Discovering Your Values Through Your Obituary

discovering your valuesOK, the title of this blog–Discovering Your Values Through Your Obituary–got your attention! But, the exercise below is a serious tool to assist your coaching clients in understanding their core values. It revolves around the following question: Who Do I Want to Be Remembered As?

Step 1: Discovering Your Values at Your Funeral

Imagine it is right after your own funeral. Your best friends and family have gathered to remember you and celebrate your life. One by one, people stand up and describe who you were and the personal qualities they most appreciate about you. What would you want them to say? Think of five or more specific people, and jot down some phrases you’d want each one to say about several different areas of your life: family, work, service, hobbies, etc. You should end up with a list of 20 or so phrases. Here are some examples:

• He was a regular guy.

• He never got a big head. You always felt like you could talk to him.

• He was a great dad—he just cared a lot about me. He used to tuck me in every night and pray for me, and some days when I was older I’d catch him still praying for me on his own before he went to bed.

• He cared about the little things. I was often amazed at the needs he saw without being told, and how he would quietly go about meeting them.

• He didn’t leave a mess behind him.

• When he committed to something, you knew it was going to get done.

• He cared enough to pay attention and remember what was important to you

Step 2: Evaluate

Now step back and look at what you wrote. What are the common themes behind the responses you envisioned? Which phrases are most meaningful to you, and why?

• Theme: taking care of the little things. (It is important to me to be there for people.)

• Theme: being one of the guys (Being accessible is something I highly value).

• Theme: serving others. (I care deeply about showing people I love them in small ways.)

• Theme: keeping your word (Integrity and doing what you say is very important to me).

Step 3: Integrate

Finally, pick out the three to five top themes–the ones that are most important to you. Those are your values! The process of discovering your values is complete.

Coaching tip: Discovering your values is tough: values are slippery and hard to pin down. It may take another step (like coaching the person around what they wrote) for the person to get from these ruminations to concrete value statements.

A pioneer in Christian leadership coaching, Tony Stoltzfus has trained thousands of coaches, founded several leadership- and coaching schools and created a wide range of leadership resources used around the world.