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Do you know your personal Values?

What are YOUR Values? A how to guide to finding out what they are and why they are invaluable.

Why you should know, and how they can help you!


If you read as many personal development books as I do you will come across people talking about values, or core values.  In business nowadays it’s rare for a company to not have a list of company values listed somewhere on their website. Here at EKM, where I work as a test analyst in the engineering department, we have a set of company values which are, quite rightly, talked about on a daily basis.


Core Values are commonly defined as:


Fundamental beliefs (of a Person or Organisation) that help us articulate what we stand for and guide us in making the right decisions.

The cynics of this world might look at a list of company values and think it was just a list of nice sounding phrases that give the customer some sort of reassurance that the company is there to do them some good but as explained above, they are actually intended to be the company’s moral compass and the foundation for their business decisions and behaviours. As I said, at EKM we refer to our core values on a daily basis to make sure the actions we take as a company and as individuals, are in keeping with these values.  For companies, values are usually decided on early on in the formation of the organisation and they start out as aspirations, but when you talk about individuals having values it works a little bit differently.  Very few of us sit down and decide to pick a set of rules or beliefs for ourselves and then start out trying to live to those rules. Rather we all have values and beliefs that we live with, which have come from our experiences of the world up to that point. They stem from our up bringing, our past relationships, our circumstances, our education.


A note of caution, you may discover during this process, that you have been holding on to values which have been given to you along the way in life, which aren’t really yours and which don’t serve you. Now is a good time to get them weeded out!


I find that very few people, when asked “Tell me what your personal values are?” could name them off the top of their heads in the way, say, an EKM employee could name our company values. Why is this? Well in my experience is that we’ve never asked ourselves the question and we’ve never explored this and I can tell you that taking the time to do this could change your life drastically.


Have you ever been in a job or in a situation where you’ve been asked to do something, seemingly normal, that you’ve felt really uncomfortable doing but not really known why? You were probably having to act in some way which was contrary to your own personal values/beliefs.


I once, briefly, worked for a company who preached that they believed in quality but they actually actively trained staff to ignore quality if a large quantity sale order came in. They weren’t doing anything illegal but I just found the job very difficult despite decent pay, nice colleagues, company perks. At the time I didn’t understand why I didn’t want to go in to work. I felt guilty for feeling unhappy and looking back it’s because subconsciously I knew I was acting against my own personal values, knowing what I was doing was not always in the best interests of all involved. I left that job on a gut feeling and immediately felt better. I never bothered to analyse why at the time.


On the flip side, have there been times in your life where everything just seemed to be going great. You really had a sense of flow. I can bet you any money that if you looked at what you were doing in your work and personal life were things that were totally in tune with your personal values but you didn’t even know it.


What ARE your personal values?


Here is a coaching exercise I often use which can help you identify what your core values are.


  1. Circle, highlight or mark off 10 words from the list of common values.

Go with your gut feelings as to which words you choose. Be careful not to pick words just because you think you SHOULD. There is no right and wrong and this list only belongs to you. What you want to do is identify words which have some sort of meaning to you. Don’t take too long over this ideally. If you end up with way too many, try to bunch words that mean pretty much the same thing together and pick one word which might sum these things up.

  1. Print out or draw out a grid like the one in the example below (Find your Values Exercise). In this grid you will list your 10 words across the top and then down the side of the grid (in the same order so that A is the same as A etc).

Next, you are going to go along all the white/blank squares in the grid (the coloured ones are blocked out to avoid you duplicating answers).


Compare the 2 values which meet in each blank square intersection and ask yourself


“Would I prefer a world with A and no B, or B and no A?”


For example…  Would I prefer a world with Creativity but no Honesty, or Honesty with no Creativity?


These should be tough choices, and after all we don’t live in a world where things are this black and white, but I want you to go with your gut feeling and put the Letter of that value in the box (i.e A) and then give that answer a score from 0-2 depending on how strongly you felt about that value over the one you compared it to (0 being no real preference, 1 being a partial preference and 2 being a stronger preference). You’d end up with A0 or A1 or A2 as your answer.


So if I really really strongly felt that I couldn’t live without Creativity I’d pick A and give it a score of 2. If I was having trouble deciding I’d pick my gut reaction and give it a score of 0 because it was pretty even.


Once you have filled in your grid, and you’ve asked yourself a lot of questions you should be able to look through your grid and count up how many A’s won, how many B’s, how many C’s  and how many points they scored and list them in the score box where you can then rank them in order of importance.


You will now have 10 of your most highly held values and in order of importance.


Here is my list of Values.

Everyone’s will be different and there are no right and wrong answers, and in fact even if we did have the same words, they would all mean different things to different people.


Self Esteem










Now what?


Now it’s time to make those values work for you!


Write them down somewhere where you can refer to them


When you have a big decision to make in life, look at your list and think,


“Does X choice fit in with my personal values?”


You are much more likely to like the outcome of something that fits in with your values.


Now the next point has been a real game changer for me!


You can use your values to help you achieve the things that you may have been struggling with.

I HATED going to the gym but I had been stuck in a rut.  I knew I needed to go to the gym but I couldn’t bring myself to go. I hated it. It left me feeling discouraged when I was surrounded by much fitter younger people, and I just found it to be such a chore. So, I employed some help from my values list and here’s how.


I looked at my top rated value and there it was JOY! I hated the gym but if I could find a way to make it more joyful I might just want to go more. So i looked at what brought me most joy in life and I love great music. So I needed something with great music. Then I looked at my other top rated values. I had Self Esteem in there and I realised that if I could find a class that wasn’t too off putting then I could definitely boost my self esteem. Next on the list was Flexibility. So I also needed something that ran regularly enough for me to go when it suited me and not something that ran once a week on a monday at 6pm only, as the chances were i’d miss it and feel defeated at the start and stop going. And so on.. So I looked up classes that sounded fairly manageable for someone of my fitness level, which ran regularly (ideally everyday) and that incorporated great music and soon found Spinning classes round the corner from my house. They were perfect! They ticked so many boxes for me from my values list and I soon found that going to these classes was no longer a chore but something I actively looked forward to and which I felt Enthusiastic about.


The more of your values you can link an activity with, the stronger the attraction to that goal.


You can do it with anything. Now whenever I have a chore on my task list that I don’t want to do, I look at my values list and think how I can make it more enjoyable by linking it to some of my values. It really works!


So, what are you going to achieve with your new found values. I’d love it if you’d let me know!


Click the link below to download the exercise sheets which accompany this blog post.

Find your Values Exercise

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