What are the core values that shape your work? I pose this question today as a multi-purpose writing prompt that can help you more fully understand the underlying beliefs that sustain your worldview and drive your life’s work. Why “multi-purpose”? I’ll get to that in a moment.
First, let’s use this as a “regular” kind of journaling prompt and ask, “What are the five core values that shape my work as a ____________”? You can use this prompt to examine the primary values that shape your work as a writer, mother, manager, gardener, or pilot. The type of work does not matter. Limiting the number of values to five, will make you consider what’s most important to you. And you may find overlap in these primary values between different types of work or roles that you play in your life.
As an example, the five core values that shape my work as a teacher, are:
- Love of learning — Sometimes I think nothing excites me more than learning a new skill or acquiring knowledge that helps me accomplish a goal or enlightens, so that I end up thinking about the world a little differently. To me, learning is like going on an adventure with treasure buried all along the way; all I have to do is dig it up.
- Community — And when I find this treasure, the first thing I want to do is share it with others. After all, if my life can be enhanced or changed through this knowledge or these skills, then so can others’. So I reach out to others around me. Do you also want this knowledge or this skill?
- Empowerment — It’s a selfish thing, this wanting to help empower others. Because, when I see that what I have shared has helped empower others’ to write, to tell their stories, to increase self-confidence or courage, or to successfully publish and find readers for their work, I feel the immense pleasure and satisfaction of mission accomplishment.
- Commitment to excellence, not perfection — I strive for my own work and of those I teach to be excellent. By excellent, I mean to stand out as exceptional and top-notch. At the same time, I avoid the sand traps of perfection. We and our work will never be perfect. To strive for perfection is to never be complete, and any work of writing must, at some point, be considered complete, so you can move on.
- Service — In the end, I feel that our life stories contribute to the world’s store of knowledge and wisdom. When we write our stories, whether for our families or for a more general audience, we are serving others. I know that may seem a bit far-fetched, but that’s what I believe.
Now, get out your journal and consider one of the types of work or roles you play in your life.
- At the top of the page, write down the prompt.
- Then, list all the values that come to mind, without censoring. You will probably have more than five.
- Review your list and circle the top five, the ones that feel most central to who you are in that work.
- Consider each of these five.
- In what ways do they drive and/or shape your work.
- What do you get out of having these values?
- How do they improve your life or the life of others around you?
- Would you change anything about these values?
What makes this prompt multi-purpose?
You have already seen how you can use this prompt for self-exploration in many areas of your life. In addition, if you write memoir or fiction, you can also use this prompt to flesh out a character you are writing about. What are the five values that shaped the work and life of your mother or father or brother? What are the five values that shape the work of your fictional detective?
Let’s take this one step further. What about your audience? What are the five core values that shape the reading interests of your potential audience?
I’d love to know — how will you use this prompt this week? What areas of writing, character, or your personal life will you explore?