Finding True North: How to Clarify Values (part 2)

In my previous post I talked about the need to explore values in career change and to look for patterns across a number of different tests.  That’s because I am sceptical that there is a single list of values which covers every context.  The best we can do is think from different perspectives about what’s really important to us.

Over the years I have taken countless values exercises and tests.  Below are some of the best and I’ve interspersed my results to demonstrate the variability involved – and the risks of doing just one!

  1. The Obituary Exercise
  2. Values in action questionnaire
  3. Live with purpose by Franklin Covey
  4. Values Sort Task by Goodwork Toolkit
  5. Valued Living Questionnare

1. The Obituary Exercise – The Career Psychologist

The classic and probably still the one that has had most impact on me.  How do you want to be remembered?  My values in this test always include doing meaningful work first and foremost.  This means using my skills and talents to actually make a difference to other people.  Another top value (for me and others) is courage.  I don’t want the fears I experience day to day to hold me back.

2. Values in Action Questionnaire – Authentic Happiness

I have taken this test several times over a period of 12 years.  Although my top 6 values vary each time, there are some which remain consistent.  The values which have made it in every time are:

  • Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
  • Curiosity and interest in the world
  • Social intelligence
  • Fairness, equity, and justice

3. Your Values by Franklin Covey

I think this is an excellent resource which asks different questions to elicit values.  My values here include growth and development, curiosity, humour and freedom.

4. Values Sort Task by Goodwork Toolkit

Having said I don’t like ranking values, it can be quite revealing to ‘sort’ them for importance.  This online values sorting tool is quite fun and works well.  My top values here turned out to be honesty and integrity, social concerns and professional accomplishment.

5. Valued Living Questionnaire – Russ Harris

This test is used extensively by the ACT community, along with the similar Bull’s Eye.  This test identifies 10 different life domains and asks you to identify key values in each.  Clearly, this test deals with broader values than those which simply relate to work.  Nevertheless, this in itself can be useful to identify any conflicts or tensions between work-related values and values in other life domains.

My work-related values in this test include doing meaningful work (again), making a difference to others, collaborating with excellent people and acting with integrity.


These tests are great, though they do tend to yield different results which can be disconcerting.  So instead look out for patterns and themes.  Mine are about meaning, making a difference, fairness, honesty, curiosity and courage.  These feel helpful to me and help guide me.

Once you have your list, see if you can use it to help you navigate forwards towards your own version of ‘True North’.

Career Change, Career Development, Career Management, Getting Unstuck coaching

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