What are your values?  

If someone were to ask you ‘Who are you?’ Could you answer them?

The other day I happened to be watching a TV show that had snippets of Martin Luther King Jr’s famous speech in 1963 where he called for civil and economic rights and ending racism in the USA. He called his speech “I Have a Dream” and it outlined his beliefs. It got me thinking about how powerful he was as an activist and standing up for what he believed in. Even in the face of many threats and opposition he clearly stated his values around equality and civil rights time and again.

Values can offer us something like a life compass or an anchor point, where we get to be clear about ‘Who’ we are as a person. When we are living our life consistently with our values, according to Brené Brown we are being thoughtful about our “intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviours”. 

In her book Dare to Lead, Brené Brown outlines four learnable skills that underpin leadership, one of which is living out your core values. Brené Brown gives a long list of values and asks people to circle their top 2 core values. This is a very hard thing to do. Most of us want 10-15 values to define us, but the challenge of narrowing it down to just 2 core values is about getting very clear what ‘hill you would die on’. 

The other day I was out on our boat, and I thought I put the anchor down, but my husband noticed we were drifting. He quickly realised my anchoring was shaky, and he explained we had two markers. Like the longitude and latitude on a map or the weft and warp of fabric, our two markers were our guide so that we hadn’t drifted too far. Perhaps that is why you actually only need 2 core values to get clear about.

I read this quote the other day:

“It’s not what happens to us, but how we react that defines us”.

It was written by someone who was given 12 months to live and was using this quote in coaching others who are facing adversity. Our values define who we are, and we need to not just use words with our values, we need to act on them. I remember learning this when I first learnt about values. What if someone did a documentary of my life, would they see me living out my values? They can’t just be words on a piece of paper, they need to be things I take action on in my life.  

Values are not merely convenient and are independent of others’ actions. For example, ‘I’ll only be nice to others if they are nice to me’ is not a value. I would have to be nice to people even when they are not nice to me in order to live out my value of ‘being a nice person’. Now that is a challenge!

Growing up I think I took on a lot of my family’s values and it took some time to define what were my own values. If you were to wonder ‘is this a value that I think others will expect of me’ or ‘I will get some kind of praise or approval for it’. If this is the case then it’s not really your value, it’s someone else’s. It has taken time for me to define my values and living consistently with these values is a lifelong journey. However, I think that this is definitely a good project to be working on for the rest of my life.  

Are you leading others? Did you know that the average adult makes up to 35,000 decisions per day!  Would understanding your key values more clearly benefit you at work or home and help guide you with some of those decisions? If someone were to ask you ‘Who are you?’ Could you answer them?  

There are so many areas in our life that values impact. Values such as Integrity, Honesty, Accountability, Loyalty, Perseverance, Prudence, Independence, and Responsibility. They all come with their own benefits and challenges. So why not understand them so you can intuitively be a better leader. If you want to work on defining your core values, then get in touch with me at Leadership in Mind. 

You can book a one-on-one coaching session or organise a team session.




Brené Brown, 2018. Dare to lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts. Random house.

Philippa Kelly, 27 Jan 2024.  ‘My Life will be short. So on the days I can, I really live’” 30 dying people explain what really matters. The Guardian,know%20what%20my%20timeframe%20is

Eva Krockow, PhD, 27 September 2018.    How Many Decisions Do We Make Each Day? Psychology Today,per%20hour%20or%20one%20decision%20every%20two%20seconds

Brian Pennie, 28 June 2018.  Values and Principles: A Forgotten Life Compass.