Values Elicitation Exercise

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Exercise: What is most important to you in your life?

We employ a set or stack of values in our lives. In the exercise, the aim is to identify your top ten values in each pillar and then prioritise them to the three that you will focus on to be a foundation for your strategy. The exercise asks you to consider your values in three key categories: Self, in your Relationships with others outside of work and in the Work that you do/contribution that you make. 

As you realise insights and develop your strategy map, you may find that the values shift in priority, emphasis or where they sit on the strategy map. The elicitation exercise is designed to allow your values to emerge rather than choosing them through logic.

“Values aren’t selected; they’re discovered. We don’t choose our values. Our values reveal themselves to us.” Scott Jeffrey 3

There is often a tendency to focus on what our society, culture and media value. This exercise is about you and no one else. It’s easy to speculate and idealise what you should value. Don’t ‘choose’ values that you think would be strategic for you in the future, that you would ‘like’ to value. Your strategy needs to be congruent with your values, not the other way around. Be aware that knowing and accepting what you value takes effort, time, reflection and, often, iteration. 

Prepare: start with an open and curious mind, letting go of pre-conceived notions to give you access to inner truths which your conscious mind may be shrouding. Take a deep breath. Remember, your conscious mind may not have all the answers. Create the space for new insights and revelations. Get into the right mental and emotional state – mental alertness, centredness and calm.

Picture by Oli Sansom courtesy of Homeward Bound


Tools: Values cards, the values page, or the alphabetically organised list of values. It is preferable to scatter the cards or use the values page, which is loosely grouped into topics, as this often assists in taking a less structured and more intuitive approach.




Download from the link below or from the materials tab: 

I like to use Post It Notes if I don’t have values cards with me to write the values on, and this assists with the ranking.

Create your top ten values in each pillar: Self, Relationships, Work

Note. Complete this exercise in full separately for each of the pillars before going on to the next one. This exercise is designed to be done at speed to disconnect from conscious thought, which makes the process cognitive; values do not come from logic!

  • What is really important for myself?
  • What do I really value in my relationships with others (outside of work)?
  • What is really important at work (or where I contribute my time in service)?

If you have values cards: Spread the values cards in front of you without laying them out in any particular order. Do not select them as you place them down. This is a ‘conscious confusion’ exercise – values are held at an unconscious level. Scan the cards intuitively and select ten values that reflect what is most important to you and that you couldn’t live without in each pillar. Take these ten cards and lay them in front of you.

If you have the values page or the values list* electronically or printed on a page: scan the words intuitively and select ten values that reflect what is most important to you and you couldn’t live without in each pillar. Write the values on post-it notes/separate pieces of paper and lay them in front of you. (*Use the alphabetical list to search for a value you cannot locate either in the cards or on the scattered page; don’t use it to elicit your values, as this will naturally connect you with a logical approach.)

If one of your values is not included in the cards or on the page or list, add it in.

When you are choosing your values, you can:

  • Consider what’s most important in each pillar of your life – self, relationships with others and work – for fulfilment. What are the values that you must honour or a part of you withers? What happens if you do not have this value in your life? How does it make you feel?
  • Think about a meaningful and fulfilling experience. What was happening to you at that moment? How did you feel? What values were you honouring at this moment?
  • Consider when you are most in flow. What behaviours are you exhibiting? What was happening to enable you to feel in flow?
  • Consider a time when you got angry, felt confronted, upset or frustrated. What was going on? How did it make you feel? What value was being suppressed or trampled upon?
  • Check yourself that you are not getting seduced into choosing values that you think that you should choose or that seem enticing without having any basis in your life

Review your list of values in each pillar. Have you chosen several values that are similar to one another? Could they be grouped and described by one of the values that is representative of the group and describes a central theme?

Force rank your values

For each pillar, take any two cards/post-it notes of the ten and ask yourself which value is more important than the other. Continue this forced ranking process for all 10 values until you have placed them in order of importance. If you are struggling to prioritise one value over another, ask yourself if you had to choose, which would you choose?

Fill in your ranked list of values in the table below for self, relationships and work.



Download from the link below or from the materials tab:

Values shift over time and in response to a major life event, insight or experiences which may provoke you to reassess what’s important in your life. Revisit this exercise when you think that there might have been a shift in what you are prioritising as really important in your life.