Identifying Your Personal Values

I remember working for a CEO that once surprised me with a deck of about 50 cards. Each card had one word printed on it. He then told me to select three cards and those would be my values. He gave me five minutes to complete the exercise. When the timed alarm sounded, I "had" my values. He was satisfied. I was not. Why?

I see values proudly placed on the walls and websites of organizations and churches all the time, but often see contrasting behaviors from the employees and their leaders. I was not confident how to identify personal values. Was it using a deck of cards? Maybe. Was it using a list of words and grouping them? Maybe. Was it utilizing an online assessment? Perhaps. Are there other options? I think so.

How you are wired influences how you learn and that includes identifying and understanding your values. We often impose our personal and institutional learning styles on other leaders and then get frustrated when they don't accelerate at the speed we think is acceptable. 

You must understand that I am a "why" guy. It is extremely difficult for me to move forward without this one critical element. Once I understand the why, I can commit and execute like crazy. Regardless, I had to get started.

Where to begin? For me:

  1. I need a working definition for values.
  2. I need to know the role values play in the mission of my life.
  3. I need some helpful tips on identifying my personal values.
  4. I need to create a visual tool since images are the language of the 21st century.
  5. I need to know next steps.
  6. I need consistent practice using them in real-life moments to see and feel how they work.
  7. I need to see how other leaders and/or organizations are doing this well.

I spent a lot of time focused on the above questions until I identified my values. With some sketch help from my friend, I landed here:

How can you get started?

Kevin Daum provides one example in his article, Define Your Personal Core Values:

Step 1--Think through and describe the following in detail:

  1. What have been your three greatest accomplishments?
  2. What have been your three greatest moments of efficiency?
  3. What are any common rules or themes that you can identify?

Step 2--Think through and describe the following in detail:

  1. What have been your three greatest failures?
  2. What have been your three greatest moments of inefficiency?
  3. What are any common rules or themes that you can identify?

Step 3--Identify three or four brief sentences of advice you would give to yourself based upon these commonalities.

Step 4--Next try and reduce them to a few words.

It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.
— Roy E. Disney