An Exercise in Values

Values: “A person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.” (Thanks, Google!)

Back in May, I was encouraged to do a rapid brainstorming exercise to determine the values that are most important to me. It can (and should) be done in 5 minutes or less. First, spend 3 minutes listing all the values that are important to you. Do not worry too much about whether they are a ‘value’ or not – the definition is what you make of it. Aim to write down at least 10. Then, take the next two minutes to narrow that down to 5 values. These are the 5 values that you want to live by, that you will carry with you in your personal and professional life. Two months after completing this exercise myself, I can safely say that it has been incredibly helpful for me to define these values, and I actually use them in both decision making and regular conversations. They are as follows:


  1. Being Present: I will always show up and follow through on my commitments. I will be present in every moment, in every interaction, throughout every experience, whether alone or with others. Whoever I am with will have my full attention. My phone will not be present when I am with others. I will stay focused on each moment. I have been getting pretty good at this lately!
  2. Excellence: I will work hard to make sure everything I do is done to the best of my ability. Everything I produce will be my best work. I will work hard to plan the best dates, to practice the habits I want to keep, and to produce my best work every day.
  3. Creativity: I will always bring new ideas to the table, and will not be afraid of whether they are bad, crazy, or impossible. I will constantly think outside of the box. I will not get stuck on my own ideas, and will push myself constantly to create and innovate.
  4. Curiosity: I will always listen deeply and ask questions. I will continue to learn every day and from every experience. I will read constantly, and will not just read books I think I will like. I will seek out people with different views than me, and seek to learn from them.
  5. Positive Attitude: I will approach every situation with a positive attitude, even when it’s difficult. I will always strive to make those around me feel good, even if I do not. I will come from a place of “Yes, and”, and will always try to see the brighter side of any situation.

There are many other values that I hope to embody most (or all) of the time. I will continue to re-think these to ensure they are still the right values for me. However, at the end of the day, naming the values that you want to live by can greatly increase the likelihood that you’ll be more mindful as you interact with others, make decisions, and go about your day to day life. What are your values? 

2 thoughts on “An Exercise in Values

  1. John says:

    I tried your exercise and I keep coming back to “Don’t be an ass….”. Maybe I need more than 5 minutes. I do like your values and I am about to see you at this event so it will be interesting to watch this list in action first hand.
    The event is “Rhodes Fellowship Course in Social Entrepreneurship”. I either wear my NE Patriots hat or keep it in my butt pocket. I ran out of blades few days ago so I will look scruffy. And my name is John.
    O yes, #5, I feel that “yes” and “no” have equal import in my life. I do like the word “and” next to them instead of “but”.


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