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Identifying Your Core Values

Use this tactic to pinpoint what you value most about your life--and your business.

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When people need to identify and clarify their values, some have found "forced choice" to be very useful. You know forced choice as the popular lifeboat dilemma that asks you which six or seven people out of a group of 15 would you put into a lifeboat. These lifeboat scenarios are very good at helping people decide whether a child who will grow up to find a cure for diabetes is more important to them than the president of an advertising agency who, if rescued, will die two years later of diabetes.

Here's an easy and more modern dilemma that might help: Suppose that a large asteroid is on a collision course with earth, and complete destruction is assured in a matter of weeks. You have been given the opportunity to save 100 people from this destruction. What kind of people will you select? If you choose primarily family members, there's a good chance that family is one of your central values. If you choose artists and musicians, maybe you value a world of beauty. If you choose scientists, it could be that progress and discovery are important to you. The more specific you can be about the 100 people you will save, the more effective you will be at isolating your own individual values.

Excerpted from Ben Franklin's 12 Rules of Management