• Maura McCarley Torkildson

Finding Your Personal Values


I went to a lecture last night on decision making and it got me thinking. The lecturer was Dr. Errol Wirasinghe, and the talk was on The Art of Making Decisions (also the name of his book). He pointed to the importance of understanding and determining your criteria before you analyze your options to make a decision. As a coach what I do is work with my clients to support them in making good choices for themselves. I thought Dr. Wirasinghe's advice to understand your criteria was wise. I had a conversation with him after the talk and he noted that people often don’t know their values and therefore have a hard time finding the right criteria to make a decision. Our fulfillment comes with alignment to personal values. Sometimes we take on cultural values as our own and don’t dig deeper. So often we make decisions from a place of “I should” (which usually reflects someone else’s values) and “that is not possible for me.” Those are the words of our inner critics and they can skew our perception. Usually the inner critic comes from a past experience or trauma and is trying to keep us “safe.” Remember that any risk is going to put the inner critic on high alert, but moving towards fulfillment requires taking risks. So I dedicate this newsletter to giving some tips for uncovering your values to help you with important decisions. To uncover your values:

  • Think of things that you like to do. Spend some time thinking about what gives you energy and joy.

  • Visualize yourself doing those things and notice how your feelings show up physically - anything that represses energy is not a sign of resonance. Your body is a great guide.

  • Dig deeper, get more specific, what is it that you like about it? Write about it.

  • What words do you use to describe what you like?

  • Write about as many things that you can think of. Notice themes and patterns. The words you use point towards your personal values and high values will show up most often.

  • Make a values chart for yourself and refer to it when you make important decisions

For example, I am absolutely energized when spending one on one time with people and having deep conversations. Visualizing this scenario, what shows up for me physically is expansiveness and warmth in my heart. I typically feel joyful after a deep interaction. I specifically like the connection I feel with the other person. Being out in nature is another joy. Once again, the word I use to describe my outdoor experience is connection or communion with nature. Here I also feel expansiveness in my heart. Connection and communion are high values for me. Applying those value to a life decision, we can look at my decision to become a coach. Connection was one of my criteria for deciding on a career, coaching makes a lot of sense because it includes deep connection with people that also feels like communion. On the other hand, choosing to be a data analyst would not be a good decision, as I would not be connecting with people much in that career. Once you have a list of values. It helps to rank your values in order of importance. I like this methodology to uncover values, (rather than looking at a list of values and choosing) because it helps to filter out the cultural norms and brings more focus to the personal. Holding your values front and center leads to fulfillment.


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