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Value-Based Decision Making

It’s four o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon. You’ve been working late a lot lately, and have told your wife you’ll be home in time for dinner tonight. Just as you’re making plans to wrap up your day, your boss walks in and asks if you can go to a networking event he’d planned on attending but now is unable to.

What do you say?

On one hand, you know you promised your wife you’d be home, but she’s very understanding about work events as you build your career. On the other, your boss is asking if you’ll go (and you know you’ll meet some valuable connections there), but you won’t get fired if you say no.

This type of situation can be a real quandary for many people, and rightfully so. Oftentimes, you try to go with the decision that will make the fewest people unhappy, but if you start down that road, you can easily lose sight of your goals and end up constantly working to please others.

So what’s the answer?

Decisions like these don’t have to be difficult. If you know what is truly important in your life (or your values) and how they are ranked in order of importance, you’ve suddenly got a go-to checks and balances system that can always help you choose. A sample of a ranked value system looks something like this:





Personal development

In the above scenario, you have ‘family’ butting up against ‘career’. By going back to your ranked values, you see that family time is more important, so that’s what you choose. Another example would be if you were invited to a seminar where a dynamic speaker is presenting, but felt no interest whatsoever in the topic. When you look at your values, honesty (that you’re not interested) is ranked higher than personal development (because you could very well learn something at the seminar), so you’d decline the invite.

This sounds pretty easy, right? Unfortunately, we as human beings have more trouble than we realize actually nailing down what our true values and goals are. We may be convinced one of our highest ranking values is career success, but when we drill down, we realize it’s about something else.

Here’s a good exercise you can do to really challenge yourself into identifying your true goals and the values associated with them:

Write down a goal you are working toward. (Example: increasing sales by 10%)

Then write down why you want that goal. What will accomplishing what goal mean for you? (Example: I make more money)

Then write down what having THAT will do for you. (Example: I can take my family on vacation)

And what will that do for you? (Example: I get to spend quality time with my spouse and kids)

And why is that important, why do you want that? (Example: Because my family is important to me)

When you work backward like this, you sometimes realize that what you THOUGHT was your goal (increasing sales by 10%, based on a value of career), is really about spending more time with your family. The increasing your sales by 10% wasn’t the goal at all, it was merely one of the strategies you are using to get to your true goal. When you begin doing this enough, your core values really start to shine through.

Identifying our core values and how they are ranked is very important in anyone’s life. They not only help us concentrate on what’s crucial to our happiness, but they help us act in a manner that is consistent with our thinking and our emotions. Once you’ve identified and ranked your core values, write them down! Review them on a regular basis to remind yourself what really matters. And, when a choice comes up and you can’t make a decision, identify which value each represents. Which one ranks higher? Suddenly, that tough decisions isn’t so tough anymore.


Trish Cody has over 18 years of experience consulting with some of the world’s top Fortune 500 Companies. Today, as an ICF and iPEC Certified Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, Trish works with clients to uncover their core values and beliefs, clearly see how they are showing up in their behaviors and impacting their success, and to shift their thinking to naturally attract positivity and success. For more information, visit

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