Everyone has them. These are the principles that guide our decisions and keep us focused (or not) on any particular project — either short term or long term.

Understanding what your personal values are is the first step to connecting them to your business values — putting them in alignment.

You would think you know yourself after all these years, but a lot of things get in the way.  For example, maybe you never took the time to write down your top five values.  Or maybe, you got caught up in what you think you should value or what other people scripted for you.

Either way, now’s the time to figure out your values.  if you know your values, then you know what you want, who you are, and where you stand.  You know your values when you have a list of about five to seven you can rattle off.

List Them

To find your values, start with a list.   This one will get you started:







Economic Security


Family Happiness




Inner Harmony





Personal Dev.








If that list doesn’t work for you, there’s plenty of lists on the Web.  Some are overwhelming and some have lists of values that are too fine-grained.  The key is to have a list of big values that really shape your life decisions as well as your day to day.  Think macro vs. micro.

Find Your Top Values

To find your top values, chunk down the list a little at a time. Make multiple passes:

  • Find your top 10.
  • Find your top 5.
  • Find your top 3.
  • Find your top value.

Remember that it’s not finding what you value. Chances are, you value a lot of the items on the list. It’s about finding what you value most. You need to know your top most values so when you have to prioritize or make compromises, you have something to guide you.  A simple way to think of it is that value are your gauges in life.

For example, my top five values are: Adventure, Community, Creativity, Integrity, and Personal Development.  I think.  It’s tough since freedom is important to me too, as is loyalty.  So is helpfulness.  I like to help.  Some values I can’t trade-off.  Luckily, I don’t need to, except in certain scenarios and decisions.

Be Willing to Be Surprised

I was surprised the first time I explored my values.  I didn’t realize how important adventure is to me.  It was like my life flashed before my eyes: “Go west young lady,” “lead an epic adventure,” cross-country road-trips in my car, exploring new territory, back packing across Europe, and so on.

I’ve always been willing to jump into something new and unknown. The adrenaline rush is the same whether I’m at my computer or behind the wheel of my car. A lot of my personal metaphors are about adventure.

Testing Your Values

Just having your list of values from the top of your mind, might not be enough.  To get more clarity, you can test your values:

  • Is it truly YOUR value?  (i.e. is it internally motivated or is it external … a “should”)
  • Is it a means or an end?  If one value exists simply to accomplish another, then look to the value you want to accomplish.  If you want economic security because you think it leads to freedom, then freedom is the one you value most.  This is important because there’s multiple ways to accomplish a goal and flexibility is key.  Know what you want, but be flexible in your approach.
  • Do your actions show your values?  Actions speak louder than words.
  • When were you happiest or most excited?  What was your proudest moment?  These highlights are a potential showcase of your values.
  • What do you regret the most?  Again, this is a way to figure out what’s most important to you.

It’s an Ongoing Exercise

Finding and living your values is an ongoing exercise.  Life-changing events can shift our values. (think Scrooge.)  So don’t think that just because you’ve done this exercise once, you’re done.

You’re just done for now. 🙂

Share your top 5 values with us in a comment below.