What Are Your Core Values and Why Do They Matter?

John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux discuss how helping life coaching clients distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic values helps lead to better outcomes.

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How Core Values Relate to Goal Attainment

Getting in touch with your core values is an important aspect of goal accomplishment, especially when pursuing aspirations that are significant. Why? Because when we set out to accomplish BIG goals, obstacles are inevitable. 

Research shows that tapping into core values in order to establish grit results in increased performance and persistence over time (Vansteenkiste et al., 2004).

As coaches, when we support our clients in identifying their core values, we can use those to help them push through challenges and dark moments down the road. Leading from their values ultimately results in more satisfying results over time. Want to understand why that's so? Read on!

What’s A Core Value?

To accurately identify what really drives someone from the inside-out, it’s necessary to distinguish between extrinsic and intrinsic values. Not all values are created equal, especially when it comes to leaning into them in order to move past roadblocks and obstacles.

Extrinsic Values 

These come from outside of us, and are often directed by others or society at large. They can best be described as a means to an end... but not necessarily a lasting, effective or happy one. Why? Because when we're following them, we’re living from the ‘outside-in’.

Examples of extrinsic values include financial success, social popularity, and physical attractiveness. Pursuit of extrinsic values have been known to create excessive ego involvement and social comparison (Kasser, 2002).

We can detect the sneaky pull of an extrinsic value when we feel a desire to be appreciated, approved of, or accepted by others, to avoid negative emotions or punishment, or to meet certain outside standards.

Intrinsic Values

Unlike outside-in values, intrinsic values originate from our innate tendency to grow and develop. They are personally defined, are the source of our meaning and purpose, and are part of our unique personality makeup as individuals. 

Intrinsic values are freely chosen - this is otherwise known as an ‘inside-out’ orientation. Examples of intrinsic values include freedom, fairness, self-acceptance, and creativity.

Why living from our intrinsic values matters

Self-determination theory tells us that our well-being is strongly influenced by the type of values by which we live as individuals (Kasser, 2002; Sheldon & McGregor, 2000). In this view, intrinsic values (coming from the self) are more healthful than extrinsic values (coming from others).

While an individual may hold the same values that are dominant in a given culture, the values remain effective when the individual retains a sense of willing ownership over those values, as opposed to just trying to avoid negative evaluation or other social punishment (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999).

Applying Values When Coaching Clients

Pulling this all together to aid goal accomplishment -- and for just feeling better overall! -- is something that life coaches can spend lots of time on with our clients. What this most often looks like is helping people define what they want their life to feel like from the inside, versus what they think the world on the outside wants from them.

The negative consequences associated with the pursuit of extrinsic values highlight the importance of examining the motives behind a client’s values, and not just the values themselves. When a client is facing an obstacle and/or tough decision, it can be useful to help them pull back, examine the impulse to act, and then check in on the value system behind that impulse. 

  • If it comes from a place of “I think I should do this for acceptance / recognition / approval / or acting like other people think I should,” it will usually feel terrible in the long run.
  • If the impulse comes from a place of “This is who I am, this is how I want to show up, this is how I show myself respect, and this is how I want to respect the things that I value in the world,” the action may likely feel harder to implement, but much more satisfying in the end.  

You and your clients will never go wrong by authentically living from your values. 

There may be consequences for going against the dominant culture, but that is also where freedom from the bullshit can be found! It takes major guts to push through and do it your very own way - but we think that the freedom and deeply set contentment that comes after making a hard choice in line with your intrinsic values is 100% worth it. Every time.

Article references and sources: Using Intrinsic Values to Promote Goal Attainment

Want to Become a Coach?

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