Using Your Core Values to Find Your Niche

I’m an expert at complicating things, particularly if they’re to do with my inner world!  And I’ve found one of the reasons that causes me to take this route.  Taking myself too seriously!

For instance, I’ve been working really hard (there’s a sign that something’s amiss!) at finding a simple way of describing how I can help people through coaching.  Everyone (I know, this is a major generalisation!) says that it’s best to have a niche.  And this niche is best described so that it addresses either a problem a potential client has or a solution s/he wants.

Along the way I listened to various marketing experts, and by the end of it all I had so many things to consider, including Cialdini’s 6 principles of influence – reciprocity, consistency/commitment, authority, social validation, scarcity and liking.  Oh yes, and James Lavers’ 6 principles of Distance Persuasion to this – belonging, envy/emulation, ownership, significance, status and validation (go to to find out more).  Then add onto this my beliefs etc about how I need to be in relation to this all – and in comes taking myself too seriously!

However, after struggling for over a year, it just fell into place.  Just in case you want to know the words, they are that I want to help individuals and organisations make work an enjoyable and satisfying experience!

And what helped it fall into place?  First of all, reminding myself to lighten up!  This fits with one of my core values, happiness.  Within this value I include fun and enjoyment.  So this helped me live this value more truly.  Then I played on another core value, well-being, which includes openness.  For me to be open I still my mind and let my intuition come to the fore (another part of well-being).  I asked myself “what is the common theme in my work with people and organisations?” and up popped the thought “well you want people to be happy at work”.

Now within positive psychology research indicates that happiness is made up of four components (I thank Lucy Ryan for this information from

pleasure (the fun stuff in life, emotional, delight, momentary)

passion (engaging activities, in flow, fully absorbed, challenging)

purpose (meaning beyond self, gives you fulfilment, bigger picture)

people (relationships that nourish, interest and fulfil you, giving and nurturing friendships, people you love who love you back)

I believe this summarises what I want work to be for everyone.  However, not everyone would know about these components – hence replacing the word ‘happy’ to give a bit more clarity yet still simply stated.

For a person who espouses living your values, I was a bit slow on the uptake to use my own!  This is just proof that strengths and core values are NOT interchangeable!  And I’m finding new ways all the time.



Values and Strengths: similarities and differences

I want to consider values and strengths.

Why? Because recently it’s hit home to me that people tend to assume that if something is one of your core values, you must be good at it too. In one event I was running on values, one person said “but value words are strength words. They seem the same to me”.


For instance, one of my core values is ‘happiness’. Now as much as I’d love to say I’m good at being happy, that just is not the case all the time. Yes, a good proportion of my time I am happy, and I hope I engender some happiness in others. At the same time, I know I am occasionally unnecessarily grumpy/tetchy – and not just when I’m hungry! In addition, I often remember the 1% negative feedback over all the positive, which certainly detracts from my happiness.

I don’t think I’m the only one who has values in which I’m inconsistent in how good I am at demonstrating them.

So what are strengths? And how do they differ from values? Let’s look at dictionary definitions first. I’ve selected the definitions that relate to how we are using the words in this article. In the New Oxford Dictionary of English the definitions are:

• “strength: a good or beneficial quality or attribute of a person or thing”
• “values: a person’s principles or standards of behaviour: one’s judgement of what is important in life”

And here’s my take on similarities and differences between values and strengths…

The similarities between values and strengths are:

– They create energy
– They can change over time
– They are unique to each individual: they are specific in nature and show themselves in a particular way with each person. Even when two people may have the same named value or strength, how they both apply it will depend on all the other aspects in and outside of themselves
– They are developed from a huge variety of sources
– They can vary in importance (or certainly depth of strength)
– Individual values can support each other, and so can individual strengths
– They have a positive feel/ring to them: and at the same time, for values they can lead to conflict between individuals/groups who hold different values. As for strengths, if over-used may cause difficulties e.g. tenacity becomes stubbornness!
– Two values/strengths can appear to be in conflict: e.g. equality and diversity for values, good at working on own and good at work as part of a team for strengths
– They add something positive to our life when sensitively put into practice: for values I’m talking about non-material benefits, like happiness, health, confidence, strength of purpose, enjoyment … I think strengths can give something positive to our lives when they encouraged to be used, but their impact is less far reaching

Now let’s consider how they differ. For values:

• We aspire to them, want to live by them in our lives
• They can involve rights and responsibilities: values are usually two-way e.g. wanting to give and receive trust. There are no rights or responsibilities linked to strengths in general
• They are generalisations, and exceptions naturally occur. For example, I think ‘trust’ is important: I want to trust people and be trusted by people – at the same time, I recognise that it is appropriate that this doesn’t happen in some circumstances
• They have a positive intention. Even though there can be negative consequences, the value is there for positive reasons (e.g. a whistle blower takes that action because s/he holds some value that leads to that action, even though it may have detrimental consequences to his/her life). There are no intentions, positive or negative, linked to a strength that I have noticed
• They guide our behaviour, thoughts, feelings, communication, decisions, attitudes and the like. For strengths, you may select a particular career because it plays on your strengths, but they don’t act so clearly as a guide.
• A particular voice tone is used: the tone is positive, uplifting and with energy. I don’t think any particular tone is used when speaking about strengths
• They require no external justification. For strengths this is not necessarily true, because sometimes you are asked to explain/demonstrate in what you consider something to be a strength e.g. in a job interview
• They may be chosen by each individual. If you include inherent talents under strengths, that reduces choice. Yet you may also choose to develop a strength e.g. in sport, playing a musical instrument. This difference is less clean cut

So there you are. And I’m guessing that you might like something that helps you work out whether you have in mind a value or a strength!

Here are two questions that can help you. Ask yourself:

“Is this something I aspire to, aim to be like?” (if ‘yes’ then it’s a value)
“Is this something I consider I really good at doing?” (if ‘yes’ then it’s a strength).

I’d love to know your thoughts/experiences around beliefs and values. DO tell me.

All the best

The Strength of Living Your Values

Here I am, a person who knows that living my values is important to my health and happiness. YET… I’m struggling within myself to accept that, at present, I’m not attracting the clients I’d love to work with. And I do the beating-myself-up thing even though intellectually I know it really doesn’t help! And it’s not based on the whole truth!

I suspect my inner struggle is inevitably sending out invisible energy that just holds them back from making the decision to contact me – yet (that word again). It’s not the unattractive vibe of neediness – it’s more a subtle transparent yet present veil that gets in the way of true connection.

So how does this fit with one of my values ‘being true to myself’? Well I’m facing up to how I feel. And I acknowledge that I don’t have as much paid work as I’d like. However, I’m giving less focus on evidence of how good I am in my work and more on what is not working. Yes, yes, I know. You get more of what you focus on!

So what has changed today? Well, I read something about developing my story relating to my business. I’ve heard this before and had played with it. This time it shifted something inside. I realised that despite the current state of my business (and I am receiving paid work I enjoy that enables me to pay my everyday costs of living, which is easily more than a lot of people), I am happy and healthy. And most importantly I would rather be in my current state than to be earning significantly more money as a Human Resources Director of an international public company – what I did before coming self-employed.

Yes, I know, this is so obvious. I’ve even said it to people. However, it hadn’t landed as it did this morning.

And why am I writing about this? For a variety of reasons …

To share that it’s not easy to go through the process of change, especially when you’re unsure that anything is actually taking place! And even though you want to grow.
Even though life may not be exactly in line with your dream life, you can still be happy and healthy.
Small foibles can have a big impact on your life. This was certainly true in this instance.
Credible people may put forward the idea that things might be moving under the surface. And it can make sense but it doesn’t make it any easier to live with it. I mean, how long is it going to take to come to a resolution?! My ability to be patient can wane quite quickly!
The work on a foible can be bubbling along under the surface for quite a while. Like me, you may feel ‘not right’, unsettled, occasionally emotionally shaky, but that COULD be for other reasons. To get to the other end, you have to live with the not-knowing.
Knowing your core values and living by them as much as it humanly possible does give you strength, resilience. I know living my values supported me through the relative difficult times of that under-the-surface work – helped me remain positive and hopeful.

I’m now experiencing the happy ending! The under-the-surface work has broken through and come to light – like a small boil bursting (sorry for those of you who are squeamish!) The dis-eased stuff has been released and it can now heal – that aspect of me can now heal.

I wish you the gift of a happy ending soon to any current shaky experience you may be having.

The Challenge of Choosing the Right Career

Steve Pavlina has written a great blog on the challenge of choosing the right career. You can read it at

Whatever career (or non-career) path you take and however ‘good’ or ‘bad’ you find it, it is possible to gain something positive out of it, if you choose to look at life in that way.

When I was a student I took a holiday job working in administration for a high street bank (the sort you and I go to). I quickly knew that this type of organisation would not suit me for a permanent career as it had so many rules and regulations, leaving little opportunity to use initiative. And the level of detail involved was incredible! None of my strengths that I like using were relevant at all.

There is solid evidence (linked to positive psychology) that when you can use your strengths in your work, it is better for all concerned.

So if you’re trying to work out what career to choose, one area I’d strongly recommend you consider looking at is where your strengths lie. When you know this you can then think what types of career might require you to use them.

Being Positive and its Impact on Success and Happiness

One of my values is around being positive. It’s great to read an article about leading people who are prepared to give examples of the power of being positive. Here is such an article on Times Online: