by Juliet Hancock

Working with your personal values

Identifying and then working with your personal values is the starting point for working with values. Self-awareness will not give you solutions, but it will tell you what are the key ingredients of the ‘right solution’ for you.

If you are in touch with your own values about what is important and why, then you can make more informed choices about what you do in your work and beyond and how you do it. It will also help you to recognise and articulate the importance and role of values when working with others (for yourself and for them), enhancing the decisions you take.


Working with values starts with self-awareness. Reflective questions can help you to identify/connect with your own values. An easy way to identify what is important to you is to reflect on everyday actions, engaging both your thoughts and feelings. Below are a few examples.

Situation Reflective questions
After a good day... What has been good about today?
What has given me energy?
What am I most pleased about/why?
What am I going to do more of?
What am I going to do next and why?
Who has made me feel good to day?
Who have I made feel good today
After a bad day... What has made today bad or difficult?
Why do I mind about this?
What has been missing?
Who has upset me or made me cross today? Why do I mind?
Who could I have treated better today?
What have I avoided today?
What will I not repeat/do again?
Planning an evening, weekend or holiday? What is most important to me about this?
What do I want this to give me?
Who else needs to be part of this?
Responding to an opportunity? What will this give me that is important?
Who else will benefit?
What will I lose or do I need to give up to do this? Am I willing to pay this price?

When you have answered your questions you can then

  • Look for patterns
  • Notice extreme feeling and reactions
  • Do more of what feels good
  • Seek support in breaking out of what is not working for you.

Using questionnaires and inventories

If you want to take your values exploration further you may choose to use an inventory. But beware: values are complex and powerful and poor information is worse than none

You can use a general list to select the five or ten values that are most important to you (see here). Be aware, however, of the risk that you may select values which you think should be important rather than the ones that actually do matter to you.

Some more sophisticated questionnaires may identify things we don’t like, don’t agree with or don’t understand. Seek an appropriate tool and supplier. Choose carefully, and look for coaching support if you are serious about using your values to make change.

Example questionnaires

The Minessence Values framework consists of 128 discrete and universal values and descriptions There is a powerful diagnostic tool which can only be accessed through licenced practitioners and there is a range of report options. It provides a dynamic view of your foundation, focus and vison values, which provides a very useful insight for making personal change.

The Barrett inventory of values is also widely used internationally ( There is a range of options, including a free on-line questionnaire and more complex versions for individual coaching, personal and organisation development.

VIA Signature strengths (Seligman) is an easy to use, free self-assessment designed by some of the greatest thinkers in the field of positive psychology. It gives an individual insight into their personal ‘strengths of character,’ each of which will have specific underpinning personal values. While this tool doesn’t give you a list of what you value per se, it does help you to focus on the ways in which you make a positive difference in work and at home.