As coaches we tend to talk a lot about values. We encourage our clients to explore their values. To identify ways they can set goals in line with these values. To live a life in service of our chosen values.
And rightly so. Tonnes of research (e.g. Cohen & Sherman, 2014, Cresswell et al., 2005, Nelson et al., 2014, to mention a limited few!) shows that considering and choosing our values does us wonders. Individuals who use their values when living cope better with stress, have improved motivation and performance and overall report greater wellbeing.
However there’s a catch. Identifying and choosing our values can be tricky. Ask yourself ‘what are my values?’ and unless you have thought about this before you might find yourself stuck for an answer.
This post helps with that. It gives you practical ideas on how you can work with values (either your own or when supporting your clients).
- Call values something else. A good starting point in exploring values is to change the word values. Instead of What are my values? ask What is important to me? What are some qualities that I feel I hold? What words would I want my friends to use when talking about me? What matters to me? By changing your language you’ll notice that you’ll broaden the discussion, allowing you to create more ideas and gain insight.
- Who are your role models? Think about people or even organisations that you admire. What is it about them that you value? And what does that say about you? You might think of a colleague, a friend or a family member. You could also include people you admire. Focus actively on why you admire them. What values do these people embody?
- Consider your own experiences and previous decisions. Think about some moments in your life that felt important to you. What do these experience reveal about what’s important to you? What decisions did you make that got you there? What did others say to you during those times?
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- Don’t be scared of grouping your values. You might find that you come up with a list of different words that represent your values. It can be overwhelming if you end up with 20 or more of these! However. don’t be afraid of chunking them down into related groups and identify if there are any central themes. There usually is.
- Make choices but remember that you can change your mind. Although typically we hold on to our chosen values for a long time remember that you can change your mind. We are humans. Our values will change with our life experiences, people we meet, the stage of life we’re in. So remember to make a choice but hold that loosely.
- Use online tools. There are a number of tools such as the VIA Character Strengths questionnaire (designed by positive psychologists Seligman and Petersen) that can help you identify what values you might hold. However, word of caution! Don’t do this first. Take some time to explore what you think rather than jumping into the results of a questionnaire. This way your chosen values will be more meaningful – chosen by you! Use these questionnaires as an aid rather than a solution.
On a final note remember that you don’t have to do this process perfectly! Far from it. It takes time to truly explore your values so enjoy the process of getting there.