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How To Define Your Core Values

Ready to feel more fulfilled and happier in life? This article outlines how to define your core values and get your happy back by becoming your most authentic self and living in alignment with your personal core values. Here’s how to define your core values, how to live your life by your values, and how to make big changes in life in order to live in alignment with your values .


If you’re feeling unhappy in your day to day life (whether you’re ready to quit your 9 to 5 or sell your business right this second, or you’re just wondering whether there’s something more to life than this), I hear you.

Before I figured out my personal core values, I was living a life that wasn’t truly mine. I was showing up to a career I accidentally stumbled into, that looked great from the outside, but left me feeling unfulfilled. Because I was unhappy at work, I wasn’t showing up as the best version of myself for my kids, for my husband, or for my friends. And the stress and mental fatigue of a job that you hate was leaving little energy for hobbies or learning of any kind. My days were a blur of getting the kids out the door, going to work, cooking supper, washing dishes, putting the kids to bed, and going to sleep — rinse and repeat.

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When I discovered personal development, I became passionate about designing a life of freedom, fulfillment, and financial abundance. Now, I am running my dream business (as a life and business success coach for high level CEOs and aspiring entrepreneurs), working 3-4 hours a day, running a 6 figure online business, and travelling all over the country with my family in our converted skoolie. This is a life I couldn’t even have imagined for myself 3 years ago, but now I’m here.

It all started with defining my core values and building a life in alignment with them. If you’re ready to wake up feeling excited about the life you get to live, then you’re in the right place. This article will outline how to define your core values and how to live your values every day so that you can feel fulfilled, happy, and successful.

What are personal core values?

Your core values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work, and they exist whether you intentionally recognize them or not

“Our values are constantly reflected in the way we choose to behave,” says Mark Manson. Values usually remain steady over time, but do change as we move through different life phases.

Without intentionally figuring out how to define your core values, it can be challenging to identify your core values off the top of your head.

When people go on quests to “find themselves,” they are essentially looking for their core values.

They get away from their day to day lives so they can get a different perspective on what actually matters to them, what should matter more, what should matter less, and then (ideally) return and get on with it.

When you are living into your values, and your life and work align with them, you feel fulfilled.

This is the feeling that 80% of people crave but can’t grasp.

When you are living out of alignment with your values, you become deeply unhappy.

Related post: The 4 Biggest Things Holding You Back In Life

For example, if you…

  • Value family time, but work 70 hour weeks. You’ll be unhappy.
  • Don’t value competition, but work in a highly competitive sales environment. You’ll be unhappy.

Defining your core values lays the foundation for living a purpose driven and fulfilling life

Before I share how to define your core values, let’s get clear on why you should even bother doing defining your personal core values.

Why is it important to define your core values in life?

I once had a coaching client who was absolutely miserable in her job.

Half of her time on coaching calls with me was spent crying about the fact that she had to go back to work again the next day…

And listen, I’ve been there.

  • I’ve had the shitty corporate job that left me crying in the bathroom at break time every day.
  • I’ve had the Sunday night blues that crushed my chest every week.
  • I’ve spent multiple evenings in a row laying in a zombie like state on my couch because I felt I had no options and nothing but soul sucking cubicle hell to return to.

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But the reason knowing your values is so important is because it is the key driver of fulfillment.

Related post: 17 Ways To Change Your Life

When you are crystal clear on your core values, you can create a meaningful life that aligns with your core values. If you’re out there feeling so unhappy with your life, and have no idea what to do about it, you MUST start by defining your values (which happens to be exactly why I wrote this article on how to define your core values).

The number one reason values are important

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Getting clear on what you value allows you to make choices that align with your most authentic self, which creates the lasting fulfillment you’re after.

You don’t want to get to your deathbed before you find out that nothing was more important to you than watching your kids grow up, yet you’d spent most of your life in a consulting gig living in airports 6/7 nights a week.

Related post: Finding Balance In Life: Achievement vs Enjoyment

Creating clarity around your values is what allows you to make decisions now that will create the “ahhh, I’ve lived a good life” feeling later.

However, it’s not just a long term benefit!

The number two reason values are important

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Getting clear on your values creates a sense of purpose in the day to day of your life which can get you through those tough – I hate my freaking job!!! – times.

The biggest mistake my clients make when they come to me is assuming they need to quit their job in order to live out their purpose…

And while leaving their job may very well be a viable part of the bigger picture, they also come to the realization through our work together that they can live a purposeful life RIGHT NOW. 

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There is nothing stopping you from living in your purpose

For example, a client of mine who also hates her job (are we picking up on the recurring theme? I love to help people escape miserable jobs to pursue their dreams) had major blinders on…

She thought the one and only solution to all of her problems was leaving her job.

Impact? No, she wasn’t making ANY in her job. It was 100% pure misery.

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Come to find out, this girl is CRUSHING her coaching conversations with her direct reports and infusing a poor corporate environment with so much compassion, grace, and understanding that her fellow human beings are voluntarily writing her emails to let her know what an IMPACT she has made on their lives.

Can she see that when she believes that her purpose stems directly from her job description? No.

Once we removed those blinders, she was able to derive a sense of purpose from her crappy job to make it bearable enough to stay in it while she launched her dream business.

Because here’s the thing, you don’t have to be digging wells in Africa to be leaving a positive mark on the world.

When you take the time to define your core values, it allows you to actively live into them every single day, which creates the exact sense of purpose you’re chasing (and wrongly assuming only comes in the form of a job change).

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The number three reason values are important

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Defining your values helps you steer clear of decisions you’ll regret.

When you know your most important values are your health, your relationship with your family, and the impact you’re making in the world, you will no longer eat an entire pizza every Friday night, or avoid your mother’s phone calls, or take the job that makes you miserable.

You’ll be doing what feels right to you and not making costly mistakes with your time, money, or energy.

How to define your core values

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Defining your core values really isn’t that complicated. Like most things in life, it’s actually pretty simple, but most people don’t take the time to sit down and ask themselves the hard questions. So, if you’re ready to define your core values, you need to:

Step One: Decide defining your core values is important to you

Prioritize the time for it in your calendar and actually sit down to do this work.

Step Two: List all potential core values off the top of your head

What are the things you care about? What gives life meaning? What do you stand for? What do you stand against? Don’t overthink this part. Don’t censor yourself. Brainstorm anything that comes up and try to fill a whole page. If you struggle with this step (and only if!) then Google a list of values to help get your gears turning. I know brainstorming isn’t my forte but sifting through lists is my jam! Try not to get overwhelmed looking through a list of 400 values — just glance through it and pick out words that spark something in you.

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Avoid falling into the trap of choosing values because you “should” value them. .

Step Three: Group similar core values into themes

Being able to organize your values into groups makes it easier for you to remember what you actually value. If you have words like kindness, friendship, empathy, community… then you something like “connection” could encompass all of those things.

Step Four: Prioritize your core values down to the 5-7 most important core values you hold.

Heads up, this is HARD. Do it anyway. If you had to choose between value A and value B, which would be more important to live in alignment with? Do this with all of your values until only 5-7 are left.

Step Five: Rank your 5-7 core values in order of importance

Heads up, this is even HARDER. Do it anyway. Which of your values is MOST important to you? Which one is second? Remember that ranking them doesn’t mean you can’t live into all of them, but it does help you make decisions when you have competing values in certain situations.

Now you have it: a list of the things that are most important to you in life.

But what do you do with said list…?

How to make your values mean something

Do you value “family”? Or “health”? If so, I have a question for you … WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN!?

When we “adopt” generic values that could mean anything to anyone, we struggle to live in alignment with our values in our day to day lives

The key to living into your values is having powerful guiding pillars that actually inspire the “right” (according to you) kind of action.

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In order to make your generic values mean something, you need to create what I like to call guiding pillars.

Guiding pillars represent your most important values in a way that evokes emotion IN YOU, inspires action IN YOU, and feels right TO YOU.

There’s a huge difference between valuing “family” and working every day to “build a treasure house of happy memories with my family through adventure”. Same with “health” versus “live a vibrantly healthy life exploding with joy.”

One tells me nothing about how I’m supposed to live into “family”, the other makes it really clear for me to do what feels right.

If you think you know what your values are, I encourage you to take it one step further and craft a powerful statement for each value that really brings to life what you mean by that one word.

Make it start a fire in your belly! And share it in the comments with us so we can be inspired too!

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How to live in alignment with your core values

We’re all busy people.  Switching from auto pilot to intentionally living out our values every day requires a habit change. Any successful habit change is accompanied by a process for tracking your progress. The same goes for your core values.

If you want to be your most authentic self and live in alignment with your core values every day, you need to make it a part of your routine and set up a system to track it.

Here’s what I find works best for me and my clients.

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Get really clear on all of the possible actions that “qualify” as a step in the right direction of your value.

Write these out in the following format: “any time I [action], or any time I [action], … I am moving toward [my value]”.

For example, “any time I go to bed by 9pm, or any time I choose leafy greens, or any time I focus on my breath, I am moving toward living a vibrantly healthy life exploding with joy.”

This takes the perfectionism right out of it for Type As like you and me! It’s not saying “every time I eat nothing but spinach and get precisely 8 hours of sleep and meditate for 1000 minutes a day without breaking my streak, then I am healthy…” 

Any time you make a decision that aligns with your values, you are living from a place of purpose

Once you’ve got your list, take 60 seconds in the morning to read through it.

This keeps your values and the practical actions you can take to live into them front and center in your mind.

Also, incorporate 60 seconds into your evening to check in with yourself and see if you took any actions toward any of your values.

Write a check mark for the days that you lived into your values. This will help you make better choices with more consistency going forward.

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To make embracing your values super easy for you, I’ve created a workbook with several templates to help walk you through this process so that you can identify and live into your values with ease!

Are your core values reflected in your day to day life?

If you’re living your dream life and every single one of your core values are being met, I am hella proud of you for having done what it takes to align your life with your values!

But, if like most people, you’re banging your head against the wall wondering why you’re so damn unhappy in your job and when your life is going to change for the better, you need to ask yourself some serious questions.

Related post: How To Change Your Life When Your Job Isn’t Right For You

Reflect on which parts of your job DO align with your core values

Making the sweeping generalization that nothing you do is meaningful is the easy way out of this game. But I know you’re not a cheat and you can handle a challenge. Find the bits and pieces of your role that do align with your values.

If you care about empowering the poor, and you’re the director of a financial aid agency in the underprivileged area of your community, fan-freaking-tastic! 

But if you care about the environment, and you work at a call center for the oil and gas industry then the fact that you bring a waste free lunch to work STILL COUNTS as impact you’re having on your colleagues when they see you and your beeswax wrap!

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Get creative in identifying the ways your job aligns with your values. And be honest with the parts that directly conflict with what you care about. Focusing on what DOES align can help you stay sane long enough to figure out how to change the parts that DO NOT align.

Get really specific with how you can uphold your core values at work

If you really care about kindness, then any time you smile at someone at the water cooler, or provide positive feedback to your coworkers, or refuse to yell back at your boss when he is berating you, then you are staying true to your values.

This can help you feel better about what you ARE doing when you feel like you aren’t doing enough.

Look for ways that you can live into your core values outside of work.

Your purpose doesn’t have to come from your day job.

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If you are passionate about solving animal cruelty, go volunteer at your local animal rescue center after work. It will fill your heart much more than moping on the couch about your crappy job ever will.

Stop making excuses and start making time for what matters.

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Finally, be really honest about what would need to be true in your life for you to be able to live fully into your values, 100%, all the time.

Once you’ve figured out your personal core values, you might realize you DO need a career change to be able to live in alignment with them. And that’s okay.

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You are fully capable of creating meaningful and lasting change in your life and accomplishing goals that feel impossible right now.

You really are. If you want support in finding your purpose & creating a life/business that lights you up so that you can experience freedom, fulfillment, and financial abundance daily, let’s explore purpose coaching.

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Step by step guide on how to define your core values

How to define your core values and live life in alignment with your values:

  1. Decide defining your core values is important to you

    Prioritize the time for it in your calendar and actually sit down to do this work.

  2. List all potential core values off the top of your head

    Don’t censor yourself. Brainstorm anything that comes up and try to fill a whole page. Avoid falling into the trap of choosing values because you “should” value them. .

  3. Group similar core values into themes

    Being able to organize your values into groups makes it easier for you to remember what you actually value. If you have words like kindness, friendship, empathy, community… then you something like “connection” could encompass all of those things.

  4. Prioritize your core values down to the 5-7 most important core values you hold.

    Heads up, this is HARD. Do it anyway.  Do this with all of your values until only 5-7 are left.

  5. Rank your 5-7 core values in order of importance

    Heads up, this is even HARDER. Do it anyway. Remember that ranking them doesn’t mean you can’t live into all of them, but it does help you make decisions when you have competing values in certain situations.

My one on one coaching program is here to help you

  • Accelerate the process of discovering what you care about (your values, passion, and purpose) and how to bring more of it into your life (starting right now!)
  • Get clear on the changes you need to make to feel like you’re living into your full potential long term
  • Take action and change your life instead of settling for old excuses and falling back into old patterns of behavior
  • Quit your damn job and find a career or create a business that lights you up every single day!

Sign up for a free powerful coaching experience to see if this could be the right fit for you!


Have you tried to figure out how to define your core values? How did pinpointing your personal values help you live a life you loved? Let us know in the comments below!


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