How to Identify Values—A Coaching Exercise in 5 Steps! (Values Workbook Overview)

Coach sat at desk with Personal Values Workbook and Laptop

I am often asked how to identify values with a client. Because identifying personal values is an important part of our clients' journeys towards authenticity, meaning/fulfilment and self-esteem. And this Values Identification Workbook has 5 pages of activities to give your clients a very personal prioritised list of their Top 10 Core Personal Values using a tried and tested process!

And for many people, the long summer holidays is a reflective and relaxing time—which means it's a great time to get people started on identifying their values.

About this Identify Your Values Workbook and Process

Identify Your Values Workbook 3D image

I prefer a free-form approach for people to identify their personal or life values rather than choosing from a list (although there are times when using a sample list of values can be helpful).

Because while taking a few weeks over this may seem a long way round to get to a list of life or personal values, what's really valuable about doing it this way is that they get to use THEIR own words and insights.

This method allows clients to focus on what's truly important to them.

In this workbook we derive values from our client's passions and interests, instead of picking values from a list of words or going straight to 'SHOULD' value words (where people choose values expected of them instead of what really matters to them).

So this workbook helps people take their time. And once your client has finished all 5 steps they have a list of 10 powerful core values which you can go back to again and again during your coaching.

But that's not all! My favourite part of the values process is the prioritisation, which really gets clients challenging assumptions about the way they think they SHOULD be, as opposed to what REALLY matters to them...

See the Identify Your Values Workbook here:

How to use this Values Workbook with your Clients?

There are many ways to use this how to identify your values workbook with clients. These include:

  1. Give your client the whole workbook in one go for them to complete on their own timetable. I recommend checking in with your client regularly to review progress.
  2. Give clients one step (page) at a time to work through their values in neat, easy stages as homework (ideally 1-2 weeks apart). At the next session you discuss what they learned about themselves, then give the next stage as homework.
  3. Use this workbook in individual and group coaching programs with each step as homework in between sessions.
  4. Build a one-day "Values Workshop" around this workbook.
  5. Use the workbook as part of a weekend "personal growth" workshop (for topics like authenticity, happiness, finding purpose and meaning—and more!).

The 5 Step Process inside this How to Identify Your Values Workbook

Click on each image below to see a larger version!

Values Identification Workbook Page 3Step 1: Life Experience Review

Asks your clients to think about what they loved, liked, tolerated and disliked at various stages of their life. It's a great way to kick-start their thought processes looking for important themes, positive values, and where values might NOT be being met!

Step 2: Brainstorming Personal Values

Values Identification Workbook Page 4Asks your clients to brainstorm the question, "What's important to me in life?" writing down anything and everything (including non-value words like reading, gardening, my dog). The write down whatever pops into their mind - and these non-value words are important as they relate to a true passion or interest.

Step 2b: Brainstorming Values Wrap-up

Anything your client can DO or HAVE is probably not a value. So to wrap-up Step 2, your clients are asked to eliminate the free-form words and get to the value underneath. They review each item and if it's something they can DO or HAVE they ask themselves, "What does that give me?" until they get to the value underneath. Eg. Travel could be Adventure or Learning, Colour could be Beauty, Food could be Fun or Community.

Values Identification Workbook Page 5Step 3: Review and Condense Values

Asks your client to narrow down their brainstormed list to a top 10, grouping and combining words together in a line using slashes eg. Integrity/honesty/trust/loyalty - making sure to put the most important words at the front.

Step 4: Prioritise Personal Values

Values Identification Workbook Page 6In my experience, this is the most powerful and challenging part of the values process. This workbook uses a particular method to prioritise asking them to compare pairs of values. Clients are asked to choose between having - value (A), and NOT value (B)  OR  having value (B), and not value (A) for the rest of their lives. This is very different to asking which value they prefer as it really forces them to think about which values could not be lived without.

Try it yourself: Would you rather have Happiness for the rest of your life but no Integrity, OR Integrity but no Happiness? It really makes you think...

Values Identification Workbook Page 7Step 5: Review and Wrap-up

Finally, this workbook asks questions to see what your client has learned and how they could align their lives more with their personal values going forwards!

When to use this Identify Your Values Workbook?

This core coaching exercise provides a tried and tested process to identify client's Top 10 Personal Values.

When we start out with a client, it's helpful for both coach and client to know what a client's core values are. Personal values are helpful in many ways, like when:

  1. Making (Difficult) Decisions: Use personal values to help clients reflect on their choices and make decisions that align with who they truly are. This makes challenging decisions easier...
  2. Our Inner Critic and "Shoulds" Show Up: Our personal values can motivate and energise us to keep moving forwards—even when our inner critic is afraid.
  3. We Need Extra Motivation: Personal values are a great reminder of what matters most. When clients need a boost, ask which values align with what they're doing? And when clients self-sabotage, ask them which values are you not meeting?
  4. When Setting Goals: Help clients figure out the right goals for them by asking them to consider how their goals and actions align with their core values?

Get your Personal Values Identification Exercise & Workbook here >>

In Summary

As a coach, your client's list of Top 10 Prioritised Core Personal Values provides fabulous context and richness for your coaching.

Our values show who we are. And when we align ourselves and our actions with our values—we're being truly authentic. We'll have more motivation, more integrity and feel better about ourselves: powerful stuff!

Whatever process you use, I cannot recommend enough to coaches that you help your clients to identify their values!

Or Get this Workbook as part of our Fabulous Self-Discovery Toolkit here:

And if you liked reading about this Values Process and Workbook, you may also like:

Values are just one of many coaching tools in our toolbox. Learn more about what coaching tools are, when to use them and how they can help in our Complete Guide to Coaching Tools here >>

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

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