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Identifying Your Top Values (And Knowing What To Do With Them)

By Ford R. Myers
President, Career Potential, LLC

At the beginning of every career coaching engagement, I have clients do a “Values Clarification Exercise.” I always tell them that this may be the most important and powerful exercise we will do in the entire program.

EVERYTHING is rooted in your core values – everything you do, say, wear, eat. Every decision you make, every relationship you choose, every job you take – how you plan and prioritize, how you treat people, what you studied in school.

I believe that knowing your top values is like having a roadmap or blueprint for your life! Not knowing your values is like “flying blind.” When you finally do identify what your top values are, it’s like someone suddenly switched on the lights after living in the dark for years!

So many things get easier once you know your top values, including decision-making, planning, prioritizing, scheduling and more. Even conflict and confusion tend to diminish when you know “what you’re all about” and “why you do what you do.” Being clear on your core values provides a sort of “inner compass,” which keeps you focused on what matters to you most – with a real sense of purpose or “mission.”

You can determine your own top values by doing the exercise below.

Rank the following values on a scale of 1 through 10, with 1 representing “Not important at all” and 10 representing “Very important.” The context of these questions is “your whole life” (personal, family, professional, community), and not just your work or career. Circle the appropriate numbers below:

Control People/Projects12345678910
Life Balance12345678910
Challenge/Overcome Obstacles12345678910
Technical Competency12345678910
Contentment/Peace of Mind12345678910
Spirituality/Higher Power12345678910

Once my clients have finished this exercise, we discuss all the values above that had a score of 8 or higher – because these are the ones that really “drive the engine” in their lives. Next, we “force-rank” the top five values, in order of importance. Some clients struggle a bit with this part of the exercise, but once they record their top five values, they always acknowledge how powerful the exercise is and how empowered they feel.

The next phase of the exercise is to make “Values Cards.” This simply entails typing-up and printing-out their top five values in priority order, and then laminating the list at the size of a credit card or business card. In fact, I have my clients create eight to ten of these small, laminated “Values Cards!”

You might be asking, “What do we do with these cards, and what are they for?” I have my clients post these cards “everywhere their eyes usually go.” (Wallet, leather portfolio, breast pocket or purse, car visor, edge of the computer screen, refrigerator door, bathroom mirror, and so on!) So, it’s a sure bet that my clients will be seeing their “Values Cards” multiple times a day, every day.

Seeing these “Values Cards” on a regular basis, however, is not enough. This is because the cards tend to “fade into the background like wallpaper” as we become accustomed to seeing them. To prevent this from happening and to gain the full impact of their “Values Cards,” I instruct my clients to stop and ask themselves the following questions each time they encounter one of their “Values Cards:”

  • Am I living today in alignment with my values?
  • Are my career decisions in alignment with my values?
  • Am I making plans and prioritizing in alignment with my values?
  • Am I treating people in a way that aligns with my values?

And, most importantly:

  • Am I treating myself in a way that is in alignment with my values?

Of course, it takes real discipline to keep paying close attention to the content of these “Values Cards.” But when my clients are successful in forging this habit, and when they consistently ponder the five questions above, they are able to make the necessary adjustments in their thinking, attitude and behavior. Sometimes even minor shifts back toward their core values  can make a big difference. Best of all, clients report dramatic improvements in nearly every facet of their lives when they stay focused on their core values. With new levels of clarity and purpose, my clients also go on to generate exceptional outcomes in their job searches and career management efforts.

Here is an actual quotation from one of my clients, on the subject of her core values:

“I have ordered my life according to the values card I created as part of my career coaching program. By doing this, I am not compromising myself in any way. I am fulfilling each one of these values in how I have developed and adapted to my new life!”

If you follow the steps outlined above in this “Values Clarification Exercise,” your quality of life could dramatically improve too, and you may produce the same sorts of extraordinary results. That’s the power of knowing your core values and living your life in alignment with them!

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach, speaker and author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles have appeared in thousands of publications and web sites, and he has been interviewed on every major television and radio network. Ford has also conducted presentations at hundreds of companies, associations and universities. Learn more at


FORD R. MYERS is an award-winning, nationally-known Career Coach, best-selling author and speaker. He is the President of Career Potential, LLC, a premier provider of career success services. Through powerful individual, corporate and government career programs, Ford has helped thousands of clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve!

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