Sunday, October 9, 2011

Eliciting Your Values

"Cheshire Puss, asked Alice. Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? That depends a good deal on where you want to go, said the Cat. I don’t much care where, said Alice. Then it doesn’t matter which way you go, said the Cat."
Lewis Carroll

Ok, in the last few blog posts we've been exploring the importance of values and how in times of massive change we need to prioritize and simplify where we can...

Prioritizing your life

One of the keys to prioritizing your life, is to get clear about your values, get clear about what’s most important to you and focus your energies and time there.

Most people don’t know explicitly and specifically what’s vitally important to them. They don’t know their hierarchy of values. And without that explicit knowledge, how can they effectively track and focus their time and life?

In today's post, we are going to fix that by getting you to map your hierarchy of values - your list of values sequenced in importance to your life.

Mapping your hieararchy of values

Grab a pen and some paper, and write out what you think and feel are the most important things in life for you. Is it health? Love? Adventure? Learning? What are the things that make life worthwhile for you? Brainstorm this. What do you want out of life? What do you want with others? What is the sweet taste of success for you? What is important to you? What makes your heart and mind sing?

Get your values on paper. Make a mindmap. Write them in whatever order they come to you. There's no right or wrong in this. Just make sure you capture them onto paper or computer.

Content versus Process Values

Note the difference between Content Values and Process Values. Content Values are the ‘things’ you want in life, like love, health, friends, family, wealth, adventure etc. They are the ‘whats’ of life.

Process Values are the 'qualities' by which you want to achieve the ‘whats’. They are the ‘hows’ of life. For example, honesty, integrity, courage, flexibility are all ‘hows’. They are the qualities you want to bring to the way you live your life.

I like to make two separate lists. One for the Content Values and a separate one for the Process Values. The more distinctions you make about your values, the better you are able to articulate the whats and hows of your life, the more powerful they become as tools for change.

List the hieararchy

Once you have your list(s) it’s time to prioritise your values in a hierarchy. Ask yourself:
“If I could only have one thing in life, what would it be?”

Circle it on the list as number one. Then ask, “If I could have 2 and only 2 things, what would the second value be?”

Continue till you’ve prioritised your list(s).

Then re-write the lists so that the number one value is at the top, and so on.

Listen to your heart and gut. You'll feel the importance of each value in your heart. Your heart brain knows what's important. Your gut brain will concur. Tracking goals, dreams and values is a core competency of the heart brain. Your heart's desires often guide your mind and spirit and manifest in your thoughts and ideas.

Put your list where you will see it every day

Now memorise your hierarchy of values. Put your list(s) up high on a wall somewhere in your house or office. Make them bright and bold and colourful. Refer to them often and keep them updated as you grow, learn and evolve through life. You can even make a visual collage of them. Collect images from magazines and books that represent your values and that make your heart sparkle when you look at them.

And most importantly, use your values hierarchy to organise your life and make decisions. If health is on your list as one of your highest values, and adventure is a lower value, then make sure that none of your adventures do damage to your health. Use your values as a filter to decide where to prioritize and place your time, skills, behaviours, attention and energies.

The clearer you are about your values and their relative importance, the more your conscious and unconscious decision making will align with them. Your RAS (Reticular Activating System) is powerfully linked to and influenced by your values, so the clearer you are on your values, the more it will work to serve you.

Value your life

Values are life enhancing. Use them as powerful tools to ensure you get the most of your life limited time, resources and energy. Align your decisions, choices and behaviours with them. Become a master of articulating and choosing what's important to you. Other people will support your values only as much as you know what they are and as much as you hold them strongly aligned in your own life.

"The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values."
William S. Burroughs

life enhancing thoughts and wishes,


  1. Grant, thank you for this perfect follow-up to your last post. I think I'll put this project on my calendar for December. It's something everyone should do.

  2. Hey Jean, thanks, let me know how it goes. We do it every december as part of a process I call 'LifeDesign'. We revisit and re-affirm our values list and check our goals and progress against our values to see they are aligned and congruent. It really does make life fantastic when you 'value your life'!

    smiles, Grant


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