Values Identification Exercise
10 Ways to Practice Humility Now

Values Identification Exercise

The following is a core values exercise I have used for many years with clients and students. There are many similar tools available online, but what I like about this approach is the final step, which calls for personal definitions and stories. These values hold different meanings for different people. The more personal you make them, the more relevance they will have to how you live and lead.

Why values matter:

Clarifying your values is a powerful step toward a more engaging, productive and satisfying life, both in and out of the workplace. A firm values framework gives you a clearer sense of self-identity (you know who you are), greater self-assurance (you know where you stand), and clearer self-direction (you know what you want).

Your most important values are your strongest motivators: your greatest source of joy when satisfied, and your greatest sense of frustration and disappointment when not satisfied.


All of the values listed below are worthwhile. Your job is to find the ones that are most valuable to you.

First, quickly review the list, checking all the values that stand out as important to you at first glance.

Second, review the list again, slowly this time, and thoughtfully consider which of those you previously checked matter more than the others. You should have between five and ten checked twice at this point.

Finally, consider which values you would not give up under any circumstances, determining your top three.

One last and very important step: please write your top three values in order of importance, define them in your own terms, and then recall a story that helps to explain the importance of this value in your life. (If you can’t recall a recent, specific story about each of these values “in action,” it may be that you need to reconsider your top three.)
































            INNER HARMONY                  















            PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT                
















Your top 3 values (in order of importance):

VALUE #1                                                                                                                               

My definition:

Recall a recent – within the last year – and specific event from your life when you experienced this value in action.


My definition:

Recall a recent – within the last year – and specific event from your life when you experienced this value in action.

VALUE #3:                                                                                                                                          

My definition:

Recall a recent – within the last year – and specific event from your life when you experienced this value in action.

10 Ways to Practice Humility Now

#1 – Listen more

Practice active listening. This means that you put your devices away, turn towards the other person, make eye contact, and focus on what they have to say. It also means that you pay attention to what is not being said, the visual cues that carry far more information than the words themselves. Stay curious and ask questions. Before offering advice or attempting to solve a problem say, “Is this something you need my help with, or do you just need me to listen?”

#2 – Stay focused on the present

I struggle with this one because my “monkey mind” is always hopping backward and forward in time wondering why that happened and what might happen next. That lack of presence is a breeding ground for controlling behaviors because, well, regrets about the past and concerns for the future do that to us. By staying focused on right now, I give my worry a break, and I show others that I am available to them in the here and now. Deep breathing helps a lot. Do a quick search on “Box Breathing” for a simple method that will lower your blood pressure and calm you down.

#3 – Do hard things

I started drum lessons last year because I finally gave myself permission to do so! I’ve wanted to learn for a long time but felt intimidated by what looks like a very hard thing to do. And it is hard, but it’s not impossible hard. It’s just hard in that way that new things often are. I am discovering, a little bit at a time, that I can do it, and that feels great. It’s also a helpful reminder to be kind to anyone who has set themselves a challenging goal, especially those team members you are encouraging to learn and grow.

#4 – Hang out with smart(er) people

If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re not in a big enough room. It’s tough to realize that there is always someone smarter (and richer, and better looking, etc.) but there always is. This is a classic head/heart challenge. The head says “No, thank you. I need to know that I’m the smart one around here” while your heart says, “My curiosity reminds me that I want to keep learning. Who can help me do that?” From personal experience I can assure you that acting like you’re the smartest one and being publicly proven wrong is no fun at all!

#5 – Be grateful

It’s easy: say ‘thank you’ and mean it. You might even write a ‘thank you’ note by hand and send it in the mail. You might add a little detail as to why whatever they did was meaningful to you. You can also start each day with a nod of appreciation for having another chance to mess up, learn from it and make it better. Think of the little things that make your life great and then think of the big things other people did to make those little things possible.

#6 – Ask for help

For me, this might be the toughest one on the list, so great is my need to prove my competence. The satisfaction that comes with knowing, “I did it myself” is intoxicating. It also sounds kind of childish, doesn’t it? We grownups know better, that when we get stuck it makes a lot more sense to get another set of eyes on the problem. That means admitting we don’t know and can’t do everything, which is fine when you really think about it because that’s true for all of us! Superman without kryptonite wouldn’t be much of a story. 

#7 – Ask for feedback

I discussed this a lot in Part 2 because it’s a powerful secret weapon that too few people take advantage of. A simple method that I use in many venues is “3 Up/3 Down.” That is, “please tell me three positive things and three opportunities to improve.” I have used it preemptively, as in before a presentation, I will ask someone to prepare a 3 Up/3 Down they can share with me afterwards. Or, it could be used during a project debrief, after a tough conversation, or anytime you want someone to help you see what’s hard to see on your own.

#8 – Review your day

Consider taking a few minutes at the end of every day – maybe on the drive home from work, or during an evening walk or just before bed – to take stock of how your words and actions that day matched up to your intentions. This kind of simple review is like how teams watch film after games to see what actually happened versus what they think happened. Did I stay true to my values? Did I employ my gifts and strengths? Was I “large” or “small” when I needed to be? It takes discipline to sift through our days with an intention to learn, but thoughtful repetition will lead to a powerful new habit.

#9 – Take your PTO

You are not indispensable. You may be missed when you go on vacation, but the ship will not sink without you. A colleague recently returned from a trip to Hawaii and said, “I didn’t open my computer the entire time. I figured that any problem that can’t be solved by someone else would be waiting for me when I got back.” She’s right. Show your team that taking time off isn’t some huge sacrifice, but an essential way to stay mentally, emotionally and physically healthy.

#10 – Be of Service

Consider picking up a monthly delivery route for your local “Meals on Wheels” organization, or serve as a tutor through your local library. You don’t even need a formal program to make a difference. There’s a man in my community who carries a trash bag when he walks the neighborhood, and the streets are a little bit cleaner because of his thoughtfulness. Volunteering, especially when it allows you to express your values and use your gifts, is one of those powerful acts that has a positive impact on others while making you feel good about yourself.

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