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Your Clarity Compass: Harnessing Your Core Values

Since well before becoming a fully qualified and certified Leadership and Life coach, I have been fascinated by the work on values, what our values tell us about who we are and importantly how powerful they are in helping us get clarity. It was whilst working with a coach exploring my own values that I began to understand how each and every decisions I made either aligned or didn't with my own concept of my values and, subsequently, how I felt about myself and others.

It’s for this reason that I love the work on values and I wish to share it extensively. I start vlaues exploration with all of my clients and, without fail, they find it clarifying, transformational and often leading to bigger breakthroughs. So, let’s get stuck in….

What are values?

In a nut-shell, values are the things that are most important to you. They are the things that you value in life. Sometimes you may hear them referred to as “core” values – as they are core of who you are and as unique as your thumbprints. They are things that you believe to be important in the way that you live and work. Often values determine what people do in life. Values are also sometimes referred to by other terms:

  • your barometer of meaning;

  • your north star;

  • your compass;

  • The fabric of your existence;

  • your guiding principles

Let’s start to name a few values that may sound familiar: honesty, freedom, integrity, love, health, family, beauty, creativity, acceptance, respect, wealth, spirituality, learning, courage, competition… The list of values is vast. The key is in narrowing down your values list to your top 3-5 values that are most meaningful to you in the way you work and live. Getting clarity on these values will also help you live a more conscious, balanced, empowered and fulfilled life.

How to identify your core values?

Think about how you may have been raised or educated? Are there any values that stand out to you that remain important to you and that have been instrumental in how you live and lead your life?

Regardless of whether or not you have done any work on values before, here is a very quick three- step exercise to help you identify, explore (or reconnect) with your core values:

Step 1: From the list of 53 words / values listed below identify / write down all the words that are meaningful or resonate for you. If there are any words that aren't in this list but you know them to be a values, add them to your list. (Tip: Don't overthink it, don't overanalyse - if you are questioning whether they should be a core value or if they are an aspirational value, it probably means that they ae not a core value!)

Step 2: Cluster all your chosen words into 5 distinct groupings / categories that have similar meaning for you.

Step 3: Select the most important / resonant word from you from each of your 5 groupings.

You should end up with 5 words that are the starting point for your values. Sit with these words for the next few days and weeks and see how they show up in your life, in your decision making and what you notice where they are present (or not) in your life.

Why are core values important?

When you're living life aligned with your values, you will have much more clarity on what's important to you and it will be easier to live a life that is more authentic and true for you. Consequently you are more likely to experience a life of greater balance, joy, meaning and contentment.

Decision Making & Getting Unstuck

Our values can become a blueprint for our decision-making processes in life and work if and when we are aware of them. They help you get out of the mud when you’ve lost sight of what is important.

Values not only help us to prioritise; they also help us to find satisfaction and meaning in what we do. When we make decisions that are aligned with our values, we will feel more grounded, more at ease and decisions will feel better (NOTE: they may not always be easier decisions but you will feel better about them and experience more peace of mind).

“Anytime you have difficulty in making an important decision, you can be sure that it’s the result of being unclear about your values”


Our values can help us not only with some of the BIG work and life decisions that need to be taken e.g. what kind of leader do I want to be? do I take this job? do I stay in this relationships? shall I start my own business? where do I want to live?

They can also be used to make small daily life decisions e.g. what do I want to eat for dinner? do I work-out today? How do I want to spend my free time? Do I say yes/no to this invitation?

Often when I'm stuck, my values help me to get clear on the way forward. My value of courage often helps when I'm procrastinating. Avoidance / procrastination around my monthly finances is routed in fear so my value of courage helps me take action and face my fears. My financial fears sound like this: "what am I going to find when I look at my monthly accounts? have I made enough for this month? can I pay my mortgage? am I running a viable business? am I going to end up on the streets?" (Yes - it gets as dramatic as that!).

Conscious Choices

When our values are blurry, we can often find ourselves bumbling along on autopilot not truly present to the choices we are making. For many of us this is our day-to-day reality and living. This is not wrong. However, eventually this can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection or disengagement. and lack of balance as we are not consciously prioritising what's important to us.

My value of health informs me what is the next right action to take. Health, for me, extends beyond physical health (e.g., exercise and nutrition). It includes spiritual health, emotional health, mental health, financial health. My daily, weekly and monthly habits and routines ensure that I’m honouring my value of health as best as I can. When I'm feeling out of balance and disconnected (I personally recognise that feeling by a dull, subtle and anxious buzz in the pit of my stomach) my value of health invites me to clarify how I have been taking care of myself. .

Understand ourselves and others

If you have ever felt a disconnect or conflict with a friend, family member, a client, colleague or boss, often this can be as a result of differing priorities or conflicting values.

Our values can help us to understand how we relate to and with others.

Relationships go much deeper than just sharing interests or hobbies – as these can change over time. Our values rarely change over time but how they are fulfilled and lived may vary over time depending on our our life stage and our priorities.

As human beings we are naturally drawn to people like ourselves - and often people who share the same values. A misalignment in values or differing priorities can result friction or even conflict between people.

That’s not to say that you cannot be friends or in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share the same values or prioritise values in the same way. The key is to understand and communicate eachothers values AND respect the other persons' values.

Thankfully we are all different, and what makes one person happy may leave another person feeling anxious or disengaged. That's ok. Defining your personal values and communicating them can help you to get clarity and feel more fulfilled and happy, even if they don’t make sense to other people.

Are your values your own?

Values are not who you think you should be in order to fit in. Values are who you are in your own deepest nature. This requires a degree of honesty and non-judgement towards what you care about. When doing the work on values it can help to understand if the values you have identified are (truly) your own OR if you have taken them on / inherited them due to societal pressure, work, friends or family. This is a natural thing to do, so don’t beat yourself if you are noticing this is true for you. Simply bringing awareness of this is key to helping you to choose consciously in order to be true to yourself.

Personal vs organisational vs friends / family values

Just as our own individual values guide our personal decision making and our behaviour, organizational values will often guide how organisations choose to navigate towards their strategy, goals and mission. The same goes for your friends and family.

The challenge comes is in living into our values when there may be a conflict with those of our organization, our friends, a stranger in the line at the grocery store or even our family.

Imagine a situation where organisations with a value of honesty only are ‘sometimes’ honest with their customers, or that the work environment is safe ‘sometimes’. How would that make your feel about an organisation or even your friend or family member?

What happens when values don't align?

Think about situations when and where you’ve known there has been a direct conflict in values. Either you’ve not honoured your own values or the people that you are interacting with are behaving in a way that is conflicts with your own value system. You’ve probably felt very uneasy, uncomfortable, unhappy, discontent – maybe even restless or angry.

I know that when I act in a way that goes against my values, or I'm in conflict with someone else,  it can feel like something is "off" and can be confusing for me internally. I usually feel it - my body tells me before my brain does.

Having different values doesn't give us permission to be self-righteous i.e. my values are right and yours are wrong! Knowing peoples values can help clarify what motivations are and why people do the things they do. It can also bring clarity as to what action to take next. Sometimes that may be nothing. What people say and do is going to give you a good idea of what values may be important to them. All of this is key to developing self and social awareness.

And Finally

Getting clarity on your values and being honest with yourself about what's important to you is fundamental to living a happier, more balanced, authentic and fulfilled life. This clarity will help decision making, lead to a better understanding (and appreciation) of self and others and bring more awareness to the choices we make. When we are consciously living our values we will experience more clarity, peace of mind and freedom.

If you're currently feeling burned-out or stuck and you're looking for greater clarity in your life, let me help you get clear on your values as a starting point. If you're committed to your own growth, you're ready to take action and you're looking for support right now, get in touch with me for a FREE 30 minutes complimentary call to explore if life coaching is right for you. Sign up here:

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