Finding True North: How to Clarify Values (part 2)

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In my previous post I talked about the need to explore values and look for patterns across a number of different tests. That's because I am sceptical that there is a single list of values which covers every context. The best we can do is think from different perspectives about what's really important to us.

Over the years I have taken countless values exercises and tests. Below are some of the best and I've interspersed my results to demonstrate the variability involved - and the risks of doing just one!

  1. The Obituary Exercise
  2. Values in action questionnaire
  3. Your Values by Franklin Covey
  4. Values Sort Task by Goodwork Toolkit
  5. Career Values by Stewart Cooper & Coon
  6. Valued Living Questionnare

1. The Obituary Exercise

The classic and probably still the one that has had most impact on me. How do you want to be remembered? Try it here.

My values in this test always include doing meaningful work first and foremost. This means using my skills and talents to actually make a difference to other people and to 'dent the universe' in some way. Another top value (for me and others) is courage. I don't want the fears I experience day to day to hold me back.

2. Values in action questionnaire

I have taken this test 6 times over a period of 8 years. Although my top 6 values vary each time, there are some which remain consistent. The values which have made it in every time are:

Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
Curiosity and interest in the world
Social intelligence
Fairness, equity, and justice

3. Your Values by Franklin Covey

I think this is an excellent resource which asks different questions to elicit values. My values here include growth and development, curiosity, humour and freedom.

4. Values Sort Task by Goodwork Toolkit

Having said I don't like ranking values, it can be quite revealing to 'sort' them for importance. This online values sorting tool is quite fun and works well. My top values here turned out to be honesty and integrity, social concerns and professional accomplishment.

5. Career Values by Stewart Cooper & Coon

Another values sorting exercise, but the sorting is done differently and so it is interesting to observe differences. I find this kind of test more difficult because it is hard to know how to assign importance to values without comparing them to other values. Therefore, I think you respond differently to the values at the beginning of the test than the end.

The values that came top in this test were freedom, security, helping others, recognition, honesty and integrity.

6. Valued Living Questionnaire

This test is used extensively by the ACT community, along with the similar Bull's Eye. This test identifies 10 different life domains and asks you to identify key values in each. Clearly, this test deals with broader values than those which simply relate to work. Nevertheless, this in itself can be useful to identify any conflicts or tensions between work-related values and values in other life domains.

My work-related values in this test include doing meaningful work (again), making a difference to others, collaborating with excellent people and acting with integrity.
Conclusion

There's a huge range of different values tests out there. The ones listed above are really good and all of them are free. However, they do tend to yield different results and this can be disconcerting. However, remember that you do not have a single set of values - too much depends on context. So take these tests and look out for patterns. And when you have your list, hold it lightly and aks yourself in this moment, which way is True North?