Achieve Your Goals bookFollowing on from the previous instructions on how to clarify your values for a particular area of your life, here’s the next step that’s vital to do before you set any personal goals – discover the order of importance of your values. This is another extract from my book, Achieve Your Goals (Dorling Kindersley 2006) which at the time of writing has all 5-star reviews (11 of them) on!
Some values will be more important to you than others. The most important values will be the ones that have the most say in how you use your time, so the next step in clarifying your priorities for your chosen area will be to discover your values hierarchy.
The first value that came to mind in the previous exercise may well not be the most important. In fact, some of the ‘submerged’ values that came at the end of the list may be the ones that turn out to be most important to you.
Eliciting your values hierarchy is simple. Just take your list of values for a given area and ask:
“If I could only have one of these values in <area>, which one would it have to be?”
When you have identified that value, ask:
“If I could only have one more, which one would it be?” – and so on, until you have all the values in order.
Tips for getting the best from this process:
  • If it’s hard to decide which is the more important of two values, use this method:
“You can have either <one value> or <the other value> but not both. Which does it have to be?”
  • You may find that a value in your initial list turns out to be the same as, or a slightly different aspect of, another value. If this happens, merge them – so “respect” and “recognition” might become “respect/recognition”.
  • You can write the values on sticky notes to make it easier to re-order them. This also makes the process more physically interactive, so you may feel a deeper connection with it.
An example, using values for “Work and Career”:
A special case: Money as a value
If “Money” comes out at the top of the list, you may need to do some additional work on your list. Ideally, money would be a “means” value, one that is useful because having it helps to fulfil more abstract “ends” values. For example, having money might allow you to have more security, or freedom, or make more of a contribution.
Money does not make a good “ends” value. If someone has money at the top of their values list, they could end up with a pile of cash that means nothing to them.
Your priorities can change
The values that are most important to you in a particular area of your life may change over time as your circumstances change. For someone who is heavily in debt, money may be high on their scale of values. Once they have a comfortable amount of cash in the bank, money would probably be less important and other values might move up the list.
The values hierarchy that you have just elicited is a snapshot of where you are at this point in time.
Try this out, and let me know how you get on by leaving a comment below!

How to clarify your values (2): Establish your hierarchy
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