The Value of Core Values

Do you know your core values? It may seem like a simple question but it’s shocking how many people say yes and then can’t site even one true core value. They kind of float through life letting other people and random circumstances dictate their decisions. 

If that describes you then you should know that’s a high price to pay for never taking the time to truly reflect on what matters, to think back on the times when you followed a principle rather than a popular opinion. Without a solid understanding of your core values you can sometimes feel as if your life has lost its direction and purpose. You know something is just “off” and that something needs to change, you’re just not sure what.

When you define your core values you also discover what’s truly important to you. Core values, those ideas, beliefs, and principles that you hold closest are your guide to every decision and choice you make. 

Identifying and understanding your values is a challenging exercise but one that all truly successful people undertake from time to time. Their core values very rarely change but they review them periodically to keep them top of mind. It is a serious investment of time but one that is well worth the effort. When you understand and can readily identify your core values you’ll find it easier to make even the toughest decisions. Every choice either aligns with your values or they don’t; decisions don’t become smaller or less important but they do become easier, much easier.

Here’s how to discover your own core values:

Write down your values, that’s all the “stuff” that matters to you, don’t judge, write them all down, big ones, small ones, serious ones and silly ones. Write them ALL down. Take as long as you need, there is no deadline here…it could be weeks, maybe even months.  

Once you believe your list is complete then start prioritizing. If you had to eliminate one value which one would go away? Eliminate that value from your list, it doesn’t mean it’s not an important value, it’s just not a “core” value.

Review and prioritize your values list everyday until you have just 6 or 7 on your list…those are likely your core values.

Once you have your core values defined put some depth and specificity to them. Don’t leave yourself any wriggle room or wiggle you will. Share your values with those close to you. Share them with your mentor or accountability partner. 

You will find your core values and principles are easier to discover than they are to live so don’t be timid when asking for help to live them.


8 thoughts on “The Value of Core Values

  1. Another great post Steve.

    I recently tweeted about honesty, and not for the first time. I said something along the lines that almost everyone claims to value honesty yet very few people value ( believe) it enough to practice it.

    In addition to this, even if we are to make a point of practicing being honest in every interaction each and every day, then we get into issues of just HOW honest should we be, and how do we deliver it? ( Speak the truth with love and yet different people will feel unloved by any amount of honest spoken with the most gentle and kind intentions.)

    However, regardless of all the complexity, I still regard honesty as one of my top values. Do I do this perfectly? Absolutely not! I occasionally struggle with delivery.

    I agree with you. Knowing our values is important and until we do that, we don’t really have an accurate compass to chart our course.

    One of my favorites quotes on truth is from Mahatma Gandhi who said ( at least that is who the internet gave the credit to anyway! )

    ‘My commitment is to truth, not consistency. ‘

    Thanks again my friend!

    1. I also tweeted something about always be honest recently and was surprised by several responses that said always telling the truth was impossible and if anyone was always truthful they would be the most hated person on earth.

      I thought that was a great outlook (NOT) and the outlook of people too lazy to figure out how to be truthful without hurting someone.

      I know honesty isn’t a core value for everyone but to say you “can’t” be honest is simply giving up on integrity. That’s a terrible way to live…at least it would be for me.

      1. Agreed. An important distinction is that honesty is not synonymous with cruel. Equally important is that some truths do initially feel hurtful. i.e. a business losing money so employer must break news to key employees they must be let go… Or when a spouse confesses an infidelity, or when we have to provide constructive criticism or discipline our children.

        And I gain NO pleasure whatsoever if I know what I say is initially going to be difficult for my children…. Such as when they had to be told their father died.


    2. Great post! Even more fascinating discussion. Truth is one of my core values too.

      Truth fuels trust, teamwork, synergy and greater results. As a result, I’m constantly encouraging people to shine a light on truth.

      So I’m frequently shocked when I hear people say things like this:

      * Regarding politicians: They all lie – so I just vote for the person I like or for the party.
      * Regarding a friend: So what if she lied – everyone does.
      * From an employer: I don’t know how you keep finding this stuff out!

      Makes the gut churn.

      1. Thanks, we do tend to get what we expect and what we are willing to accept. If we assume “all” politicians lie we will find politicians who lie. If we accept lying from our friends then our “friends” will lie to us.

        This sounds terrible but I find people who accept lying as a fact of life are not overly familiar with truth in their own life.

        This may sound naive but I’d probably struggle to get along with anyone who didn’t have truth and integrity as a core value….even understanding that we all fall short of the value at times.

      2. Great point on truth fuels trust, teamwork, synergy and greater results Chery.

        Learning to value and literally desire truth and honesty in my life is definitely one that grew over time. For multiple reasons. One of those reasons is working in the healthcare industry where communication is absolutely vital to the health and well being of patients, teams, and departments. Honesty is also critical when it comes to mistakes. If someone administered the wrong medication or the wrong dose for example… Telling the truth about it and telling it right away could sometimes mean life or death to the patient.

        Honesty is important.

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