Posted by: retreat2muskoka | December 9, 2007

Clarifying Your Values

(Originally in my newsletter at

Core values are those you cherish the most – the ones you absolutely cannot compromise, the things you would insist on whenever given the choice.

Choosing values is usually the easy part. The tough part comes in deciding which values we will give up or trade off when we face inevitable contradictions. This trade off becomes even more complex in the context of relationships – personal or business.

What do you do if your values are not in alignment? The first step is to become clear on your own values. Articulating your values helps you become clearer on who you are. Being what others expect you to be even with high recognition and material rewards will probably bring little meaning to your life. Work to ensure that your actions are consistent with what you really want in terms of values and not with what you can easily deceive yourself into thinking you want.

Mining for Values

The most effective way to clarify values is to extract them from your life experience. 

  •   Think of a time when life was especially rewarding or poignant, when time seemed to stand still. What were the values being honoured in that moment? Keep trying to get at the “root” value by asking what might be underneath the value first thought of.
  •  Go to the opposite extreme, and think of a time when you were especially angry, frustrated or upset. What values were being stepped on or suppressed?
  • What is so handled for you or so much a part of you that you don’t even think about it? The following list is representative of words or phrases that illustrate personal values.  

 Selecting Your Top Five Values:

If you have chosen more than five, write each of these values on a card or Post-It. Lay them out in front of you.

  • Select your bottom 5 values (those you would be most willing to give up) and eliminate them. Think about your reasons for doing so. Was it “you” who dropped them or was it the voice of your parents, boss, peers or organization? If necessary, change what you dropped to make certain they reflect only you.
  •  Keep dropping values by two at a time until you get down to the 5 you would be least willing to give up.
  • Rank order them by asking yourself to choose between sets of two. For example, if I had to choose between the values of Wealth and Wisdom, for example, which would I choose not to give up? Let’s say it’s Wisdom. Next, compare Wisdom with another of your top 5. Now which one would you not give up? Once you’ve selected your top value, the one you would hold on to until the end, do the same ranking exercise with the remaining 4.

How Well are you Living Your Values?
On a scale of 1-10 reflect on the following:

  • What compels you to choose less?
  • How well is your current environment delivering on the things you value? 
  • What would move the measure up?

On behalf of Jenn and I, have a great week,

Sharon A. Miller, B.Comm, CPCC, PCC


(416) 484-8018 “Helping High Achievers Have More Impact With Less Struggle” 

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