What are Core Values & How to Find Yours

Did you know there are core principles or values that lie at the heart of who you are?  Some of us are keenly aware of these, whereas other (and I'd guess most of us) don't have a clue as to what are our true core values.

Getting clear on your core values will allow you to live more in line with who you are, which will allow you to make better decisions for your life.

I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me!

With a new year on the horizon, what better time than now to start considering what makes you tick so you’ll better be able to align your goals for 2017 with what truly matters to you at the heart.

And to help you out with this, I'm giving you a FREE workbook at the end of this post to help you do just that...it's my holiday gift to you!


What are Core Values

There are several terms that you may have heard floating around that all tie into the same idea as Core Values:  Core Principles, Core Feelings, Core Desires, etc.

Call it what you want, but what it ultimately boils down to are keywords that represent what truly motivates you in your actions, feelings, and choices.

Even if you’ve never considered core values before and you think you don’t have any…you do. Everyone has core values whether you’re aware of it or not.

Your core values help you distinguish between what is right and wrong for you.  It turns up the dial on that little feeling that you get when you're doing something that doesn't quite feel right but you're doing it because you think it's something you should do.

It also helps you to really dig in and own the choices that do align with your values.  You can't write off the desire as something fleeting or talk it away with the shoulds and shouldn'ts.  You know it's something that is core to your being, so it helps you to get stubborn and stand your ground.


Why You Should know Your Core Values

As with anything, knowledge is power.  The more you know about yourself, the more you can use it to help you grow, or to make changes to get where you want to be.

Core values are important to identify because when we’re aware of them, it helps us make better decisions and choices. Yes, without thinking about it, our core values already impact your choices, but a lot of times that little thing called fear tends to pop up and take over. That means, it’s not uncommon for our choices to be more impacted by our fears than what’s truly important to us.


Helps you make better decisions

When you are aware of the values that drive you and motivate you, when you’re faced with a big decision or something that scares you, you can weigh it up against your core values to help see if it aligns with your overall objectives in life.

This is particularly helpful if you can’t decide between two big things.  If one of the options is more aligned with your values, it makes it a no-brainer as to which one to select.

Be more true to yourself

Once you are clear on the values that mean the most to you, you can be more true to yourself.  When fear starts talking, and it will, you have a stronger investment to stand up to it because you are very clear that it’s in direct conflict with what you know you need in your life.  Suddenly the fear doesn’t feel quite so big.

This allows you live a life that is more in line with who you are, instead of just floating along and seeing what works.

Let’s consider a scenario to see this in action...
Let’s say you have a strong value of connection - both with friends and family.  Let’s say you also have a strong value of achieving success.  You currently live near your family and lifelong friends.  Your dream company has contacted you through LinkedIn for and interview for your dream job.  You finished the interview process last week and just got the call with the offer.

Sounds amazing right?

The kicker…you’d have to move across the country to take the job (which they will pay for, so the expense wouldn’t be a factor).

What do you do?

Being near your friends and family is a key thing for you, but so is being successful.  Knowing both of these are core values, you can explore each of these in more details (hello journal).

After analyzing both, you may come to realize that ‘success’ can mean a lot of things and you could achieve success locally through other means.  But, if you moved across the country, you would completely be off course with your connection value.  Weighing those against each other, you can feel in your heart that to move would be too much of a sacrifice, and while difficult to turn down your dream job, it does allow you to feel that your decision is the right one in the end.


How TO figure out YOUr Core Values

In the FREE workbook I’m giving you at the end of this post, I will walk you through my favorite way of getting clear on your values.  It basically involves looking at a list of words and then narrowing it down to the ones you feel the most connected to, going with your gut throughout the entire process.

After a first pass, you’ll likely cut the list by a lot.  After a second pass, you’ll narrow it down to the main list of words that make you feel something inside and that you are starting to identify with on  a deeper level.

From there, you may be able to continue narrowing it down until you get to your final list of 4-6 words, but most likely, you’ll end up with a list of 10-20 words.  

What I like to do at that point, is to start grouping similar words together into buckets (for example, balance and harmony may be very similar for you).  Once you create a few buckets, either pick the main word from the categories or select a new word that best represents the words in that bucket.

After you do that, voila!  You will have your list of core values!

There are actually a number of ways to get to a nice succinct list of your core values.  This is my preferred way of doing it, but in my Define Your Mission 5 day eCourse, I walk you through several of different methods, so if you are interested in a few more approaches, go ahead and sign up for that (it’s FREE!).


What to do with them

Once you have your words identified…it’s time to own them.

Learn them, live them, breathe them.

An easy way to do that is to make them visible.  It’s really easy to do this work, then put them in a journal or on a random piece of paper and carry on with your life. 

Without seeing your words, I promise…you will forget them and you won’t get to experience the power of having those front and center in your life.

I like to check in with them every month when making my monthly goals, but also to reflect back on how I did the previous month.  Did my words show up?  Did I lean into them?  Did I miss opportunities to use my words?

If you want to make your words visible, here are a few ideas for how you might want to go about doing this...

Create a vision board

We all know what a vision board is, but I bet you hadn't considered creating one around your core values, right?  

You could do this old school with scissors, magazines, and glue.  This would allow you to create a beautiful piece of art to hang on your wall in your office or wherever you will see it on a regular basis.

Or, you could do it digitally by looking for images on Pinterest, your favorite websites, Pixaby, etc.  Once you corral your favorite photos or graphics to represent your words, you can pull them together in a digital vision board via Photoshop (or Canva).

Set it as your wallpaper on phone

Once you have your digital vision board, make it your wallpaper on your phone (this is what I do!).  

Or…just create a quick image in Wordswag that shows all of your words.  

Or…pick an image for each word and save that as your wallpaper, rotating through the images each week.

Use them to pick your word of the year

Once you know your core values, you could easily use this to help you pick your Word of the Year (I’ll be sharing more on picking your Word of the Year in January!).  By the way, you can pick a Word of the Year at any time, it doesn’t have to be in January.  

Another idea is to break it down and focus on a word for two for each season. 

Write it on your mirror

Another fun way to embrace your words and make them visible is to pick one (or more) of your words each week and post it on your bathroom mirror.  You could use post-it notes or if you really want to have some fun with this...scrawl it on your mirror in lipstick!


Final Thoughts

Hopefully, by now, I’ve inspired you to dig in and get clear on your core values.  Not only is it beneficial to know your core values, going through the process to identify them can be a lot of fun too!  

I revisit my words each year and tweak it if needed.  Many of the words stay the same, but depending on what’s going on in my life, some shift slightly each year.

I also use this in coaching.  I have my clients dig into this before we start working together, so we are both clear on what drives them.  Then when faced with any fears, doubts, or big decisions, we can pull those out and it’s always amazing how helpful this is for the client. It’s powerful stuff!



Before you go, don't forget to download your FREE Workbook to start digging into your Core Values!

Edit:  This workbook is no longer available

Do you know your core values? How do you think they might help you approach life differently?