Find your values – they’ll keep you focused and save you time

Snakes and ladders board gameIn a time of change, new issues will be arising all the time. Think of what has happened during only the past two weeks.

If we are not careful, we can find our life becomes a game of snakes and ladders: climbing up a ‘ladder’ one minute, before sliding down a ‘snake’ the next.

Preventing this from happening requires us to set priorities. Because:

When everything is a priority then nothing is.

Our values show us our priorities at the deepest level.

They tell us which issues to ignore (which frees up energy, time, and resources). And they show us how to respond to the issues that do matter, because they show us both what a good outcome looks like and how to behave in order to achieve that outcome.

Knowing our values brings us efficiency, effectiveness, and stability.


Three Steps to Finding Your Values

To find a first draft of your values, follow these three simple steps:

  1. Think back to a time when you felt completely absorbed in your work. You lost track of time, felt fully alive. You were in flow, operating at your fullest potential, doing what you are here to do. Identify between one and three occasions.
  2. For each situation, ask yourself what values you were upholding in that moment. What values were you standing up for, taking action in support of? There might be more than one.
    If you find this exercise difficult, try thinking of times when you stood against something. What did you stand against? What values are the opposite of that?
  3. You now probably have a list of more than three values. Group, merge, and combine them to distil them into your three core values.

The book on Inner Leadership contains other questions that will help you to connect more deeply with your values but this simple exercise is enough to gain a good first draft.

The first two steps can be completed in under 15 minutes. The third can take as long as you want: the more effort you put into understanding your core values now, the more certain you will be of the results and the more benefit you will then get from applying them later.


Knowing your values will bring you focus and stability in a changing world. It will enable you to side-step the ‘snakes’ and to climb the ‘ladders’ faster.

What three core values enable you to operate at your maximum potential, in flow, doing what you are here to do?

Knowing the answers will enable you to achieve that flow state more often and get more done, even in a time of change.

Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By Leonard J Matthews via

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