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Clarifying your values

Values and their importance clearly emerge when you have an important and/or difficult decision to make.

In the previous step on writing what you want people to say about you at your retirement, you’d naturally have included some of the things that are important to you in life. There’s a good chance the exercise would’ve revealed at least some of your personal values. This is one of a number of exercises that asks you to go inward and discover your deeper internal drivers, your motivations and values.

Another way to get more clarity on your values is to look at a list of the more commonly occurring personal values, and choose those that most resonate with you.

Advantages and disadvantages

The advantage of this method of picking from a list of values is that it’s quick and easy. The disadvantage of this method is that because the values are already presented to you, you don’t have to look into the mirror of your life, to find the values within – you can merely look outwardly at the list below and pick whatever you want.

There’s a chance that you do this ‘picking from a menu’ exercise without thinking too much, picking what you think would be nice values to ideally have, like picking a nice shirt displayed in a shop window. Many companies and organisations have a nicely framed poster displaying the ‘company values’, strategically displayed in the reception and on the website. Often these values only exist on that piece of paper, but are not alive with the fabric of the company’s culture and its people.

Successfully navigating the exercise of picking values from a menu would require you to internalise each value, checking its deeper resonance within your being. It asks you to go into the shop and take time to try on each shirt, checking not only what it looks like in the mirror, but what it feels like on you, how good a fit it really is.


The value of having a good idea of your values really emerges when you have difficult decisions to make, or when there’s a level of inner discomfort you’re experiencing around a certain situation. In a difficult situation, for example whether to leave your job for another offer, to buy a new watch or car, or considering how to deal with an athlete or employee who has acted against the company rules or agreed plans, being clear on your values gives you the best chance of making the most informed and thus best decision.

If you’re not clear on the reasons why you made the decision, or on the values that underpinned it, the more chance there is of you doubting yourself, and of others convincing you to change your view to suit their values.

A list of common values

Below is a list of some of the common values that people report as being important in how they live their lives. The list is certainly not complete, but it provides a start. When you choose particular values from the list, what’s important is that they’re alive within you, and that they manifest in the way you live your life: in your thoughts, decisions, words and behaviour.

Resourcefulness Reliability Sustainability
Humour Dependability Nurturing
Adventure Respect Humility
Fun Risk-taking Self-discipline
Integrity Quality Transformation
Compassion Authenticity Excellence
Courage Resilience Being liked
Honesty Remarkable Self-expression
Efficiency Self-sacrifice Caring
Responsibility Satisfaction Community
Teamwork Optimism Customer service
Friendship Consistent Open-mindedness
Obedience Passion Inspiring
Security Loyal Innovation
Belonging Tradition Positivity
Profit Commitment Learning
Peace Serve others Independence
Work-life balance Personal growth Ambition
Flexibility Purpose Common sense

Your task

Identify the five values that most resonate with you or that best describe your above-the-line values as a leader.

Prioritise them to determine which one you’re least likely to compromise on regardless of the situation.

Discuss, in as much or as little detail as is comfortable for you, the value that’s most important to you and explain, through providing an example of this value in action, its impact on your coaching/leadership

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