Discover Your Values
For more information about Discovering Your Values, click here to read the corresponding section in the Playbook.
The purpose of this activity is to identify the personal values and beliefs that form your internal map and inspire you in your nonprofit work and career. Identifying your values helps you manage your time, avoid distractions, and work with others more smoothly. Before the session, ask participants to read, Discover What Makes You Happy By Identifying Your Values (5 minute read). If participants have never done an exercise to identify personal values, they can optionally review the Identify Your Values Worksheet (15 minutes to read).
Flip Chart, Sticky Notes, Markers
Describe the purpose of the activity and ask for a show of hands of people who did the pre-reading.
Engage the participants in a five-minute discussion of what they learned from reading the article, Discover What Makes You Happy By Identifying Your Values. If participants haven’t yet read it, give everyone five minutes to read the article and facilitate a brief full group discussion:
- What resonated?
- How might identifying your personal values be helpful to you in the nonprofit workplace or your own leadership development?
Write down the key ideas that emerge on a flipchart or whiteboard as phrases. Rephrase verbally before writing down to confirm that you are understood. Facilitate this discussion for 5 minutes with a small group or 10 minutes with a larger group.
Tell participants that one technique to identify personal values is to reflect on times when they felt proud, happy, or accomplished in their work or personal life. Ask participants to work in pairs and interview each other to help them better understand their personal values.
Each person in the pair will interview the other person for 15 minutes. Tell participants to decide who will be interviewed first. Use your mobile phone to time the interview and let participants know when the 15 minutes is up, at which point participants should switch roles. Time the interview for another 15 minutes and let them know when time is up.
Write these questions on a white board, flip chart page or PPT slide. Alternatively, you can create an interview worksheet as a paper handout for participants to use and record their own notes.
Identify the times when you were happiest
Find examples from both your career and personal life. This will ensure some balance in your answers.
- What were you doing?
- Were you with other people? Who?
- What other factors contributed to your happiness?
Identify the times when you were most proud
Use examples from your career and personal life.
- Why were you proud?
- Did other people share your pride? Who?
- What other factors contributed to your feelings of pride?
Identify the times when you were most fulfilled and satisfied
Again, use both work and personal examples.
- What need or desire was fulfilled?
- How and why did the experience give your life meaning?
- What other factors contributed to your feelings of fulfillment?
Now that participants have done a bit of reflection on what makes them most happy, fulfilled, proud, or satisfied, they can brainstorm and prioritize words or phrases that match their personal values.
Give participants ten sticky notes each. Ask them to work alone and write down ten words, one per sticky note, that represents their values. Tell them not to worry about picking the perfect words, just to free associate based on their interviews. They will have two minutes to do this step and you should time them with your mobile phone.
When they are finished, ask participants to layout all the sticky notes in front of them. Tell them they have one minute to pick the three least important ones and throw them away. Time them with your mobile phone.
Next, ask them to pick two more sticky notes with words that describe their personal values that are not as important as the others, and throw them away. Give them one minute, and time them with your mobile phone.
Finally, ask participants to pick two more sticky notes with words that describe their personal values that are not as important as the others, and throw them away. Give them one minute, and time them with your mobile phone.
This whole exercise should take no longer than 10 minutes. The idea is to have them do it quickly, without laboring over it. They can always go back later and give it more thought.
If this is the first time participants are doing this exercise, they may see some disconnect between their stated values and the way they work or their current type of work. Also, they may discover that the values are not authentically theirs and that is okay. It takes time and reflection to identify your values and live them, especially if it requires a change.
Ask each person to share their values and the answers to the questions below. Ask each person to share their thoughts in 3 minutes or less. Go in clockwise order or let participants volunteer to share in order of readiness. Write down the key themes that emerge on a flipchart or whiteboard as phrases. Use these questions:
- What were your top three values?
- How do you feel about the values that you ended up with? Did this surprise you?
- Are these values truly yours?
- Do you see any potential conflicts with your values or with your current work?
- How do these values show themselves in your everyday life?
If you adapt this activity for a larger group, don’t have each person share the answers to these questions, but ask for several volunteers to share and then facilitate a group discussion.
Identifying and prioritizing your personal values is one thing, but living your values is another thing. Ask each participant to reflect quietly for a minute on this question: What actions can you take to live by your values? They do not have to share with the whole group.