Clarifying values is one of the primary ways of awakening inherent resourcefulness and wisdom that activates deep levels of creativity. We are fully capable of much more than we can imagine at any moment. When we pay attention to the still small voice within, to the experiences that have shaped us, and to what we love, our values become clearer.
Asking clarifying questions
Look at snapshots of when your life was really sweet—times when you were fully honoring what was most important to you. What made it sweet?
Recall the challenging times in your life. What were the lessons learned?
Tell me a song that you love, or a movie. What about that makes it special for you?
Look at times when you were particularly upset or angry. What was missing for you?
More coaching questions you can ask to elicit values:
When was a time you felt passionate about your life or work?
When was your life or work particularly meaningful or fulfilling?
What were the greatest lessons you learned from adversity?
What was a time when you felt fully energized about your life?
What insights do these times reveal about your life purpose?
What do you stand for?
What legacy do you want to leave?
What are three intentions you have for your future?
What is a purpose you feel called to fulfill?
Where the importance of a value isn’t clear, the client can envision a situation where it is not possible to honor the value. We can ask, what does it feel like without that value present? The degree of discomfort will reveal how important the value is.
Listening for values in peak experiences We ask clients to share a “peak” experience, one in which life was wonderful, full, rich and “just right.” A peak experience may be a major life experience or a small incident. We ask what stands out about each experience. Look for the qualities of the experience, the interactions and the source of fulfillment.
Questions we can ask are:
What was it about this experience that made it special?
What values were being honored?
What’s the one value you’d most like to pass on to others (a mentee, your children or someone you care about) as the key to a fulfilling life?
If there were no chance of being laughed at or left out, what would be the most important value you’d like to express through your life?
Defining moments and metaphors for values
To further ground values, we can explore a client’s defining moments or high points and use metaphors to create a reference point for the impact of the values. This helps them reconnect with the specific experience and energetic qualities that embodied particular values.
Where a client’s values are clear, we ask them to remember a defining moment when they honored the value fully. Alternatively, where it would help to discover values, we ask them to remember and describe a defining moment, and listen for the values they were honoring at that time.
As a revealing exercise, we can ask clients to prioritize their top seven values and remember a time when they honored each to the fullest. For each value we ask:
What defining moment epitomizes each value?
What is a metaphor that helps you visualize the defining moment?
What is a metaphor that catches the essence of the experience?
When exploring these defining moments with clients, we have them talk about the moment or the metaphor and watch them step out of their head and into an experience and feeling of the value. If they are talking about the experience and value as if telling a story, invite them to step back into the actual experience or ask them how the experience lives in their body.
Excerpt from Coaching for Transformation by Lasley, Kellogg, Michaels and Brown.
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