How to Define Your Core Values + Use Them to Set Goals

Before we dive in and discover and define our personal core values, I have to tell you that these values don’t define you now AND always. Just like your mission statement, they are fluid and can be changed (and should be changed!) as you grow go through life.

You’re not the same person you were ten years ago or two year ago… this means we have to stop and periodically assess our core values so that they can push us towards our goals.


If you’re living a life focused on your values, people will know them automatically from the way that you speak, the actions that you take, and the life that you lead.


Why Core Values are important

Our core values are essential and unique standards that guide our behavior. They guide your behavior and your choices, while providing a clear direction in achieving goals, and going down that path that you really desire for yourself.

When core values are ambiguous, you might find yourself wondering how you got into the situation you’re in. A lot of people claim they understand their own values, but it’s hard to know and embody them in our daily lives unless you take the time to articulate them clearly in writing.

Your core values work towards a greater good, whether that greater good applies just to you, for example living a healthy lifestyle or valuing education, or a larger scope of people through values like tithing or volunteering. Ultimately it’s up to you.


How Do we Define our Core Values?

The easy 3-step guide


Reflect and Collect

We start with reflection because we need to look back to keep moving forward. Here’s some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Think about a meaningful event or moment that stands out, what was happening to you?
  • What values were you acting upon at that time? A meaningful event in your personal life could be the day that your child was born. In your business this would be very different. It may be the day you landed a big customer. See how these two answers are vastly different because we’re talking about two very different sections of your life.
  • How do you want to be described? In your personal life how do you want others to talk about you when you aren’t around?


After going through these questions, you can grab your free download here of the core values worksheet. This is actually quite a long list of suggestions, so I think you’ll be able to find yours in there or get ideas.

Think about how you answered the reflection questions and let that be your guide, don’t overthink it. Just highlight or mark the words that resonate with you when you think about those questions you answered. You don’t want to highlight them all, but don’t worry about how many you should mark. Just mark the ones you immediately think are a good fit for you, and that’s it for step one.


Refine and Define

After you’ve gone through that list, you’ll probably have ended up with a long list of values. Too many to be actionable and really to be held accountable for.

I decided for myself and for my business, inkWELL Press, that I wanted to have six. I think you can have less, but I would be careful having too many more.

You’re definitely going to see patterns after you’ve highlighted, so start refining these words. Start grouping them words together into common themes.

For example, when I was doing this exercise for inkWELL Press, I grouped together words like generosity, giving, grace and authenticity because they all embody one aspect of my business.

For example, let’s say you like travel. You might find the word adventure embodies it, or the word experiences because there’s going to be seasons in your life perhaps where maybe you cannot travel, but you can still enjoy adventure and experiences in other ways.

Words mean different things to different people, so spell it out and allow others to understand your meaning. Take the time and write out what that word means to you.


Believe and Achieve

This last step is about truly making your life or your business (if these are your business core values) embody these words that you’ve chosen. Consider if any of these feel inconsistent with your personality. If so, make some changes and modify them. We don’t want our core values just to be for show, we want to use them for our day-to-day decisions.

To test your core values, ask yourself this question, “Would I stick to these values even if they created a competitive disadvantage?” If you or your company aren’t willing to sacrifice for your values it’s much more likely that you’ll lose your way when the going gets tough.

The long-term benefits of sticking to your values far outweighs any disadvantage you may have in the short-term. You have to fully believe them. Thinking about a situation where your core value might hurt you rather than help you is a great way to test this.

Then you’ll want to create a plan so your life is a reflection of these values.

If you see one that you really want to focus on, use the action roadmap worksheet to make a step-by-step plan for how you’ll work including that value in your everyday life. If you’re using one of my inkWELL Press planners, log these steps into your mission boards and into your goal setting pages. Make it so you’re keeping yourself accountable each month to stay on track.

For the next few months, focus on these steps as being your highest priority. Hold yourself accountable, ask a friend or a partner to help keep you on track. Watch your progress and celebrate your wins. Check in with yourself along the way and reflect on how it feels to work on a personal priority rather than handling urgent tasks all day long.


If you’re living a life focused on your values people will almost know them automatically from the way that you speak, the actions that you take, and the life that you lead.


CLICK HERE to get your free download of the core values list and let’s get started together on your journey.

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton