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A value is defined as ‘The moral principle or accepted standard of a person or group.’ The definition of a moral is ‘The distinction between good and bad or right and wrong behaviour.’

Values are who we are. Not who we would like to be. Not who we think we should be. Who I am in my life, who we are in our lives, right now. Another way to put it is that values represent our unique and individual essence, our ultimate and most fulfilling form of expressing and relating. Our values serve as a compass pointing out what it means to be true to oneself. When we honour our values on a regular and consistent basis life is good, life is fulfilling.


Our mind-set comprises of internal filters, our upbringing, the environment we are in and significant emotional events, and all this happened so long ago it becomes forgotten and hidden.

Having a mind-set doesn’t allow for change or an expansion or challenging of our values and beliefs. How can we or our clients expect more from our lives if we keep doing what we have always thought, particularly when so much of our indoctrination has been passed down through generations and may no longer serve us or valuable for the time period in which we now live?

Values are what matter to us; what’s important, what we focus on, they make us take action (or not take action) – they are part of our motivation. Values drive an individual’s choices and decisions. They attract or repulse us to an activity or goal and determine the actions we will take.

Take a look at how you spend your time that will give you a good starting point to identifying your core values.

Values may be instilled through pain and pleasure throughout our formative years’ initially through our parents and our carers, and later by our peers, friends, teachers and educators, religion, culture, employers, partners and society. They shape your life based on what you want most, and what you fear most, values often pull us in different directions. You’ll hear it in the client’s language in the form of “part of me wants………….., whereas the part of me wants “………….

Our values (though they can and do change) are programmed early, and rarely are a grand design, so if we don’t know what they are, when goal setting they can ‘pull us apart’ and cause us to procrastinate, verbally beat ourselves up or set goals that aren’t good for us or our well-being.

Values may also come about because of unconscious decisions we make at different ages based on experiences and what we are rewarded or punished for, as well as significant emotional events, at all stages of our lives. (just think about having a child affects what matters to people!).

We are going to identify and recognise Values by way of single abstract word or label we give to emotional states or feelings.

Move toward value examples are: integrity, freedom, security, adventure, love, fun, respect, trust, enjoyment.

What others can you think of?

Move away examples are: boredom, rejection, sadness, depression, frustration, anger.

What others can you think of?

Each of us has a different hierarchy of values and as such our values determine how we choose to spend our time. For example, if adventure is our driver we may find ourselves taking risks that others would find scary or unnecessary, whereas if security is more important to us, we will spend our time and energy on ensuring the goal we set make us feel safe and secure, risk may not be part of our strategy or goal plan.

Can you imagine how different two individuals live would be if one was driven by adventure and the other was driven by security? Can you see how their choice, goals, actions may be very different? And as such, they will achieve different outcomes?

If you know your number one value, you can generally predict the overall basic direction of your life.

It’s important to remember that two people can share the same values (i.e., security) but have different meanings for it. That is why we are calling them abstract labels,

So never assume you know what someone means when they share their values with you.

Values are intangible. They are not something we do or have. Money, for example, is not a value, although the things you might do with money could be considered values: fun, creativity, peace of mind, service to others, freedom. Travel is not a value. Gardening is not a value. But both are examples of cherished activities that honour certain values, such as adventure, learning, nature, spirituality.

And yet, though values are intangible, they are not invisible to others. You can walk into a room full of strangers and get a sense of what people value by what they wear, how they stand in the room, how they interact with others, and with whom they interact. You know something about their values just by their presence the room. You can sense the values in the room: power, friendship, intimacy, connection, fun and more.

The most effective way to clarify values is to extract them from a clients life experience. Asking clients to describe the values they see in their own life, perhaps clustered together, using their own words. This way the values rise naturally out of the life context.

Values are extracted from the client’s life, rather than selected off a checklist. When clients are presented with a list, it’s often tempting to go shopping for values: This would be nice to have……… this would be well admired.” Because people have a tendency to judge their values, they tend to list values they think they should have, like spirituality or integrity, and exclude values that society says are not so admirable, like personal power and recognition.

As a coach it is my responsibility to keep out of my head and my definitions and ask the client what the words mean to them.

Whatever the driving value is, we will spend time and effort on ensuring it is met; it will be reflected in our focus and the actions we are willing to take. But remember until you know what your values really are, all of this happens unconsciously.

In coaching it’s important to recognise my client’s values as it will be helpful when I may need to challenge them if they aren’t taking action on their goals. Ideally, we want to help our client set goals in alignment with their positive vales (and beliefs). However, many of us have move towards and move away from values around the same goal, and according to Tony Robbins, there may be more of us driven by away from values (avoid pain) than move towards.

A question to recognise or elicit a client’s move towards value is: What’s most important to you about …………..? (the goal)

A question to recognise or elicit a client’s move away from value is: What state would you do almost anything to avoid experiencing/happening? *

*Remember the single abstract words listed previously and the ones you added to the list.

So, who makes those distinctions? You do. We do.

The values that you hold are good, they tell you about who you are and what is important to you. Not all values are good. You may find a family member, friend or colleague whose values are totally opposed to yours. If you cannot reconcile to that or remain detached, then it may be difficult to be friendly and friends with them. It is important to be true to your own values and maintain your integrity (which, of course, is a value). When you have an upset/disagreement, it is usually because one of your top values is being violated.

It is clear that, if the goals you set for yourself do not mirror your values, then they will never be successfully achieved.

Values are our self-expression of who we are. Someone may have creativity as a value that needs honoring; others may have integrity and honesty, harmony or independence.

The list is unique and belongs to you. Take some time to think about the values that you hold dear. What are the values that you must honour in your life? Which are the most important?

List your top 10 values in priority order. You may group values that are linked together if they help describe your value more clearly, e.g., freedom/ independence:












Now give each of the values a score for 1-10, indicating the extent to which you are honoring these values in your life now.

Look at the ones that are scoring less than a 7 as these could be areas where you need some coaching help to get back on track.

If you could only have one value for the rest of your life which would you pick?

When you match up the things that you value in life with the goals that you set for yourself, you will be motivated to act. Your values and beliefs give you a sense of who you are and what you aspire to. Great coaches have the privilege of making a real difference in the lives of their clients by guiding them to recognise what is important and helping them realise their inner strengths. Coaches help their clients to identify what is preventing them from achieving the life they desire and offers the necessary tools to make lasting changes.

Important Decision

When a client is considering an important life decision, we need to ask how this course of action will honour their top ten values and to what extent.

Making decisions based on the client’s top values will always, repeat always, lead to a more fulfilling decision. It may not be the easiest, or the most enjoyable, or the most fun. It may require sacrifice and even have painful consequences. But on balance, over time, it will be the most fulfilling because it represents who the client is.

Again and again, we have seen clients make decisions based on their bank balance, or their fear of creating discomfort, or their worry about others displeasure. They make decisions based on what is easiest at the moment or decisions that minimize the size of the waves.

Such decisions never work out for their fulfillment because they have sold out on themselves and their values.