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Do you know what you really value?

If someone were to come up to you this very moment and ask you what your core behavioral values were, could you immediately answer the question?

I was recently speaking at a conference and took 140 professionals through a simple, yet powerful, values clarification process using CRG’s Values Preference Indicator assessment. In just a few minutes, participants knew more about what motivated total strangers than individuals beside whom they had worked for years.

Values are different from vision and purpose; they are best described as behavioral needs and standards that contribute to your fulfillment, engagement and overall peace in your life.

Not only is values clarification important to interacting and working with others, but it also has the greatest impact for you, both personally and internally.

What about values congruence?

Have you ever met someone who said their family was very important to them (a value), but you knew that they never spent any time with them? Or an employer who identified honesty as a value in doing business, but whose business behavior was without ethics or integrity?

What credibility did those people have with those around them? Questionable, at best, but over and above this outside lack of credibility is the internal price these individuals pay by not being congruent.

When you are not clear about your values or when your actions contradict your stated beliefs, you short-change yourself in the areas of your own credibility, performance and confidence. You set up an inner conflict within yourself.

1. You must be clear about your core values. Your values guide your decisions and behavior and can bring you mental and emotional freedom.

2. Values should not be for sale; they must be non-negotiable. If your values have a price, I contend they are not really your core values.

In the workshops, we conduct using CRG’s Values Preference Indicator (VPI), we asked individuals to identify their Top 7 values from a predetermined list of 21.

Many participants wanted to choose more than 7. Therein lies the power of this process. The reality is that people’s decision-making priorities are based on placing one value above another. And you can’t give top priority to all 21 values. Choices must be made.

Some participants wanted all 21 values in the top spot. Others believed they didn’t need to clarify or confirm their top values.

With the recent group of 140 attendees, it was obvious who had previously given thought to the hierarchy of their values and who had not. Those who had not were restless, uneasy and less content.

After the individuals ranked their Top 7 values, we asked them to share their lists (called List A) within their small groups—but with a twist. At the end of the exercise, we asked participants to restate in order the Top 7 values of the person sitting next to them. Most were unsuccessful with this simple request. Why? Values are inherently personal and important only to the individual who makes it a value.

In the third part of our Values Preference Indicator (VPI), assessment we asked participants to rank each value against every other value five times, using a scoring matrix. This process requires individuals to make over 300 decisions in just a few minutes.

Would it surprise you to know that, in many cases, the second list created by the forced choice process was different from the previous list just created through “window shopping” but still using the same 21 values?

Based on feedback from thousands of participants who have completed CRG’s Values Preference Indicator (VPI), we have identified the two most common reasons for this discrepancy:

  1. Individuals try to embrace a value that someone else has imposed as a priority. This pressure could come from anyone of influence (especially family), or even the media. One of the values included in the VPI is wealth. The media message all around is us that money should be everyone’s top priority. But for many individuals, money is not a Top 7 value priority.
  2. Many people have never clearly identified or clarified what their values are; they have simply guessed at what might be important. The result is that their priorities shift with every blowing wind or daily influence. That is a very unfulfilling, unstable and even mentally dangerous way to live.

As a side note: you don’t have separate “home” values and “work” values; you take whoever you are to wherever you go.

Once individuals confirmed their top values, we asked them to look at their life and rate if that value was being met or not in their life from a time and energy perspective.

If a value was identified as not currently being fulfilled, we asked participants to document action steps to change that negative into a positive. If a value was being met, we also asked them to confirm what where they doing to fulfill that value, which they needed to continue to affirm or do going forward.

One individual rated that every single one of his values was negative or not being met/fulfilled. His demeanor was that of a depressed person. I asked him why he thought this had occurred in his life. His response was that his life reflected what his family wanted, not what he wanted.

Here is the reality: Life is way too complex to even attempt situational decisions. But what would it mean if you could make the “right decision” every time? Yes, this is possible if you use your behavioral values to filter your decisions.

Finally, several research studies have confirmed significant benefits of values clarification:

·        UCLA confirmed clarified values reduced stress and cortisol levels.

·        The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that confirming and affirming one’s values can replenish and strengthen willpower.

·        The University of Chicago found in their research that values affirmation exercises allowed participants to objectively evaluate information that would normally evoke a defensive reaction, and so increased openness.

·        In a University of Toronto study, researchers found people who affirmed their values were more receptive to negative feedback and better able to recognize and correct their own errors. “Self-affirmation produces large effects.”

Action Steps

·        Register for our What Do You Really Value? eCourse, at

·        This course includes the Values Preference Indicator assessment and 19 short, yet high-impact video modules to take values clarification, which is critical; it applies to all relationships, teams and organizations. (That will be the basis of discussion for another article.)

·        After you have clarified your values, ensure you are now letting others know in your circle (both home and work) what is most important and motivates you.

·        Finally, gets those around you to do the same thing.

 Until next time, keep Living On Purpose!

Ken Keis



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