Stuck? Define Your Values.

About 6 years ago, a good friend of mine, Chris "Revving Rebel" Pierce and I challenged each other to a month of self-investigation and self-development. He had found a website that had a new challenge for you every single day. The name of the challenge was “30 days to a better man” published by a website called The Art of Manliness. While some would expect this list to include stereotypical hetero-macho activities, it was filled with daily activities that can help just about anyone find something significant within themselves (You don't have to identify as male). The challenge on day 1 changed my life exponentially, and it is one of the cornerstones of my coaching practices.

Define Your Values

Many people have a loose and unorganized list in their minds of the values that are important to them. Few however take a deep dive down the rabbit hole of investigating and clearly defining their core values. Knowing what you stand for is essential for maximizing the impact that you can make on directing your own life in the direction you want it to go. Think of your values as the torch that illuminates your path. It is kind of hard to get to where you want if you cannot see the path. How you live according to your values will determine how you feel at the end of every day, and how you feel about your own self-image. Since we all have a “rough sketch” of our values in our minds, when we live out-of-balance with those values we have a poor self-image of ourselves and of our direction. This drags us further down into depression and “stuck-ness”. If we do not have a clear vision of our core values… What is most important to us, we cannot see (as easily) how we should be spending our limited time on this earth. Without knowing, we are drifting. Some your weeks are great, and some of your weeks are awful and we have a stunted ability to recognize why we feel the way we do in our day-to-day. Have you ever felt “stuck” without knowing why? This can be a major reason for this sensation. I began this process 8 years ago, and it has changed my life positively in ways that I keep discovering over time. Without a doubt, I would not be who I am today and I certainly would not have pursued my dreams so ferociously without this practice to guide me. Defining your core values not only helps you find who you are, but it helps reveal who you need to be in order to craft the life you want.

What is a personal core value?

Value /ˈvalyo͞o/ noun 2. a person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life. "they internalize their parents' rules and values" Similar: Morals, Principals, Moral Code, Ethics Your personal core values are the guiding principles of how you want to live your life. They are the beliefs and ideas that are the most important to you. They are the pillars for your own healthy living. Many different things can have values and principals; companies, organizations, countries, societies etc… But we are here to define your core values. Values tend to get confused with plenty of other ideas and concepts. Our personal core values are distinctly different from just “things that we value.” Here is a short list of things that values are not:

  • Goals (If you want a Lamborghini; great, but that goes on a different list.)

  • Physical things. While “family” or “friends” is close to a value, “prioritizing family, and always putting them first.” is definitely a value.

Before we begin

Dreaming up your own core values is not only fun, but it can also be challenging. It can be difficult for a couple of reasons: Looking inwards is difficult: This is always tough. When you take a deeper look at who you are and who you want to be, you can dredge up other emotions and they are not always pleasant. While it can be tough to look inwards, the payoff is invaluable and it may very well change your life for the better. It will take time: The initial definition of your core values will take some time. Human beings are complicated and if you are going to start the process of determining the top 5 things that are most important to you, you should spend time honoring that commitment.

Let's do this

Here are some questions that might be helpful to ask yourself before you dive in:

  • What is important to me?

  • What defines who I am at this moment?

  • Who do I want to be?

1.) Brain Dump - Get on your computer or grab a piece of paper (whichever is best for your creative mind). Write down all of the things that are important to you. All of them. No need to order them by importance yet, this will come later. You should have a largely unorganized brain dump by the end of this process. You can write down values, but you don’t have to yet, we will convert anything that is important to you into a value later. Helpful tips:

  • Avoid what you think others expect from you. This is about you.

  • Do not write down how you want others to see you. #%@! the haters! This is about you.

Here is a list of examples of what a value might be:

  • Environmentalism

  • Courage

  • Freedom

  • Self-expression

  • Respect

  • Passion

  • Honesty

  • Work Ethic

  • Loyalty

  • Trust

Just remember that they can be a single word, or they can be a short sentence. “Honesty in everything I do.” or “Living with Passion.” For more examples, check out my own four core values here. 2.) Order them by importance. Important things being at the top, less important at the bottom.

3.) Whittle the list down, and keep only the top 10. 4.) Combine any similar items to further whittle down the list. These are good examples of things that are similar enough to combine:

  1. Friends and Family

  2. Integrity and Craftsmanship

  3. Creativity and freedom of expression

  4. Having fun every day, and enjoy every moment.

5.) Finish whittling until you have 4-6 items. 6.) Convert any items on the list that are not values into values. Examples:

  1. Turn “Family and Friends” into “Family and Friends come first, no matter what.”

  2. Turn “Lamborghini Diablo” into “Driven work ethic so I never have to worry about money.”

  3. Turn “Save the planet” into “Environmentalism.”

7.) Post them. Boom! You have your list of core values. The next step is to find a place to post them where you will see them every single day. As the background on your computer, as a handwritten note above your desk, on the bathroom mirror with dry erase marker… etc…. This is how you will hold yourself accountable to these core values. If you are to see benefit from this activity, it is not solely in the creation of the values, but in holding yourself to them every day. 8.) Reflect on these values every single day. You can do this in the morning by asking yourself “How do I want to live today so it lines up with my values?” or in the evening you can ask yourself “Did I live today in a way that aligned with what is important to me?” If so, pat yourself on the freaking back. If not, think of ways that you can live tomorrow in a way that is a bit closer to how you want it to look. Just don’t go beating yourself up over it. You are human! 9.) Accountability. Set yourself a recurring calendar reminder to reevaluate your values 6 months from now, and once per year after that. New Years or your Birthday are fantastic times to do this. This is a good practice because if you do not reassess your values down the line, you may be living by values that are no longer relevant to your life 10-20 years down the road. Take into consideration that the core values of an 18-year-old recent high school graduate will be vastly different from the core values of the same person 20 years later: CEO, husband, and father of three. What is important to you will not only change with the decades but even throughout the year!

Wrapping up

Nice work! This practice has helped me clearly define my goals and priorities over the years and I hope it helps you too. It will serve you well since from now on, you will always know precisely what you want out of life as well as what you expect from yourself. This is the first step to hand-crafting the life and outlook you have always wanted. If you ever have questions about this process please reach out. You can comment below, or contact me here. As always, Carpe freaking Diem! Cheers, Ryan

I am a Lifestyle Pivot Coach in the Boulder/Denver area and offer phone/zoom coaching sessions. I also offer free consultations, so if you want to learn more, click HERE to get in touch. You can also reach out directly:


Cell: (609) 731-8684

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