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[Short] Loyalty is not a value

When I’m doing core values work with new clients, quite often the term “Loyalty” comes up. A lot of people think of loyalty as a value.

When I use the words “core values” or “values”, I don’t actually mean “things that you find valuable”.

Core Values are a set of principles that you live by. These are internal – they require nothing from the outside world or other people. You can live by these principles in any situation and at any time. They are based entirely on your behaviour and your intentions.

Some examples are honesty, curiosity, courage and responsibility.

So “valued behaviour” is any action that aligns with your core values. It is behaviour that you will be proud of later, even if it means feeling discomfort while doing it.

Anything that does not meet these criteria are not Core Values by my definition.

Now, here’s a problem with this word “loyalty”. By definition, loyalty means sticking with something (or someone) that your past self thought was a good idea. And I think you can hear in that definition the potential dangers there.

Loyalty is the obligation to commit to a previous decision despite new information arising that questions the sensibility of that decision.

Sticking with something blindly just because you previously committed to it is not valued behaviour.

In fact, I often see loyalty cause people to breach their core values, like fighting in a war you know is wrong simply because you’re patriotic, or more commonly, sticking with a job you hate because you feel loyal to “the company”… which means you’re loyal to an piece of paper that has never cared about you.

What I’d suggest instead is the term “Tenacity”, which means to stick with something that is still a good idea even when times are tough. It’s about commitment to something that currently aligns with your values, like a healthy relationship, or a long-term fitness goal, or a creative venture that brings meaning into your life.

Tenacity is not the same as sticking with something that’s gone bad or something that you were wrong about in the first place.


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