My journey of discovery: how core values keep you on the right path

Have you ever stopped to consider what you’d like to be doing a year from now? Or envision what your life will look like in five years? Even better, think ten years into the future—what great things will you have accomplished?

This was the challenge given to me by my success coach. The assignment was simple: take a hike and think about the future.

A few days later, I strapped on my hydration pack and headed for the foothills. No technology. No distractions. As instructed, it was just me, surrounded by Idaho’s mountainous landscape.

As I embarked on the 11-mile trail, I felt excited about the idea of knowing where my life was headed. In just over four hours, I would have what everyone seeks: clarity.

For the first two miles, my thoughts were everywhere. I found myself ruminating about the past, contemplating the things I had left undone at home and prioritizing all the to-dos waiting for me at the office. I battled to let everything go so that I could anticipate the future.

What do I want to do? Who do I want to be? What great things do I want to accomplish? I asked myself these questions over and over.

It wasn’t until I was three or four miles into the hike that my state of mind began to shift. I found myself fully present in the moment—contemplating my future. Yet every thought was met by a great big wall of self-doubt. I felt unworthy of my heart’s desires.

I want to empower women to step up and lead. You’ve made too many mistakes to be taken seriously.

I’d love to write a book. Wow, with what credentials? It’s not like you’re Brené Brown.

I’d really like to encourage other women to be courageous. What about all the times you’ve failed at being brave?

Four miles in, I burst into tears. Why was this so hard? Why was I scared? Why didn’t I believe in myself? Did I even know what I believed in?

It was at that very moment I knew what I had to do. Before I could define what my life would look like in the future, I first needed to define what was truly important, the principles by which I wanted to live. And that is exactly what I did for the remaining seven miles.

When I got home that evening, I quickly jotted down my ahas from the day. I was mentally recharged. Awakened.

I was also emotionally exhausted. I slept for 14 hours that night. When I woke the next morning, I laid in bed staring at the ceiling for hours. As I reflected on the previous day’s hike, a smile forced itself across my face.

I didn’t have clarity about the future. I had something better: I could clearly articulate my convictions, the principles that would serve as the foundation of my future.

The following weekend, my husband and I went for a long drive. Long drives, much like long hikes, are good for the soul. Both my husband and I appreciate the opportunity to be still, lost in our own thoughts as we explore Idaho’s less traveled roads.

Pulling out my notebook, I reviewed my journal entries from the weekend before. The words I’d written defined my very existence; they represented what was most important to me. As I considered the words in front of me, it became clear: much like core values for a company, these values would dictate how I would make decisions going forward.

My values would help shape who I would be in the world—one year from now, five years from now, even ten years into the future.

I then shifted my energy to finding one word that characterized each of my values, making them easy to remember and share.

Forty-five minutes later, I looked at the seven words in front of me that represented my core values. I thought, “What if the first letter of each value spells a word? That would be the sign of all signs!” Smiling, I started to reiterate on my values, transforming phrases into single words.

Taking the first letter of each word, I stared at the jumbled letters in front of me. Within seconds of playing my own private game of Scrabble, I saw it—a single word representing what Jennifer Hetherington is all about!


Stunned, I sucked every bit of oxygen out of the car. And when I did, it scared the living daylights out of my husband. He actually started to veer off the road!

Within seconds of depleting our Jeep of all oxygen, panic came over me.

Jennifer Hetherington is NOT careful. NO! This can’t be. I’m a risk taker. I’m brave. I can’t have anyone thinking I’m CAREFUL.

Looking down at my journal, I searched my initial brainstorm. The words “Remember to laugh and have fun while kicking ass” jumped off the paper. I smiled ear to ear and quickly added an additional “L” to my core values: Laughter. Have fun while kicking ass.

FULL of CARE. Yep, that’s me. Kicking ass, taking names—all while being full of care and remembering to have fun.

Now, 4 months later, I get a 5:30 a.m. daily calendar reminder to be full of care. My personal values are also written on my bathroom mirror. They are at the core of how I make decisions and how I prioritize the million things in life that compete for my attention.

I desire to stay true to my convictions—to know them inside and out and live by them daily. My convictions, the principles by which I am not willing to compromise, keep me grounded and help me be intentional in how I live my life.

Looking back on all the times I’ve wrestled with what to do, I now see why I struggled. It was because I didn’t have clarity around my values. Keeping my convictions at the forefront of all decisions makes it so much easier to do what is right and choose the path that is representative of who I am inside. When I am angry, torn or upset, it is often because the circumstance I am facing conflicts with my own personal code of conduct.

I am a better leader, mother, wife, daughter and friend today, a driving force wrapped in care and full of care.

With my personal core values as a foundation, I’ve worked closely with my success coach to create magnificent one, five and ten year visions. I could not be more excited about the future.

What principles do you live by? How do they shape the decisions you make?

This article is dedicated to my dad. On July 13th, I lost my dad suddenly due to unexpected complications following open heart surgery. My dad lived every day by his own personal convictions and values. His values served as the foundation by which he treated people. He never missed an opportunity to make someone feel valued, loved and appreciated.

Share this post
Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email