What is a ‘core value’ and why is it important?

I’ve wanted to be an astronaut since I was a kid.

I’ve also wanted to be a journalist, art teacher, ballet dancer, performance poet, university lecturer, jewellery designer, ceramic artist, writer, florist and farmer.

I’ve made pots, necklaces, collages, paintings, clothing, homewares and illustrations. I’ve studied history of art, Marxism, fashion theory, English literature, economics and I really did like physics. I’ve written reviews, interviews, articles, adverts, video scripts, poems, short stories and social media captions.

I’ve put my sticky little fingers in a lot of pies, and I’ve enjoyed it.

So I know what it’s like to have lots of different interests.

I know what it’s like to feel pulled hither and thither when it comes to what you really want to do.

How frustrating it can be, feeling like you’re a jack of all trades.

That you never seem to be able to focus on one damn thing.

And what’s it like to feel you never, really, get anything actually finished.

I know what it’s like to feel you have to ‘go niche’ with your life. You have to get specific. You have to choose. And you have to choose now.

There was a girl at my school who knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. She wanted to be a dentist in the army. Weird? Maybe. But specific? Absolutely.

Most of us aren’t like that. Most of us sort of have a vague idea of the general area we’re interested in pursuing, but we spend our lives exploring what it really is we love.

On the one hand, this is fabulous: a life rich in variety and multi-faceted creativity! On the other hand: damn hard to make a living when you can’t decide what you want to dedicate your time and energy to.

Through my work with marketing agencies and developing brands for small businesses, I’ve learnt that it is better to be specific and specialist when it comes to earning money from what you do.

That’s because people want expertise. They want deep knowledge. And they want to know it will be exactly what they need – not near to it or in the ballpark but exactly what they are looking for.

But. And it’s a big one.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have lots of interests. It doesn’t mean you can’t try different avenues or explore different ways of creating.

The important thing is that you understand how they all tie together, and you can express that to your audience. Because that is your area of expertise. That is your ‘niche’. That is your specific and specialist and unique offer to the world.

And, to be honest, this is the thing most people struggle with.

You’ll be able to list all your interests – but being able to explain how they all fit together? What that underlying ‘theme’ of your work is? What connects everything?

Yeah, that’s pretty tough.

Yet, once you have that underlying theme, that core ‘something’ which makes all of your interests make sense, it’s a lot easier to do some of the trickier things you’ll have to do in your work.

Things like:

  • Explain what you to do confidently, authentically and beautifully
  • Attract other people to your work, whether they’re customers or a community
  • Stop doing things that aren’t useful or serving you

Most importantly, that ‘something’ helps you do fight the biggest battle of all: accepting yourself and what you truly care about.

So what is that ‘something’? How could you describe it?

I describe that ‘something’ as your core value.

It’s the one thing in life you truly, deeply care about.

In reality it might be there are actually, perhaps, two things you truly, deeply care about.

Rather than one, you might have two stuck together – like two sides of the same coin.

This is the experience I had; it’s not one core ‘something’ that I have, but two things stuck together never to be torn apart.

My two core values, the two sides of the same coin which I care about deeply and have helped me accept myself fully, are creativity and connection.

So me trying all those different artistic hobbies? Having a playful imagination? Experimenting and exploring all the time? Writing all those different things to reach different people?

They make a lot of sense now.

Simon Sinek calls this ‘something’ a business’ ‘why’. He says all businesses know what they do, a few know how they do it, but very few know why they do it.

He calls it their why. I call it their core value. Either way, it’s the reason that business exists. In your case, it’s the thing – or two-stuck-together-things – you live for.

Understanding my ‘something’ – my core value – fundamentally changed how I see my work and, more importantly, myself.

Because you and your work are intimately entwined. When you’re creative, what you do and you – your personality, soul, mind and heart – are very closely linked. Sometimes that’s terrifying. But a lot of the time it’s brilliant and enriching.

Discovering your values can make a huge difference to how you perceive yourself, your work and your role in the world.

Instead of feeling like a jack of all trades, you’ll be a master … not of ‘one’, but of ‘why’. A master of yourself.

And things will start to make a whole lot more sense.

Hello! I’m Eleanor and I’m on a mission to spread creativity throughout the world. You might like to sign up for my weekly email updates or browse my blog for more ideas on living your most creative life possible.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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