How to Help a Client Identify Their Core Values

by Coaching Out of the Box

In order to assist a client, or even build a relationship, it helps to know what values they have and whether they are similar to that of the coach. Both parties do not need to have the same values, but an understanding of these may help foster a better relationship. These values are important as they become the building blocks for how life is perceived and how a person may react in certain situations – they also guide a person’s priorities and vision for their lives. Unfortunately, a lot of clients may not have taken the time to identify what these values are. Life, family and even religion may have influenced them over the years but their values grew subconsciously and the question of “What are your core values?” may garner a blank stare. Values may also change with the client’s circumstances, such as having a family or going through a crisis.

Here are some steps to helping a client identify their core values:

  1. Ask them to identify at least three peak moments in their life – times when they felt the happiest or most fulfilled. What made these moments so incredible?
  2. Help them break down what values are present in these moments and choose the most important ones. For instance, if their peak moments involved hiking to the top of Mt. Everest, they may identify “adventurous”, “nature” and “challenging”.
  3. Prioritize the top values into a hierarchy of most important to least important. The top 5-7 values have them write out a statement about what this value looks like to them, ie. “To me, success looks like…”
  4. Help them create visual reminders of these core values. Suggest post-it notes, pictures or similar reminders that they can have in plain sight to keep them focused.

It may become apparent to the client through this exercise that they are not living according to their core values. This is not uncommon and can be a great starting point for a plan moving forward on how to improve this. Bringing their lifestyle more in line with their core values can make a positive impact on their situation and/or outlook. Although these exercises may take some time, the ultimate outcome is worth the effort and should provide the client with a better understanding of themselves and even how they interact with others.

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