Finding True North: How to Clarify Values (part 2)

In my previous post I talked about exploring values and looking for patterns across a number of different tests.

Over the years I have taken countless values exercises and tests.  Below are some of the best and I’ve interspersed my results to demonstrate the variability involved – and the risks of doing just one!

  1. The Obituary Exercise
  2. Values in action questionnaire
  3. Your Values by Franklin Covey
  4. Values Sort Task by Goodwork Toolkit
  5. Career Values by Stewart Cooper & Coon
  6. Valued Living Questionnare

1. The Obituary Exercise

The classic and probably still the one that has had most impact on me.  How do you want to be remembered?  Try it here.

My values in this test always include doing meaningful work first and foremost.  This means using my skills and talents to actually make a difference to other people and to ‘dent the universe’ in some way.  Another top value (for me and others) is courage.  I don’t want the fears I experience day to day to hold me back.

2. Values in action questionnaire

I have taken this test 6 times over a period of 8 years.  Although my top 6 values vary each time, there are some which remain consistent.  The values which have made it in every time are:

  • Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
  • Curiosity and interest in the world
  • Social intelligence
  • Fairness, equity, and justice

3. Your Values by Franklin Covey

I think this is an excellent resource which asks different questions to elicit values.  My values here include growth and development, curiosity, humour and freedom.

4. Values Sort Task by Goodwork Toolkit

Having said I don’t like ranking values, it can be quite revealing to ‘sort’ them for importance.  This online values sorting tool is quite fun and works well.  My top values here turned out to be honesty and integrity, social concerns and professional accomplishment.

5. Career Values by Stewart Cooper & Coon

Another values sorting exercise, but the sorting is done differently and so it is interesting to observe differences.  I find this kind of test more difficult because it is hard to know how to assign importance to values without comparing them to other values.  Therefore, I think you respond differently to the values at the beginning of the test than the end.

The values that came top in this test were freedom, security, helping others, recognition, honesty and integrity.

6. Valued Living Questionnaire

This test is used extensively by the ACT community, along with the similar Bull’s Eye.  This test identifies 10 different life domains and asks you to identify key values in each.  Clearly, this test deals with broader values than those which simply relate to work.  Nevertheless, this in itself can be useful to identify any conflicts or tensions between work-related values and values in other life domains.

My work-related values in this test include doing meaningful work (again), making a difference to others, collaborating with excellent people and acting with integrity.


There’s a huge range of different values tests out there.  The ones listed above are really good and all of them are free.  However, they do tend to yield different results and this can be disconcerting.  However, remember that you do not have a single set of values – too much depends on context.  So take these tests and look out for patterns.  And when you have your list, hold it lightly and aks yourself in this moment, which way is True North?

25 thoughts on “Finding True North: How to Clarify Values (part 2)

  1. Hi Rob,

    Thanks for this list, it’s a print-&- keeper. Interesting how similar patterns crop up across the assessements.

    I would love to see an ACT book based purely on this topic—any chances you will write us one?

    Also I really loved a post you did some time ago about a values exercise which Kelly Wilson introduced you to—maybe not an assessment per se—but a way of taking the dryness out of values through visualisation? I think this works very well when paired with the pen and paper assessments.

    Thanks again.

  2. HI Catharina, thanks very much for your comments. I too would love to read an ACT book on values – my main interest is in how values operate in organisations and how ACT can change this. As for the Kelly post, both Rachel and I have written one:
    Would always love to hear your experience of working with values…
    best wishes, Rob

  3. Thanks Rob. Those are both also print-and-keepers.

    I am passionate about anything to do with assessing & acting on values. Discovering your work with ACT in organisations/careers has been like finding a treasure trove—-when I trained in psychology in the 90s Super’s Rainbow was It!

    Values work was a blackhole back then. Careers psych was oh sooooo dry. Some of us suspected something big was missing but we had little idea what.

    For me it is beyond exciting stuff because if people/organisations know what really matters to them, career-wise and other, then deep healing and a meaningful contribution to the world becomes so much more do-able.

    Please do write a book one day, even if it consists purely of yours and Rachel’s blog posts—-I probably speak for many people when I say my file of your posts is getting a tad cumbersome 🙂

    Thanks again.

  4. Rob, I agree with previous comments, thanks for pulling this list together.

    As for an ACT book on values … maybe try, “Your Life on Purpose” by Matthew McKay, John P Forsyth, and Georg H Eifert. I haven’t read it yet (it’s on my list …) so can’t comment; the preview is interesting and I have read (separate) quality works by all 3 authors.

    In the work environment, I find helping a client unpack and gain insight into what is important to him/her self is extraordinarily important in aiding them to improve effectiveness/ maintain valued direction in the face of great pressures and demands …

    Any work you develop would be a rich addition to what I think is an under-resourced area.


    A preview at

    1. Nic,

      funnily enough, Your Life on Purpose is in my ‘to read’ book pile. Admittedly that pile is rather large but your recommendation may bring it higher! Thanks for your comment – we’d love to hear more about your experiences in this area. Our aim is for this to be a forum where ACT-consistent work can be discussed by all those working in organisations.

      If you have a blog or website we’d like to publicise it too.

      cheers, Rob

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