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Four Steps To Making Value-Based Decisions

Written by: Marina Jankovic, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Living by our values sounds easy – these are simply the important things to us in life, so it should be natural to live by them. But sometimes, things get complicated; our decisions become difficult, like we are pulled into different directions, or it feels like we must compromise too much. When we are feeling this internal tension, there is a likelihood that a value-related conflict is standing in the way of reaching what we want. This value-related conflict might be an actual reason for our frustrations and procrastination.

When we know and frequently revisit our values, we get inspired to keep going. This is important when things go well, but even more so when you go through challenging times.

Values influence our career, relationships, and the overall level of satisfaction. In our internal measurement system values determine whether our actions are good or bad, and right or wrong. But the irony is that few of us actually sit down, think and choose our values.

We all tend to adopt some values from our parents; add in the dominant values of society and these values are likely to stay with us through to adulthood - even if they are not serving us best.

I’ve coached many talented people who have found themselves clinging to values leading them along the unsatisfying path in life.

The good news is that once we gain a deeper understanding of our core and priority values, we will also gain valuable knowledge about what matters to us most and we will be able to make decisions that serve us best.

But what if you don’t even know what your core values are?

Step 1

Journal about what matters to you.

Some questions to help you get started:

What's important to you in life?

If you could have any career, what would you do?

When you're reading news, what sort of story or behaviour tends to inspire you?

What type of story or behaviour makes you angry?

What do you want to change about the world?

Look at your answers and start figuring out your values. For example, if successful entrepreneurs' stories inspire you, maybe you value determination or achievement, or perhaps it's wealth and success. If activists inspire you, maybe you value courage or integrity, or perhaps justice or peace.

Try to examine what exactly it is about those stories or experiences that you relate to and make a list of your values.

Step 2

Determine ten core values.

Your core values are based on your experience of happiness, fulfilment and pride.

Here are some potential values to help you expand your list with those that resonate with you:

Financial Security; Compassion; Health/Fitness; Nature; Accomplishment; Creativity; Practicality; Cooperation; Excellence; Merit; Inner harmony; Challenge; Perfection; Growth; Fun; Dependability; Loyalty; Beauty; Bravery; Freedom; Professionalism; Gratitude; Love; Honesty; Positivity; Joy; Fairness; Diversity; Faith; Connection/Relationships; Learning; Leadership; Survival; Control; Contribution; Tolerance; Unity; Diligence; Vitality; Security; Adventure; Family; Justice; Traditionalism (this is not an exhaustive list!).

You may find that some of your values combine in one. For example, if you value generosity, philanthropy and community, you may say that service to others is one of your core values.

Another way to approach this step is to think back to both the proudest and most painful moments of your life. These moments could direct you to what you care about most.

What were your proudest achievements?

If you won an award for teaching, consider that ‘leadership’ or ‘motivating others’ might be a significant value.

What were your most painful experiences?

If you know the pain of being excluded by others, you might realise that ’compassion’ is one of your primary values.

Step 3

Determine five priority values.

Ideally, of course, you'll live according to all positive values. But your time and energy is limited. Therefore, prioritising values helps you to ensure that you're focused on the most important things that will guide you to becoming the best possible version of yourself.

This step might be the most difficult, but it’s the most crucial because you must choose between solutions that may satisfy different life values. To push through challenges on your journey of stepping into your vision, you will sometimes need to decide which value is more important than the other:

  • Look at the first two values on your 10 Core Values list and ask yourself, “If I could only satisfy one of these, which one would I choose?” For example, “If I could reach financial abundance, but no freedom, or all the freedom with no financial abundance, which would I choose?”

  • Keep working through the list by comparing each value with each other value until your list is in the correct order.

N.B. The priority values list is NOT here to make you choose between two areas you care about. Instead, it is here to deepen your understanding of what you honour most.

Step 4

Reaffirm your values.

When considering your values in decision-making, aim for the integrity that a values-driven life can provide.

Consider these questions:

Do these priority values represent things you would support, even if your choice is not popular or approved by others?

How are you going to embed your priority values in your decisions and actions?

Pay attention to whether the values you chose above are reflected in your daily life. What values are you expressing or living by as you go through your day? Are there any patterns?

What can you learn about what you want, and what you are willing to give up? What is non-negotiable in your life?

Your Values Can Change

My coaching clients often ask me, “Can my values change?”

Your core values will probably stay the same throughout your life, others may change as your life circumstances change. This means your priority values aren't set in stone.

Even if the values stay the same, the order in which you prioritise them may shift. For example, starting a family may cause you to value security and financial stability more highly than you did when you were single. Or a divorce may result in a renewed desire for freedom and self-discovery. Your values may also change as your views change because new experiences shape you as a person.

We tend to forget that sometimes our choice is not between right and wrong but between two cherished values. Knowing why you choose one value over the other can help resolve the inner conflict you may feel. It’s always good to remember that specific values may rise to the top in particular situations.

Sometimes knowing your values is even more important than your goals because you might not reach your goals, but you can almost always choose to live by your values.

That is an outstanding achievement already.

Ready to start your personal transformation journey? Check out Marina’s book Your Time To Shine

Follow me on LinkedIn and visit my website for more info!


Marina Jankovic, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Marina Jankovic is a Master Coach and DE&I Leader with 17 years of international experience in Business Management, Learning & Development and Executive Education. She has managed a Global Talent and Diversity & Inclusion for a company operating in 180 markets and directly contributed to building a more diverse talent pipeline and inclusive culture.

Marina brings psychological depth and a multi-system perspective to her clients and has partnered with numerous private and public sector organisations, both in-house and as a consultant, helping them design and implement experiential learning programs and coaching culture.

Drawing from her own business and talent development experience, along with 3000+ executive coaching hours and hundreds of clients' stories, Marina identifies stepping stones towards creating a more significant impact in business and life.

She is the author of a best-selling book Your Time To Shine, a pearl of practical wisdom for women - and men - to create the lives they want, by choosing courage, leading authentically, and contributing to a better world for the generations to come.



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