The Secret to Making Hard Decisions

It’s a typical day in your business, when suddenly you get an email from one of the biggest clients you’ve been praying for. THIS IS IT! This is the client who’s going to make all your dreams come true! Landing them will open new doors for you financially and socially because a stamp of approval from them is like gold.

You have a consultation call with the owner, and the scope of what he wants is really big. I mean REALLY big. It would take up the majority of your time and energy. He wants access to you at all times, even on weekends. You tell him, “Sure, that’s no problem” even if you promised your partner you weren’t going to work on weekends anymore. He’s pretty demanding, and insists on meeting at his office even though you typically work remotely so you can be available for your family. You feel a little uneasy because the initial signs show he’s probably going to be tough to work with. He’s not asking any questions- he’s just telling you everything he wants and expects you to agree. But it’s worth it because it’s such a huge client, right?

Or is it?

After all, this is the client you’ve always wanted! You’re not sure what to do- your head says yes but your gut says no. So how do you know if you’re making the right decision in taking him on?  

When making tough decisions like this, it’s helpful to have a set of principles that can guide you. These are called your core values. But if you haven’t identified what they are, you may not realize you’re making a big mistake until it’s too late.

What are Core Values?

Your core values are the most important principles that guide your life. They act as a compass when making large and small decisions, and help you stay on track with the values you’ve identified as being the most valuable to you. Most people have a basic set of morals and ethics they believe in, but few actually choose the top core values they want to live by and act on daily. When you choose your core values, your life starts to feel easier and you’ll won’t feel as conflicted when facing decisions like the one above. Click here to identify your core values.

Companies have core values also. A great example is REI. One of their core values is balance, and they encourage each other and their customers to enjoy all aspects of life. One example of this is their #OptOutside campaign. This was started four years ago when they made a choice to close on two of the biggest shopping days of the year: Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and pay their 12,000 employees to spend time outside. While many retail businesses would think this was financial suicide, it’s in complete alignment with their core value of balance. And #OptOutside attracted more than 1.4 million people and 170 outdoor companies, nonprofits, and organizations to participate, and over the last three years that’s grown to 15 million people and 700 organizations. It’s one of the many reasons REI continues to be a leader and innovator in the retail industry.

Why should we identify our core values?

When we don’t have a clear idea of our core values, it’s like putting a boat in the ocean without having a clear destination. We may have a general idea that we want to be a good person and contribute to society, but we need to actually define what our core values are before we can start to act accordingly and live in alignment with them.

For example, if you want to be healthy but you only exercise occasionally and don’t eat healthy meals, are you really living in alignment with that? But if you make health one of your top five core values, you will start to make better choices. You may schedule to exercise four times a week and plan ahead on how you can cook healthy meals at home. Once you define your values and look at them daily, you’ll start to hold yourself accountable to living them.

How does identifying your core values help your business?

In the book Traction by Gino Wickham, he talks about how identifying your cores values attracts like-minded people to your business and helps weed out the people who don’t fit. This goes for employees and clients too. You want to attract the right people and repel the wrong ones.

I have a client who hired me to take on a partner in her business. One of her clients wanted to invest and help expand a part of her business.  She was working 18 hour days as a single mom trying to provide for her two children, and was hoping that this deal would help her to earn more and work less so she could spend more time with her kids. On our first call, I asked her to define her top five core values. Her top two were Kids and Independence. I asked her if taking on the partner was in alignment with those values. She paused, then said if she expanded that part of her business, she’d be working more hours and would be seeing her kids less. She would have less independence because she’d have to run all her decisions by her new partner. In the end, she decided not to take the deal. She ended up letting go a part of her business that was draining her and focused on what she loved doing and did best instead. Now she’s working five hour days and is earning more than she did before. And she was able to take a one month vacation all by herself, which she hadn’t done since before she had kids. She says that identifying her core values is what saved her from taking the partner and working crazy hours. Now she is spending quality time with her kids and is in much more alignment with her core values.

Do our core values ever change?

Yes they can. I look at mine daily, and reevaluate them every year. We go through many changes throughout our lives and things that we value when we’re in our 30’s may be vastly different in our 40’s and 50’s. For parents, once their kids leave the nest, their core values may change greatly if they’ve focused a large part of their lives on their kids. Life circumstance events like loss of a job can change your values temporarily and can get you focused on doing what you need to do at that time. Your core values may change if you’re going through a lot of personal growth, so be sure to check that they are still the most important principles to you.

How do we identify our core values?

An easy way is to look at a list of values and choose the ones that resonate with you the most. Then, filter them down and end up with your top ten most important core values. Put them in order of most important to least. Write your top five down on a card or somewhere you’ll see them daily. It’s best to read them twice a day- when you wake up and before bed. A good tool for reflection before bed is to ask yourself if your decisions that day were in alignment with all your values. If not, what could you do differently tomorrow?

For example, if one of your core values is health/fitness and you didn’t work out that day, make a commitment do exercise tomorrow and maybe add in a few extra minutes. Or if it’s family and you didn’t spend any quality time with them, put it in your schedule to spend one on one time with one member that week, and let them know to hold you to it. You’ll start to feel happier and more fulfilled when you live your core values daily, which leads to greater work life balance.


To review, your core values will act as a compass for guiding your biggest decisions. They can help your business by attracting the right people and clients to you and repelling the wrong ones. Your core values can change over time, especially during transition times or big life events. Make sure to reevaluate them regularly to make sure they are still your top five. Write them on an index card and keep them in your nightstand. Make sure to read them twice a day in the morning and at night. Ask yourself if you acted in alignment with your core values that day, and if not, what could you do differently tomorrow?

If you’d like to identify your core values, I’ve created a great exercise just for you. Click here to get started!

I’d love to know your core values so share them in the comments below or send me an email at By sharing them with me, you’ll be more likely to living them.

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