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Article: Taking a Values-Led Approach to Life

Taking a Values-Led Approach to Life


A woman sits in bed with a dog while she writes in a journal.

Until very recently, if anyone had asked me if I knew what my core values were, I would have answered with an emphatic “yes!” I mean, everyone knows what their personal values are, right? 

But actually, if I had to name those values, things started to get a little vague: Truth, Justice, Kindness. Something like that. 

In fact, I had never spent much time thinking about those values and what they meant for me personally. How did those values show up in my life? What did they even mean? How did they inform important life decisions? Were these just big ideas that had no actual bearing on my day-to-day life? I set a goal to find out.

That journey led me to a post-grad Professional Coaching program in my hometown of Toronto. I was drawn to the program because it required that coaches-in-training take the assessments and use the same tools that are intended for clients. Through the program, I was asked to really identify and articulate my values as a first principle towards understanding what motivates me and makes me tick, and importantly, what happens when my values are ignored, or worse, stepped on.

What I discovered through this process really surprised me. 

My core values were very different from the ones I had named. While truth and justice matter deeply to me, these values sit below some others that are at the center of what drives me in my daily life. 

Once I had done the assessment and sat with the results, many things became clear to me about myself that had previously been invisible. I started to pay attention to how these values showed up in my daily life, and what happens when these values are not being honored. 


The experience of simply sitting with myself and acknowledging and validating what matters most to me has had profound consequences for how I live my life and also what goals and plans I make for the future. 

This process has given me permission to let go of goals that seemed right ‘on paper’ but felt like a burden. It has also allowed me to set new goals that might seem off-beat, but have real meaning for me. As an example, I realized that getting an MBA, something I had always planned to do, was not a thing that would hold value for me in the long term. Instead, I went back to school to get the English Literature degree I should have taken the first time around. What am I going to do with an English Lit degree you ask? Nothing that makes me rich, or famous. On the other hand, my deep love of reading is incredibly enhanced and I believe I am also a better writer as a result. 

These are things that intrinsically matter to me and give me a sense of honoring what is important in my life, as opposed to what I think I ‘should’ be doing. I am more grounded in my truth. Heady stuff, I know.

The best and easiest way to unpack your values is by using an assessment tool designed for that purpose. The one I like the most is this one. Developed by organizational psychologists, it is a legitimate and widely used assessment. The best part is that it is free to use. 

In the spirit of sharing, here are my top five values:

  1. Gratitude
  2. Appreciation of beauty & excellence
  3. Kindness
  4. Love of learning
  5. Fairness

What are yours? Did they surprise you? And what will you do with this enhanced awareness in 2023? As part of our community, we would love to hear from you.

 - Jessica



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