How to Identify Your Values

How to Identify Your Values

How to Identify Your Values



Knowing what your values are can serve as a compass for navigating a fast and quickly changing world. Robert Greene, a playwright who lived from 1558 to 1592, urged us to “Create a ladder of values and priorities in your life, reminding yourself of what really matters to you”. One of my colleagues recently suggested that it is important to review our values periodically.

And yet it can seem a bit daunting to identify our values. One of the hard parts is narrowing down the list to approximately five core values. One way is to review a list of values. The list I have includes close to 200 words. You can get crossed eye just looking at the list. And yet the list is long because there are so many distinctions between values. You might want to select the word “Humor,” or it may be that the word “Irreverent” provides more context to you about that value.

In this process, you would start by selecting 20 words that resonate with you and then you begin to trim them down to 10 words and then 5 words. You may find as you look at your list that some of the words are similar but one of the words stands out for you or combines the idea of a couple of the words you chose.

Another way to discern what your values are is to reflect on different experiences in your life and identify what values underpin that experience.

  1. Think about a meaningful time or moment in your life. What value was honored? When I graduated from college at 42 years old after 6 years of part-time study, my values of perseverance and learning were honored.
  2. Consider a time when you got angry, frustrated, or upset. What value was being suppressed? If you get frustrated by redundant paperwork, your value of efficiency may be showing up.
  3. What is important to you to have a satisfying life? When do you feel fulfilled? Reflecting on these questions can help you identify values that are important to you such as fun, family or spirituality.

In addition to knowing your values so that you can make good decisions for yourself, a conflict between your values and your organization’s values can be a source of strain and stress.

In How to Tell If a Prospective Employer Shares Your Values by Kristi Hedges in Harvard Business Review, October 12, 2020, the author writes “When my leadership coaching clients come to me feeling deeply unsettled with a situation at work, more often that not, there is a serious mismatch between what the company is asking and who the employee believes themselves to be.”

How many of us know someone who left an organization because of a lack of alignment between the person and their manager or a senior leader?

I hope this article has inspired you to take some time to reflect on your values. If you would like a worksheet to help you with the process, email me at and the subject line Values and I will send you the file. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Welcome to the Listening to the Leader in You Blog

Super-leaders arm themselves with insight. This blog is where you’ll find concepts, ideas, resources and more for honing your full set of leadership capabilities. 
Lynn Schaber, MCC
For the past 20 years, I’ve been privileged to partner with individuals intent on cracking the code to leadership beyond the ordinary.