Ask Yourself these 7 Simple Questions to Clarify your Personal Values

Every pastor needs what I call “true north” values, core convictions we refuse to compromise even when external pressures tempt us to do so. Such values are like the difference between a compass and a gyrocompass. A simple compass points to true north because it relies on magnetic north. Unless, that is, you bring a magnet close to it. This post will help you clarify your true north values.

Photo by dtwash

Even a small magnet can cause the compass to give wrong directions. Something external to it, the magnet, affects the north arrow so that it gives a false reading. Metaphorically, the magnet made it ‘compromise.’ For some so called ‘values,’ all it takes is criticism or the oppositional voice of a significant board member (an external force) to cause a leader to compromise.

In contrast to a compass, a gyrocompass best models core values. For navigation, ships use gyrocompasses, devices that combine a compass with a gyroscope. They find true north from the earth’s rotation which is navigationally more useful than magnetic north. Additionally, a gyrocompass’s strength lies in its ability to keep true north even if magnetic material is placed near it. In a parallel way, these deeply imbedded values are not those we glibly speak about. Rather, they are ones that stand up under severe external or internal circumstances that would tempt us to compromise. Daniel and his three friends best exemplify these values.

If you’ve never crafted your values, take a half-day retreat and use these questions to help you define them. Write down 5-10 answers for each category below.

  1. Delights: “What truly delights you? What do you love doing? What do you do that you enjoy so much that you seem to lose track of time when you do it?”
  2. Past: When you were a kid/in high school/in college, what was fun? Where did you get your joy? What did you like doing more than anything else?
  3. Peak Performance: Think of peak moments in your life or career, those moments when you feel that you did your very best work or made your greatest contribution or difference. Why were those peak moments? What was true about you? What was ignited in your soul?
  4. Heroes: Think of those in your past or present that you’d consider your heroes. What qualities about them prompted you to put them on your list?
  5. Input from others: What have other said are your strengths and virtues?
  6. Scripture: What key scriptures or Bible characters have meant the most to you in your life and why?
  7. Inventories: What personality inventories have you taken? What common themes have emerged from them? I recommend both Leading from Your Strengths and StrengthsFinder.

When you do this exercise you’ll have seven lists of ten or less themes/words per list. You’ve done a lot of great work. Now it’s time to prayerfully begin combining the lists into one final list of ten or so words and phrases. That final list will give you a great idea about your unique gyrocompass values.

Wordsmith that final list into phrases or concepts that resonate with you. Add scriptures if you want. Prayerfully commit to the Lord to live out these values. Ask Him to help you hone them the rest of your life. Finally, record these in a way that will remind you to often revisit them. For example, each Monday when I review my prior week and plan my upcoming one, I review mine.

When pressure tempts you to compromise, whether to people please, veer from your convictions, or change your God-given vision, remember your gyrocompass values. Stand on them in the face of opposition, relating to others with grace and kindness. Continue to keep them before you. Be open to the Lord’s modifying them over time. When you do, The Rock of Ages upon which you stand will be there for you as he was for Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

What questions would you add to this list?


“I just learned 7 key questions that help clarify my values.”(tweet this quote by clicking here).


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