Living your values is the greatest success in life for each individual. Values are the foundation of your purpose in life and living according to your values brings fulfilment.

Values are very personal; for one they may be around money and career, for another around freedom and independence, supporting others or social connection.

When I meet new clients, one of the first things we focus on is identifying personal values but they don’t usually find this an easy task. It sounds too abstract, too spiritual, too unclear.

I understand. When I was asked that question for the first time, I didn’t know how to work this out either. I was given a list of 50 words and was told to pick the ones that were most important to me. They were all important!

Even when I attempted to make a selection, what did that mean for me? What could I do with that knowledge? They were just words.


How to identify personal values

A much easier and more relatable way of thinking about personal values is to look for them close to home. The four exercises below help you find your values by exploring actual life experiences. These exercises are best done over a period of time to really let the importance of different values come to light.

Exercise 1:

Think about your day-to-day activities, no matter how small. When did you feel fully engaged, fully alive? What do you want to do more of, even if it is tiring? What is it in those activities that makes them meaningful to you, what makes them fulfilling?

Exercise 2:

Memories: Think of 5 moments in your distant or recent past when you felt really alive and engaged. What was it about them that made them special? What was the quality of those moments? Why are they important to you?

Exercise 3:

Identify what you care about behind your hurts, frustrations or sadness. What makes it hurt? Why is that important to you?

Exercise 4:

Imagine your best friend doing a speech about you. What are the qualities that you would like to hear your friend speak about? What do you want to be remembered for?


What to do next

Once personal values have been identified, the next step is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I need in my life to live my values?
  • What do I need to get rid of?
  • What do I need to do to achieve this?
  • What are the steps?

Based on this you can formulate your life goals and split them up into short term and longer terms goals.

Once you have determined your goals, work towards them, step by step.

With everything you do, question yourself: Is this working towards my goals or away from my goals? If you are working away from your goals, change, adjust so that you are moving towards your goals again.

Everything you do in life that does not reflect your values is costing you emotional energy and will eventually wear you down. Eliminate them as much as you can.


The value of working with a coach

It all sounds very simple but for most people this is not easy task to do by themselves.

If you are serious about making changes in your life, I would recommend working with a coach. A good coach can help you in your discovery and ask the right questions to increase self-awareness and to find what is really important to you in life, in other words, your personal values. A coach will then support you in finding the way forward. Sometimes, you know what you need to do to live your values but that doesn’t mean that achieving this is always easy. A coach is there to support you in finding ways to make these steps easier. It is definitely worth the investment because clients will end up living their lives according, or at least, much closer to their values which is the greatest success in life.


Wendela Elsen is a coach and focuses on helping expat partners find meaningful and fulfilling ways of using their professional skills and experiences, be it in paid work or otherwise.