Discover your why

Understanding your values

“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”

-Mahatma Ghandi

Learning Objectives

In this chapter, you will be introduced to the concepts of values and their importance in your personal life.

This chapter will help you:

  • Identify the 4 different types of values.
  • Determine your personal core values.
  • Reflect on how your core values influence how you make decisions.

What is a value?

In order for you to be able to determine what your values are, it is important that we first define what we mean by the term “value”.

In their essence values are the guiding principles in our lives that direct us and help us persevere.  You may already be aware of some of the guiding principles that direct your life.  Some are quite easy to determine, family first, honesty, dependability are values that are easy to identify and easy to align with.  Yet there may be other unconscious values that you are not aware of that guide you such as survival, security, work, independence.

Patrick M. Lencioni (2002), states that there are 4 types of values:

  1. Core values:  These are the values that guide all of your actions.  They are the values that truly make you an individual.
  2. Aspirational values: These are values that you aspire to have.  They are values that you are working towards but do not yet have in place.
  3. Permission to play values: These are values that you value yet are willing to let slide should the situation arise.
  4. Accidental values:  These values are determined by the people you may be with or aspire to be like.  These values aren’t cultivated or even recognized.

When it comes to your life (and your business), understanding what your core values are matters.  Values are your guides, they help you navigate throughout your daily life.  The clearer you are about your values, and how you define them, the easier it is for you to stay on the path that you would like to see for your life and business.

Most of us, however, do not know what our core values are.

How to determine our values.

Values are an intrinsic part of who we are.  We are being guided by them whether we are conscious of it or not, yet there is so much more power to them if we understand what they are.  In fact, some would say that it is critical when it comes to running a business or leading a team.  Determining what your core values are can be overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips to determine your core values.

 What is in a name?

If you are having a hard time trying to identify values there are many lists online that can get you started.  For example:

Click on the image for a list of 330 core values.

As you read through the list, grab a pen and paper and write down the words that resonate most with you.

Life experience.

Often times our values can be identified through life events. Take a moment and reflect on a time in your life that was meaningful, special, memorable?  What was going on?  What values do you think you may have been honouring at that moment.

For example, perhaps you are remembering the time you were promoted at work.  Some values that could be identified are:

  • Hard work
  • Ambition
  • Belonging
  • Success

Now think about a time when you were upset, frustrated, hurt.  What was happening at that moment?  What values were being challenged at that moment?

Determine your life code of conduct.

What is most important in your life?  What are the things that make you feel fulfilled, content, whole?  Take some time to reflect and answer these questions?

  • What are the things that you find yourself continuously arguing or defending to others?
  • What are the issues that make you the most upset?
  • What makes you happiest in your life?
  • How do you believe the world should be?

Use the list of core values provided above to help identify values that resonate as you reflect and write down your answers.

Know thyself

This step will take some honesty on your part.  Answer the following questions:

  • What have been your three biggest accomplishments?
  • What common rules or themes can you identify from them?
  • What have been your three biggest failures?
  • What common themes can you identify?

After you have reflected on the previous exercise try to identify core values that have come from both your accomplishments and your failures.

Who do you love and admire and why?

Who are the people that you most admire in your life?  Why?  What attributes do they possess that you admire most?  Use the list of core values to see if you can identify values that they possess and you would like to adopt.

So what?

You hopefully now have identified some values that you possess (or wish to possess).  At this point all they may be are words on a page.  They are only as valuable as the paper you wrote them on.  So now that you have a list, so what?

The purpose of core values is to help you filter your choices.

When making decisions in your personal life (or your company) ask yourself if they align with your core values.  How can you do this?

  • Read your core values daily.  Write them out and have them in a place you can find them.  Be intentional in your reading of them.
  • Align your goals with your values.  Every goal should align in some way with a core value that you have written down.  If not you need to ask yourself why it doesn’t?
  • Get feedback.  Talk to people who know you well.  Ask them where they see your values showing up in your life.  Be prepared that you may hear some things that may not be easy to hear.

This too shall change

You are not the same person you were 5 years ago, 1 year ago, last week.  Why should your values be any different?  Take some time whether it be monthly or yearly to revisit your values.  Are there some that no longer resonate?  Are there some that need to be added to the list?

The most important thing is that your values don’t just sit on a piece of paper in your desk.  They need to be reviewed, reworked, reutilized in order to make a difference.


  1. Print out the list of core values.
  2. Take some time to reflect on your personal core values using the ideas from this chapter.
  3. Write down 5-10 core values that resonate the most with you.


  1.  Collaborative Agency Group (2012, July 13). Core Values VS Permission to play values. []. Retrieved from
  2.  Lencioni, P. (2002, July). Make your values mean something. Retrieved from



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Entrepreneurial Leadership for the Trades Copyright © by Chad Flinn and Tim Carson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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