defining your personal core values

What is a Value?

Identifying Personal Core Values is one of the first activities I do with my coaching clients because values are often the source behind the big goals and life changes that brought my clients to work with me in the first place. Helping them to get clear on those values from the start allows us both to keep them on track and headed in the direction of their ideal life.

Merriam-Webster Definition:

1. The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.

2. A person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.

Values are unique to an individual. An individual can share values with others, such as a family, community, or group, but each individual holds a ‘list’ of values unique to them. Customs and morals, by contrast, are beliefs about what is right and wrong, and involve a collective community or cultural code of conduct rather than a unique value.

A value holds worth. It is something that internally you feel is worthy of your time, energy, and attention.

Every moment of the day whether you are aware or not, you are making decisions about where you focus your time, energy, and attention. There are an infinite number of things you could be doing with your time, energy, and attention, and each moment you make a choice to focus on one thing over the thousands of others; you are making a value-laden decision.

I know that sounds extreme, but the truth is, our behavior follows our values and thus our values are reflected in the way we choose to spend our time, energy, and attention.

Identifying Your Core Personal Values

Understanding and identifying your core personal values is an important part of understanding yourself. Our values are extensions of ourselves, they define us. When we are disconnected from our values (or unaware of them), our beliefs and our ideas become disconnected from our actions and our emotions.

Having clearly defined values creates a sense of purpose, because values serve as a guide to decision making and provide the basis for fulfillment. Having clearly defined values and taking action from those values, or to honor those values, is the foundation for a fulfilled life.

To identify your personal Core Values, you must understand the three types: Topical, Process, and Core

Topical value: A general subject of value, such as family, time, or honesty.

Process value: A quality or actual experience.

Core value: A word that inspires action, thought, and emotion.

Three Steps to Identify Your Core Personal Values

1. Start with the Topical values:

Ask yourself, what do you value?

When are you at your best?

What do you really like?

Who is the person you admire most?

If you could take one thing with you what would it be?

What gives you strength?

Examples would be:





Meaningful work



Create a list… It can be 50 things… Get long winded and think hard. Then order them. This can be a difficult task but at least get your top 10.

2. Then dive into the Process Value for the top 5:

Take them one at a time. Think about a specific experience for each value.

Ask questions like:

What was a peak experience, what did you feel and make happen?

What is a fond memory about this topic value? What did it feel/sound/smell/taste/look like?

What is it about that experience that is so important to you?

Who are you being when in that moment?

Give this Process value a name. Something short and memorable. Related to the experience or the feeling surrounding the value.

3. Define your Core Values

With each of the top 5 process values, ask yourself what are the core characteristics each Process Value holds? What are the feelings and characteristics that you draw upon when experiencing those process values? I like to think of this as the inherent values that each experience or process value possesses.

This is where you should come up with a list of single words (most likely nouns or adjectives).

For example:






Once you dive into this process you will be amazed at the clarity that comes from taking it in these three steps.

Core personal values

I understand this might be difficult to do solo. I had amazing results diving into this with my coach. I will share my Top Core Values here in the hope that you will have a better idea of how to do it on your own. 

Here is my list of my personal top six Core Vales:

My Topical values:

1. Core Family

2. Extended Family

3. Friends- long term

4. Skiing

5. Nature and hiking

6. Being Challenged

My Process Values:

1. Family – Core: Time with my daughter and husband; we are present, together, nothing else matters. We are dancing in the living room after her bath. Her face is aglow with joy and love and wonder. We are laughing and sharing together. Name: Nakiebuns Dance Parties

2. Family – Extended: We all know each other. We come together and support and love one and other. We share our lives. Our children share their lives. We know we will always have each other. Our family loves getting together for big family reunions and they are usually for some sort of celebration or surprise party. Name: Surprise Parties

3. Friends – Long term: Being present, being myself, being vulnerable and known. No future plans or thoughts, no need to worry or plan. We have known each other forever and cannot hide who we are. We lay around the back yard in the sun and read magazines and talk and don’t worry about anything in particular. Name: Summer Days

4. Skiing: I am present. I am in flow. I am aware of my body. I am trusting myself not doubting myself. I know who I am and what I am capable of. Grounded in flow. Bad ass. I love myself and am my best self. Not judging but present and mindful. Name: Cork Screw (my favorite run)

5. Hiking: I am in wonder; I am in awe and inspired. I am present in my body. I am badass, I can do hard things. I am grounded and confident. I can lead. I can finish. There is no doubt I will finish. I trust myself. Name: Hiker Girl

6. Being Challenged: So many instances come to mind, through hiking, giving birth, solo travel, and learning new languages. In all of these situations I push through my fear and my comfort zone; I have confidence. I have Grit. Situations that test me and prove my grit. I stagnate without a challenge. I am more in my leader mentality when I am challenged. I feel at my best when I am pushing my limits. Name: Blasting My Comfort Zone

Core Values:

When I looked over each of these process values five key things stood out to me. Being present was mentioned in every one, self-trust and confidence were in four of the six, and vulnerability and being my true self (or authenticity) were in all six. With this I was able to identify my Five Core Values:

1. Being present or grounded

2. Confidence and trust in myself

3. Vulnerability and authenticity

4. Curiosity and wonder

5. Grit

Do you see, through my example, how this three-step process gets you much deeper? To the root of the values, not just the ‘Topical Value’. By exploring each first with experiences and curiosity, I discovered something I never really realized about myself: I am at my best (in all 5 of my core values) when I am skiing!

I know this sounds funny and maybe superficial to you, but look at how the value of ‘skiing’ feels shallow, but the value of grit, authenticity, self-trust, and presence seem admirable.

In finding that skiing is a value for me I found out why; not just because I enjoy it (though I do), but because I am BEING my core values when I am skiing, and when I am hiking, and when I am in the presence of those closest to me (close friends and family). I need to get myself in there as much as possible.

Had I just created a list of values like:




Helping others…

I never would have been able to find the Core Value, the inherent things I actually value.

I encourage you, when making your list, to include one fun or silly value in there. Maybe it is sewing, or rock collecting, or baking bread… And explore what about that is so rewarding and valuable to you? What inherent values are present when you are in that activity?

The other thing I learned from this exercise was that I don’t have to be skiing every day to feel:

Confident, trusting, present.

But I do need to find ways to incorporate those values into my day in other ways as well.

I set the goal of spending a few minutes each evening looking for ways I spent time during the day in my values; how I am being my values and living them.

quote: personal core values


I encourage you to dive into this activity. Define your top 5 Core Values and use them as your guidepost. Remember that what you focus your time, energy, and attention on are what you value, and your actions flow from that.

Let your actions reflect your values, and let that be what drives you.

Be Gutsy! I believe in you!



Be Gutsy! Share the Love!

Amanda Richey