“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.” —Psalm 39:4“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good” —Stephen CoveyOne of the most powerful exercises I have experienced at a conference is to imagine that I am at my 80th birthday party (another variation is to imagine you are looking in on your own funeral. I prefer the birthday thing, but do whatever works for you :) You imagine thatthere is going to be someone from each area of your life who will be speaking at the party or funeral. There will be someone from your immediate family and someone from your extended family, a friend, a co-worker, someone from your community, etc. In the exercise, you are to imagine what you would want them to say when it is their turn to speak and then write it out. This exercise is a great way to determine how you want to live today and what choices and decisions will help you become the person you imagine your family and friends describing. This exercise will also help you to discover your core values, or the things that are most important to you.What are your core values? I rarely find people that can answer this question with any real clarity. When we allow our lives to be guided by our values, we feel happy, fulfilled, and a deep sense of connection with God and others. We also know that when your behavior is out of alignment with our core values, it creates a deep disturbance in your mind and spirit that can lead to lack of passion and loss of energy in your life. If you have never taken time to ponder what values are most important to you in your life, now is a great time to do it and I can help!Step One: Identify Your Core Values. First, review and circle or write down the values listed below that are important to you. Be sure to trust your instincts. You can always eliminate it later if you decide it isn’t a fit. Don’t add values to your list that you “think you should have” or “want to have.” This list is about what actually matters to you. Core Values: authenticity, achievement, adventure, authority, balance, beauty, boldness, comfort, compassion, community, creativity, contribution, courage, dependability, determination, education, equality, fairness, faith, family, freedom, friendship, fun, growth, happiness, health, honesty, humor, influence, inner harmony, integrity, joy, justice, kindness, knowledge, leadership, learning, love, loyalty, meaningful work, openness, optimism, passion, patience, peace, pleasure, poise, popularity, power, privacy, recognition, reputation, respect, responsibility, safety, security, service, spirituality, stability, strength, success, status, trustworthiness, truth, vulnerability, wealth, wisdom (circle yours)This list is certainly not all-inclusive, so if you think of one that you do not see here, add it! Two of my main core values are not on this list—prayer and purpose. My personal mission statement is to inspire, encourage and motivate others to spend time with God (prayer) and to find and fulfill their unique God-given purpose. When I am doing this, I feel like I am doing “me”—I feel content and at peace with myself and others. When I am not doing this, I feel anxious and out of sorts. At this moment, I have five different requests being made of me that are not related to my mission or core values. They are “good things”—things I might enjoy doing or even be good at, but I know if I say yes to these “good” things, it could ultimately mean saying no to God’s “best” for me.Luke 4:42-44 tells one of my favorite stories in Scripture because it portrays Jesus saying no to a “good” thing so that He could say yes to the Father’s “best”. Look it up and ask God to show you His “best” for you!Step 2: Write positive action statements incorporating your top 5 or 10 core values. These statements should start with “I am” and when you read it, imagine what it would feel like if this were already happening. This creates a healthy tension that will ultimately spur you to take action. So, for instance, one of my core values is “influence”. A positive statement might be I am powerfully influencing others through my writing and speaking. (Hey, I’m walking this one out right now! :) Another is “education”—I am passionately teaching tomorrow’s leaders and developing curriculum for students who will be world-changers and history-makers. Now it’s your turn. Two of my mom’s core values are education and literacy. She received messages last week from a parent saying how she had increased a love of reading in her son. Another student posted on FB that my mom made her more confident in reading aloud. So. . . begin with the end in mind.