The Values Exercise

Every time you can't seem to make a decision, have internal conflict or doubt, is because you want both or neither. And you're stuck in deciding what is more important to you. Having clarity on what your values are, makes it possible to make these decision and to design your life and business in a way that it incorporates your values.

Your values are what matters to you. What's important to you. We value the things that we believe will make us feel good, lead to positive emotions and fulfil our needs. And vice versa, we 'disvalue' what we believe will bring us pain. We develop our values by our experiences. Everyone has a different set of values.

Quickly, a distinction. There's end-values: The emotional states you desire. And there are means-value: The ways you believe will help you trigger the emotional states you desire.

The exercise at a glance

We'll use free writing off a prompt (in our case questions) to gain more insights in your values. I pose questions, you write down what comes up for you. 

The exercise takes about 60 minutes in total. I'll ask you to (1) set up everything, (2) do the warm-up questions, (3) follow the process further to come up with your values, and (4) a little wrap-up.

Free Writing

Free writing (sometimes called journaling) is the opposite of staring out of the window, think of the right answer and writing it down in 3 succinct bullets. This is not a test!

The trick is to read the questions, start writing and keep writing until the time runs out. Write down what comes up for you. Don't take you pen off the paper. Don't know what to say? Write that down. Everything that doesn't make sense (and that will be a lot) you can filter out afterward. "Write drunk, edit sober".

Again, it's not about writing down the correct answers. It's about writing down, period. Do not filter on realism, truthfulness or what you're supposed to. I understand. We're trained to only answer what we believe is correct. But we need to be able to write down the wrong answers in order to get to the juicy stuff. Expect and hope to be wrong! It'll trick your brain into lowering its guard and be honest.

It's deceptively simple, but trust me on this.


Make sure you can work undisturbed. Close the door. Turn off notifications and any alerts.

Get a pen you can write comfortably with and some piece of paper. Enough paper! I would strongly advise against using your laptop for this. Studies have shown that when using a digital device to write, you write less generatively and more structurally and orderly. We want the generative creative energy!

You'll need something that keeps track of the time for you. A timer on your phone can work. A Pomodoro App like Tomato One or this one online will do the trick. We'll use 8 times 1,5 minute; and 1 time 25 minutes.

You can use the images on this website (and use the timer app). Or you can download the questions in presentation form so you can put it on slideshow (it has set times for transition). Here is a pdf-version, a Keynote-version or a Powerpoint-version.

The Process

STEP 1: Do the prep above

STEP 2: Warm-up questions

Here are 8 warm-up questions. Below in images, or downloaded through the links in the prep. 

Spend 1,5 minute per question writing down what comes up when you hear the question. Again, it's a warm-up. A way to prime the brain. Getting these questions answered correctly is not the goal.

After answering all of them, glance over them for 1 minute, add here and there, and go on to STEP 3.

STEP 3: You values

Warmed up? Here goes. Spend 25 minutes answering the following question(s). Again write freely. Write down everything that comes up for you. 

What most important to you in life? What do you value?

After about 15 minutes, think about these 10 areas of your life. Thinking about what you value in each areas, what values would you add?

  • Physically,
  • Mentally,
  • Emotionally,
  • Attractiveness,
  • Relationships,
  • Living environment,
  • Socially,
  • Spiritually,
  • Career,
  • Financially.

With about 5 minutes to go, go through your looooong list. See if you can find mean values that are masquerading as end values. Not sure? Ask yourself why you value it. What do you hope or believe it will bring. Try to get as much as you can to the end values. 

STEP 4: Round up

Start circling the most important of the things that are important to you. Pick your top 15.

See you soon!