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Core Values - What Are They & Why Do They Matter?

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

I remember the first time a coach raised the idea of doing "core values work" with me. Full disclosure, I though it was a bit “fluffy”. I certainly didn’t understand how it related to the professional challenges I was looking for support with.

Suffice it to say, my mind has been changed! Since being guided on the (deep & sometimes uncomfortable) work of identifying a set of core values, I have come to greatly value this tool personally and in the work I now do coaching clients.

So what are core values?

Values are the things/people/ideas/ways of being that we identify as being most important to us. When we identify a set of core values we are distilling the many values we have to a smaller set of values that represent that which is most important to us. My set of core values is 4, but Brene Brown suggests that people should have a set of 2 core values. Sorry Brene, I am sticking with my 4 😉

Why does this even matter?

If you are like me and many others I know, you were not taught to do this intentional reflective work of identifying what is most important to you. In turn, many of us will take a path in life based on the “should’s” or expectations of others – what our parents or society thinks we should do or what we “fall into” by default. And sometimes that works and we live happily ever after! But for many people, we will end up at a point in our lives where we start to feel “off”, unfulfilled and an itch that something needs to change.

But when we do the work of identifying what is most important to us through a set of core values, we can start to design our life and career around those values. The thing about values is that they become saturated with emotion and passion once we activate them. And when we are living a life that is aligned to our values, we will undoubtedly experience more wellbeing and joy.

Specifically, we might use core values to:
  • Guide our big decisions in life such as where we live, what job we take etc.

  • Audit how we spend our most treasured resource (our time)

  • Create goals and action plans that are aligned to what is most important to us

  • Powerfully demonstrate self-leadership and inspire others through living a values-aligned life

How do you decide what your values are?

Did you read the part about deep and sometimes uncomfortable work? Refining our many values to a set of core values takes time and reflection.

It involves asking yourself deep questions about what makes you you, what you stand for, what triggers you, what you want your life to be about and - here is the practical part - how all of that translates to real life behaviors.

It may involve you asking others in your inner circle for feedback and/or engaging a coach to support you.

Most of all, it takes a willingness to look in the mirror and a risk that you might notice you are not living your life in a way that aligns with your core values.

But please remember that is priceless information and the exact awareness you need to start moving toward a life with more fulfillment. You deserve it.

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