your ‘inner compass’

Man is what he believes.
— Anton Chekhov

A key measure of your character is the values you embody. Your values are a blueprint of what you honor most in life. In this exercise, we will be exploring your core values, how they act as an inner compass and how, in times of change, they can be the iron will that aids your perseverance or the albatross that weighs you down and blinds you to ‘what is’.

Your Inner Compass

Your core values can be likened to an ‘inner compass’, which directs your thoughts and actions, helping you to choose - the ‘right thing to do’. This compass helps you stay committed and disciplined in adhering to your core values and guides you in creating boundaries to protect these values. This is a mechanism that exists within each of us as individuals as well as collectively, as a society. When it is damaged or even breaks, the results are most often devastating.

The Importance of Awareness

Conscious awareness of your personal values allows you to understand that this inner compass has a lens which filters what you see, hear and experience. In countless ways, your vision of life, along with your attitudes and perspectives are formed through this lens. Your ability to be aware and present enables you to evaluate your values rationally and constructively align them to strengthen your true self.

Change, the Catalyst

Change is the one absolute in life. The manner in which you respond to change, especially during times of extreme adversity, reflects your true values. When the ‘absolutes’, the models of business and life change or are damaged, we experience pain and often a deep fear of the unknown. At this time, our core values will inevitably surface.

Resisting Change

Some compasses will be rigid, with the needle frozen in one direction. Consequently, the lens tells us to resist change, stay on course, no matter what contradictory validated or empirical evidence tells us. This results in resistance to ‘what is’ and in the justification of ‘the golden rule’ in business (whoever has the gold, rules). This rule is steeped heavily in entitlement and in the illusion that we can bring back the past. A perfect example of this is what current research conducted by experts and top business schools is telling us: position power does not work, nor does “carrot and stick” management. And yet, even in our most broken models such as our financial institutions and health care system, there is a continued resistance to change. Lavish bonuses still abound and any forms of accountability are perceived as threats to a ‘free market’.

Accepting Change

In contrast, some leaders possess a compass that sees and accepts change and adjust accordingly. This lens and compass encourage openness to change, while supporting your commitment to your core values. Moving with change is conducive to growth, creativity, freedom and happiness. Resisting change often manifests as grasping, clinging, anger and fear.

Expanding Your Insights

A vital component of living your life with authenticity, is the act of consciously aligning your values with your actions. As a result, you will gain a better understanding of how your values and inner state of consciousness are reflected in your outer situations. Your mind opens the lens of your inner compass to accept others, their perspectives and their truths. Hence, you become a more effective communicator, more flexible and a visionary in problem solving. Accordingly, you receive the gift of greater insights and thus, your true self flourishes.


“The examination of the concept of values opened my eyes and my mind to the subtle power they hold in each of us, not only on how we see the world, but the very emotions that go along with our perceptions.

I learned how I could needlessly constrict myself by holding on to basic concepts and constructs that have been ingrained in me since I was a child. An example of this is the “protestant work ethic”. Although a good work ethic is a powerful trait to possess when the situation calls for ‘rolling up the sleeves’ and making it happen, I came to the realization that I was carrying it to the extreme by working 60 hour weeks. I began the work on the myth that working harder is the key to success. My coach worked with me in being disciplined in my time/energy management, becoming better at delegation (as opposed to abdication) and breaking down my tasks by dividing and conquering one challenge at a time. When I started to become aware of how much time I was actually wasting in my work time, simply trying to avoid the tasks I really needed to get done, it was startling. My new value? “Work smarter, not harder.”

Another key result in exploring my values, was the need to uproot and modify my ridiculing philosophies. As I paid more and more attention to listening to how I was talking to myself and about myself, it was clear to me that I was often harsh, critical and judgmental of myself. If another person were to talk to me in a similar manner, I would have been deeply hurt and angry. My new found value? “Be kind and gentle to myself; it is OK to rate or measure my traits and performances, but never to judge my essence, my self.”

I also became aware of numerous self-defeating habits. One of these was my propensity to interrupt a person in the middle of a sentence or conversation. I learned I was communicating to that person, I valued more what I thought than respecting their words. Another habit was my constant looking for the certainty or affirmation in the eyes of others – a.k.a. ‘people pleasing’. Simply being aware of the disproportionate value I placed on how others perceived me, took away from my ultimate value of being a truly authentic person.

Finally, I learned to understand that each and every person has their own set of values. When I began to gain clarity of my values, it opened the widows of my mind to respect the values of others.”

J. Kozsinski, Educator/Entrepreneur

To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.
— William James


Questions for Self-Exploration

The content, structure and flow of this exercise are designed to guide you in:

  • becoming aware of and examining your core values

  • exploring how your values impact your perceptions and actions

  • considering how consistent your actions are with your core values and your true self

  • using this knowledge to help you authentically maintain your values as you grow and change