myself by uncovering what exists, rather than heaping the burden of external expectations on what’s already naturally beautiful.

Liz Gilbert’s brilliant book about purpose and creativity, Big Magic, nudged this notion my direction. As she shares...

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”

When we neglect to acknowledge the difference between the values we already embody and those that live somewhere out there in that perfect imaginary vision we hold of ourselves, it’s akin to pouring the dull and sticky tar of expectations over the glittering gems that already exist.

As a committed lifelong learner with a penchant for collecting personal development books as well as being a perfectionist who - frustratingly - also enjoys the thrill of a challenge, I wandered in the desert of not good enough, thirsty for more, more, more. 

It was a pervasive mindset that robbed me of joy and groundedness and presence for so long.

If I can save you any time lingering in that desolate land whose allure lies in the mirage of possibility and potential, luring you further and further from the lush, fragrant lands of plenty - the incredible abundance that already lies within you - then I will consider my work in alignment with one of my greatest held core values.

I loathe waste, and no waste more than wasted time.

So, whether you choose to weave this newfound awareness of what's missing into other brilliant values exercises that exist, or opt to consider my core values list with this distinction in mind, I hope it helps you find a more direct path to the truest parts of yourself.

Because the world benefits greatly from even a glint off the facets of the gems that already live within you.