I have been reading Pamela Slim’s Body of Work, which helps you “find the connections among [your] diverse accomplishments” and “sell your story.” One of the many ways the book does this is by encouraging you to get clear on your values. I’ve attempted many values exercises over the years, but I was never quite able to get to a meaningful list of guiding principles or values. This time I was determined.
I read Pam’s instructions, “Brainstorm a list of values. Review the list, choose your top five values, and create a definition for each.” Seemed simple enough but I’d gotten stuck before trying to pull values concepts from thin air. This time, I turned to the Internet and found Steve Pavlina’s list of values. Steve’s list is great—alphabetized, extensive, and it came with the guidance to note “values that just jump out and call to you” as well as linked to additional info about his approach to values setting.
Using Steve’s list, I started by writing down every value that spoke to me and then I rated them as those of 1) utmost importance, 2) strong importance, or 3) importance. Next I grouped similar ideas together. For example, values like belonging, connection, affection, and acknowledgment all joined to become my #1 life value, “Belonging/Connection.”
Mentioning my #1 life value reminds me to tell you that I made two values lists, one for life and another for work/career because what we want personally doesn’t always match our professional goals. After combining similar concepts, I ranked them and finalized a list of 5 each for personal and professional values.
Pretty straightforward, right? It turns out that my two lists are similar but I felt both were needed to encompass things that I need purely for personal happiness (such as belonging/connection) versus what I need professionally (intellectual stimulation).
Here to recap are the step-by-step actions I took to create my values lists, in case you’d like to make your own:
- Brainstorm values, or reference a list, to identify what resonates most with you.
- Assign some measure of relative importance to your identified values such as 1) utmost importance, 2) strong importance, or 3) importance, for example. You could have severals 1s, 2s, and 3s at this stage.
- Combine similar values together and choose the descriptor that most strongly represents your intentions.
- Define your top 5-10 values to clarify your thinking about what each means to you.
- And finally, rank your list in order of its importance to you. At this stage, I find it helpful to think about what you would choose to live without if you had to choose between two values. For example, if you had to choose between financial stability and health, which would you yield?
I hope this explanation and the linked resources prove helpful as you identify your own personal and professional values. Any questions? Let me know in the comments.