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When Did You Last Check Your Values?

by Frances Coombes(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 128 - October 2006

Values are the principles which drive our behaviour; they give meaning to our lives. When we engage in what we do with our values, then we engage in projects with our hearts and minds.

Our beliefs and values define who we are and what we do. They can be described as the personal rules that we choose to live by. Yet, how acquainted are we on a daily basis with our own values? Could you set out your ten most important values in the order they hold priority for you?

Beliefs are Different from Values

Beliefs and values are often grouped together, but actually they are different. We tend to be able to recognize values or evidence of them. You can say 'I value honesty' or 'independence' or 'people who support me', and usually you can see evidence to demonstrate this. Beliefs however, although commonly held by people, or groups of people, need not necessarily be true.

We all see the world differently, and many of the beliefs we carry with us that stop us achieving our aims in life aren't really true. Much of NLP change work is based on helping people to recognize their own limiting beliefs and to challenge them. Here is a tip on challenging your limiting beliefs. Think of a limiting belief you may hold. It may be: 'I am not good at …something', 'I am not meant to be …something'. 'I can't be successful at …something.' Ask yourself some questions and see what your mind tells you.

Precision questions are: 'How would you know if what you are thinking wasn't true?' 'What would happen if you could do this thing you say you can't do?'

'Why is it like that?' These are powerful questions, because in each case they require you to take your thinking a step beyond your self-imposed limiting boundaries, and to imagine a new belief. Once you can imagine the new belief then the door opens a chink, enough to sweep out the old belief and replace it with a more empowering one.

Dealing with your limiting beliefs is not enough, though; if you are aiming for a goal and feel blocked you may need to check out whether your goal aligns with your internal values.

Values Drive Us and Provide Motivation

Whilst we all have unique value systems, it is likely that your friends and family will share similar values to yours. Once you move outside this close family circle, say to your workplace, you will meet people who do not share similar values to your own.

Some values are referred to as core values. These are the ones that are relevant to the majority of areas of your life. For example, if you have a deeply held religious conviction, this is likely to be a core value in your life. Your core values will affect what you say, think and the actions you take. Three people may view the same situation differently, because their personal values inform them differently. One person might see the situation as a chance to explore new opportunities, another as a chance to use their creativity, the third person (who values security) may see only all the pitfalls and risks involved.

Decide What's Important to You, Using Values

Start thinking about the things you value most. Use this list to prompt you, and add your own values to it.

Achievement, Freedom, Justice, Security, Adventure, Growth, Kindness, Self-discipline, Beauty, Happiness, Knowledge, Self-esteem, Charity, Health, Leadership, Service, Community, Honesty, Love, Spirituality, Creativity, Honour, Peace, Strength, Dignity, Humility, Power, Supportiveness, Ethics, Independence, Pride, Surrender, Family, Individuality, Reason, Trust, Friendship, Integrity, Respect, Truth, Fun, Intimacy, Risk, Wisdom.

Pick the ten most important values to you. Beside each one write the reason why this quality is important to you. You might, for example, write: 'Creativity is important to me because…It lets me express myself.' 'Freedom is important to me because…I want to decide what I do.'

When you have listed your values and the reason why they are important to you, then number them in order of priority. If you cannot decide whether you rate one quality over another, write the individual words on pieces of paper and put them face upwards on the palms of each hand. Look at each in turn and balance them as if they were in weighing scales until an outright winner emerges. Repeat this until you have your values rated in order of priority.

Values are what make us the way we are. They drive us and provide motivation for how we live our lives. When we know what our values are, and are aware of the behaviour that springs from holding those values, we can make clearer decisions about what's important to us and what we want in life.

Values are the key to living a successful and rewarding life.


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About Frances Coombes

Frances Coombes Advanced Dip CBT/REBT Dip CBT offers one-to-one therapeutic coaching in North West London and on Zoom.  She is a is a CBT/REBT psychotherapist in North West London, a NLP Master Practitioner and Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapist and runs life coaching groups in London and on Zoom.  She teaches NLP at The City Lit in Central London and tutors at the City Lit and Mary Ward Centre in central London on Using REBT for Managing Stress and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). She runs goal setting and REBT coaching groups for vulnerable people for inner London authorities and charities.  

Her most recent book is Motivate Yourself and Reach Your Goals, pub, November 2013, Hodder Headline. Available on and  For extract visit To inquire or book personal development courses contact Frances on Tel: 07818 896 795; 


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