What Are Core Values? (+ A Free Workbook)

Update: Oh, shiny, there is new Core Values Workbook you can get it here, or read this post first, your choice.

We careesy-coachy-helpery-trainery-people types talk a lot about being or sitting in alignment with your values: knowing who you are, and living authentically.

A lot, lotta, lotta, lot. Mega amounts.

But there’s good reason.

See, they play a great big whooping part in every area of your life, career, business, family, relationships — the whole picture.

Lots of people can state what’s of importance to them, and what they value but not always know their core values.

There’s a difference?

Yes.

Explain.

Okay.

Well, some people weigh up all their values as being of equal value, with no priority.

Example: The happiness of a child (yours even) being given the same value or weight as being able to eat my favourite cake when I want, is not the same.

Let me show you with a game:

All you need to do is agree or disagree.

Think about them for a few seconds first.

Can you sit on the fence?

Nope. It’s my game. So play fair.

Ready?

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements:

  • It’s okay to go to bed without having brushed your teeth.
  • Same sex marriages should be legal in every country worldwide.
  • It’s totally acceptable to pick your nose in a public place.
  • Life should mean life in a prison sentence.
  • An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth.
  • Eye contact must be made at all times.
  • Money doesn’t buy happiness.
  • All politicians are liars.
  • All religions cause wars.
  • It’s survival of the fittest.

Whether you agreed or disagreed will depend entirely on your value system.

And although it may feel like you made the choice, that may not be the whole truth.

Our values are a little bit like an internal navigation system. Guiding and leading.

They are a system in perfect working order: (I didn’t say effective, because sometimes they aren’t), working even now as you read this they’re the central HQ of how you choose and what you decide., how you behave &  how you act.

Core values underpin how you live your life.

They are who you are, they assist you to answer who am I.

They are unspoken rules and regulations, terms and conditions by which you have agreed to and ultimately live by.

Whether or not you consciously consult or are aware of them isn’t important, they are the captain of what you do, what you believe as the truth  and they are the result of what your life looks like.

Some will serve you, others will hinder you.

Some will be glued and fixed rigid, unmoveable, others more fluid.

Some were handed down to you, others you learned along the way.

Some will have changed over time, others will have grown stronger.

You may find when they are being challenged by others, you’ll defend them. You’ll stick by them. Why? Because they are part of your identity, they are you.

Sometimes, you’ll be swayed by the values held by others and amend your own, or refuse and deepen yours even further.

You’ll look around (sometimes unconsciously) to seek evidence that your values are the right ones.

Where Do They Come From?

Oh, we could be here for a-g-e-s.

A start…you’ll have been shaped by your upbringing: where you were raised, how you were raised, what you experienced.

Some are social, some are political, others are cultural.

You may hold values that are swamped in history: values held by your ancestors, that have been handed to you down through generations.

Seriously?

Yep.

They will have been gathered via your beliefs and norms, you will have learned your values from what was acceptable and non-acceptable in your schools, playground, work places.

You have been conforming and norming your values for years.

You will have placed a value base on almost every area of your life.

Try these questions:

  • How do you feel about your name?
  • Where were you born? How has that shaped you?
  • Where did you grow up? How do you feel about it today?
  • What did your parents (main carers) teach you?
  • What sex are you? How do you feel about that?
  • What behaviour do not you tolerate in others?
  • And do you tolerate it with your closest family?
  • What did your peers teach you about life at age 10?

See, you could be here forever.

You’ll have values I’ll find unacceptable, and vice versa, and of course we may share a few.

And what if your core values, well, em, for want of a more effective word, just plain old stink. Of course they won’t to you, how could they? They are yours, nobody can tell you what to place value on.

What’s the Difference Between Core Values and Values?

They are deeper.

Much deeper.

Finding them, or identifying them isn’t too hard. Look for what triggers a very strong emotion in you (anger, love, hate, jealousy) there will probably be a link to a core value wrapped up there(the workbook will help).

An Example of Core Values at Work

For the best part of ten years, I wrote and delivered a 6 week program for individuals wishing to enter the role of Support Worker (supporting other people who required support).

For this role the person had to have strong core values surrounding equality, inclusion, person centred working, respect, dignity, diversity, empathy…just for starters.

Asked at interview ‘why do you want to work as a Support Worker?’

80% of the time the answer was to help people.

80% of the time that usually wasn’t enough.

Why?

Core Values

Having answered that question I would then ask questions around the actual role such as:

How would you support someone with high support needs, who uses a wheelchair and wants to go rock climbing?

How would you support someone taking a bath?

Core value laden questions.

When an individual would reply to the wheelchair question something along the lines of ‘well, they wouldn’t be able to’ or ‘I’d try and find something else for them to do’ or ‘tell them they couldn’t maybe take them to a local park instead‘.

Those answers gave so much away about their core values: about freedom, choice, opportunities, and equality. They just weren’t there.

The bath question, if someone replied ‘test the water’ or ‘would I have to do that?‘ again, a clear indication of the persons core values. No mention of dignity, respect, the right to privacy.

Can you see the difference?

See, you can pretend for a while, but ultimately your core values will be exposed.

What about your life, career, business?

I believe knowing your core values helps you make better decisions, better choices.

They are your guide, your map and compass. And when you are aware of them, can question why they exist you can take back the helm.

  • If one of your core values is authenticity, how would you feel working in an environment where everyone wears masks, back stabs, gossips and comments?
  • If another was family time, how would you feel if you worked in environment where it was expected you would work late, put in extra hours, work overtime?
  • How about if one of your core values was to be treated with respect and dignity, and yet your boss was a tyrant a belittler, an aggressive monster, or your partner ignored you on a regular basis?

They do matter.

To live a life 24/7 where you aren’t ‘in alignment’ with your core values is challenging.

  • Perhaps one of your values is independence and freedom, how do you feel when someone makes decisions (even when it’s well meant) about your life without your consent?
  • Maybe one of your core values is honesty and integrity, what happens when you find someone has been lying to you?

Coach Yourself

Discover your core values. Know them, learn from them, embrace the ones that serve you, move away from the ones that do not serve. They will show you why you behave and act in certain ways. They will have you manage conflict, and see other people more clearly. They will shine light on what really matters to you. They will explain to you why you feel what you feel. 

Core Values Workbook and Email

Comments

  1. Willard Beinstein says

    Dawn,

    This is a real eye opener, and has motivated me to do something I’ve not done anytime in my life time.

    Thank you,
    Will Beinstein

    • says

      Hiya Will,

      Glad you found it helpful. The curiosity is killing me though what’s the something? Thanks for leaving a wee comment. Dawn

  2. Wilson says

    Hello Dawn,

    Thanks for all your effort sharing these really Life Helpful words. It’s time to take control of one’s life when there’s such realization and I’m up for this journey NOW!

    Thank you very much,
    Wilson

  3. Graham says

    So what does one do when ones core values aren’t very core? Freedom and independence are important – but can be waived if the payoff is worth it. Equality is important – but doesn’t exist (in “pure” form) on earth so to stick to it means a life of being disappointed. Honesty is important – except when those you would be honest with are in no way, shape, or form capable of hearing it….

    I could go on; what I am asking is how do you decide it is a “core” value? I can think of a million reasons I’d let any of ‘em slip if the circumstances warranted – which doesn’t feel very “core” to me, as I understand the word to mean.

    • says

      Hi Graham,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I can only make comment on how I decide: they are the line in the sand so to speak. You are 100% right, all values can be waived and stepped across if a person chooses. For me, they are a guide and yes guides can change, grow, develop, be straightened or dumped. Have you downloaded the workbook? Dawn

  4. says

    Excellent overview – very nice job – I am doing this with my family to determine my family’s core values – thanks for all your work…

  5. sridharvanka says

    Thank you for taking the time to write this…thought-provoking.

    “move away from ones that do not serve you”..I have always struggled with this one. How do you separate yourself from a value that you have (subconsciously) held for decades that you now know is hindering you ?

    Cheers
    Sridhar

    • says

      Hi Sridhar,

      Thanks for your comment and question.

      You know when people don’t let go off things that no longer serve them, IMO there must be a reason as to why they are holding on to it, it will be serving them in some way.

      I think our values change, develop, grow, diminish – evolve – that’s the word I’m looking for.

      If you do know one is hindering you, that awareness (IMO) is the first step of the change and separation of what no longer holds value.

      If it were me, I would find some time to dig deeper (you know between the work, life, laundry and stuff) and ask myself ‘what do I get to keep by holding onto this value?’ and ‘what do I lose?’.

      I think it’s so important to remember that our values are only valuable because we have placed a value on them. And subsequently they are okay to let go, because we are allowed to look at the world differently and change what we think is important.

      Does that help at all?

      Love to you,

      Dawn

  6. Elizabeth Walton says

    Thank you very much for the insight. I fund it very interesting & it is something I would like to explore in the very close future. Currently I have been looking for employment with my current Core Values. As they may change later down the road, I would be most interested in the Workbook. Thanks again…

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