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How to Create a Life that Reflects Your Values

October 06, 2022 by Amanda Reill

It Starts with Understanding Personal Core Values

When hiring a coach, clients are often seeking direction. They want to head somewhere but are potentially overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities, or perhaps they don’t know where to begin at all. They may be facing self-doubt, imposter syndrome, or a feeling of ambivalence. How do you help someone clarify where they want to go?

You start with their values.

Creating a Values Inventory

“Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.”  - The Dalai Lama

How to Create a Life that Reflects Your Values

A values inventory is appropriate at many different junctions of the coaching journey. It’s an excellent focus for any coaching session, but especially helpful early on in the coaching relationship. Your client may be:

  • Contemplating a career change
  • Struggling with time management
  • Choosing a romantic partner
  • Evaluating the health of primary relationships in their life
  • Stymied by decision-making
  • Faced with self-doubt

All of the above require some level of clarity on one’s direction to move forward.

Values are the tracks that keep our train running in the direction we want it to go. We may not even be able to see the final destination, but in a greater sense, we know where we’re going when we understand our values. More importantly, we know who we’re going to be and become along the way. 

Much of our confusion and circular thinking come from not having properly identified our primary values in life. These values could be things like:

  • Family
  • Faith
  • Integrity
  • Health and/or self-care
  • Financial stability and/or independence
  • Lifelong learning
  • Courage

When asked, some clients will be able to identify their top values right away. Others will request more time to think about it. Still others may stare blankly and not know where to begin. For some, this exercise may be a bit intimidating as it seems to require a “commitment,” which may be something they fear. You can reassure your client that their list of values is a work in progress. As your coaching relationship evolves, they will always have a chance to revise their list of values as new self-discoveries come to light.

How to Help a Client Determine Their Values

Your client’s initial response to the idea of a values inventory is a helpful indicator of what tool to implement. For some, the exercise is as simple as asking the question: “What are your top 3-5 values?” Even those who can immediately rattle off these values will still benefit from the exercise. They may know their values, but hadn’t discovered how they connected to the struggle they’re currently facing.

For those who need a little more guidance, there are numerous coaching tools to implement:

  1. Choose from a list. Consider having a list of values on hand for your client to look through for inspiration. Professor and bestselling author of Dare to Lead, Brene Brown, has a list of 100 values that you can easily print and keep with your other coaching materials.
  2. Explore core motivations. Have you done a core motivation and/or Enneagram assessment with your client? Core motivations can reveal our values. If your client identifies as a Type Seven, for instance, they may value adventure and freedom. A Type One may value an orderly life. 
  3. Examine conflict. Sometimes our values come from the most unexpected places: the things we hate the most. Ask your client what kinds of things really irk them. Often there is a violated core value underlying a pet peeve.

Aligning Your Life with Your Values

Explore whether the client’s investments in time, primary relationships, finance, and other resources match their proclaimed values. Allow powerful questions to drive the conversation, reminding your client to free themselves from judgment. Identify together what the positive intentions were behind how they had chosen to invest up to this point. Even “wasting” time on social media can be a cloak for the value of self-care and the need for personal whitespace. You can work with your client on finding other ways to express those values if they aren’t content with how they’re currently doing it.

Fleshing the values out and making them specific can make them even more meaningful. “Family” is a good value, but “Establishing a secure home for my kids” is more measurable. “Courage” is a good value, but “Being a calculated risk-taker” encompasses a more specific picture.

How Values Affect Your Life

Determining your values is an activity that can literally change the trajectory of your life. It can direct who you choose as primary relationships in your life, where you live, what career path you take, how much money you have, and the childhood your kids will experience.

Without clear values, you don’t have a barometer for decision-making. Therefore, you may tend to waffle or engage in circular, doubting thoughts because you’re always unsure of the best course of action. These values can become a litmus test for all important decisions to come.

Having established values enables you to erect healthy boundaries between yourself and others. If you know that your boundaries are not something you’re willing to compromise, it will be easier to determine whether a course of action in a relationship will be appropriate for you or not.

Our core values guide the goals we’re setting and the life we want. Without them, our lives will look less like a train making progress and a lot more like a floating balloon that isn’t sure where it’s going. Floating isn’t always a bad thing, but your client likely came to you because they’re hoping to get somewhere a bit quicker. A values inventory is a powerful way to help.

Explore more about Balancing Values with this Powerful Paragraph.

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