core values

This week, a new business contact found me through LinkedIn. She said my personality shines through my online content and she wanted to meet me. I was flattered and happy to hear that my tone and style present a consistent and pleasant persona across years of sporadic activity and purpose.

One artifact of my online presence across which she stumbled was a tool I built that helps one determine what one’s core values are.

I don’t know if you know me, but I’m the kind of person who, when faced with the question of whether the glass is half full or half empty, looks at the meniscus to see if one half dominates, which is to say, I have my analytical moments.

So when I was having a conversation a few years ago about values, about how a person will find natural passion, energy, and creativity for his work if it aligns with his core values, I approached the discussion quantitatively. There was a list of 63 values. The question was posed, what are your top values? Most folks in my mentoring ring just picked their top 5 values subjectively and were satisfied to move on to the question of whether their actions were aligned with those values. Not me. I don’t trust subjectivity without validation.

When in doubt, build a spreadsheet.

For the sake of convenience, I added a 64th value to the list. Then I went through iterative pairwise comparison, randomly pairing different values and forcing myself to choose the value that was most important to me. The easiest way to do this was usually to assume that whichever value I didn’t choose would cease to exist in the universe. Which value could I most live without? After a couple dozen iterations, top and bottom values began to emerge as consistent winners and losers.

Satisfied that I had a workable idea of my top values, I returned to the mentoring ring, surprised to find that I was the only person in the group who took this approach. I really did think there’d be a least a couple of us. Well, while nobody else made a spreadsheet, several people were fascinated that I had, and a couple were interested in using the tool on their own.

Since then, many of my mentees have found it useful as a career coaching and personal branding tool, and I recommend it to you. If you use it, remember that there is a cycle between qualitative and quantitative thinking. Before you start ranking values, subjectively pick your top and bottom 5 from the list below. Then, go through a couple iteration sessions with the tool, and see how closely you knew yourself.

After you have an objective point of view, rinse and repeat. Subjectively ask yourself if you agree and what you think that should mean in your life, your choices, and your actions.

Thinking back on the woman that found me online, I wonder if she perceived my values or her own as she decided she liked what she saw.

Do you give any thought to your values and how they relate to your actions? Or, is it just me?

What do you value most?

Justice
Security
Strength
Time
Independence
Advancement
Productivity
Solitude
Equality
Communication
Accuracy
Family
Teamwork
Structure
Relationship
Humility
Growth
Honesty
Innovation
Mastery
Clarity
Autonomy
Diversity
Humor
Creativity
Belonging
Risk
Wisdom
Commitment
Beauty
Service
Challenge
Prestige
Winning
Spirituality
Health
Knowledge
Adventure
Vitality
Helping Others
Uniqueness
Duty
Respect
Freedom
Integrity
Leisure
Effectiveness
Wealth
Religion
Balance
Excellence
Competition
Excitement
Cooperation
Self-Realization
Critical
Equity
Love
Fun
Achievement
Curiosity
Power
Tranquility
Quality

(Please feel free to edit the list of values in the Personal Values Tool to better suit your needs.)

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