A client recently asked me to help clarify what trained & certified coaches mean when they talk about discovering your "values." I thought it might be helpful share portions of my response here as well:
It can sometimes to be helpful to keep in mind that values are not about things, or even people we love. Rather, values go right to the core of your unique identity as a person. Values are those qualities, practices or passions that most fully make you come alive. When you are living out a true value, your heart and soul begin to sing.
It can be difficult at first to discern the distinction between an activity we enjoy and the value that drives it. For example, I am a writer, and I absolutely love writing. So I might be tempted to say that writing is one of my core values. But the real core value isn’t the act of writing; rather, it is the creative expression and deep communion with God that the discipline of writing allows me to experience. The value is the “so that…” of the activity—i.e. “I write so that...” (the deep, core benefit I get out of writing).
Let's take the value of "Regular Exercise" as another example, since clients often name "Regular Exercise" as key value in their lives. One way to quickly know whether "Regular Exercise" is a core value is to ask yourself, “Does exercise make me come alive? Does exercising cause my soul to sing?” If so, then exercise may be the core value. But if not, then you probably haven’t gone deep enough yet. It may be that regular exercise points to a core value (or values) in you, in the same way that writing points to a few core values for me. What does regular exercise allow you to be? What deep experience of life does regular exercise allow you to have?
Remember: The value is rarely the activity; much more often, it's the effect that activity has on your soul. Keep looking. And invite God to join you in the exploration. He made you, with all of your unique intricacies and qualities, and is the best guide of all to help you discover the core values that reflect your unique design.