• Amba Brown

What motivates me? Discover your values before deciding on your college or career choices

Updated: Nov 18, 2019


Applying to university or college can be a stressful process. There are thousands of courses available, but it can be very difficult to know which one is best. Your head might be full of questions like: what is going to be best for my future? What do I enjoy? How difficult will this subject be? Can I afford it and is it going to be worth it?


Finding your purpose

Paul Dolan, Professor of Behavioural Science in Psychological and Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and author of the book, ‘Happiness by Design’ asserts that in order for people to be happy, we should ensure that what we spend our time doing (both inside and outside of work) is purposeful. In other words, when we find a purpose for what we spend our time on, we are happy and when we don’t find a purpose for our activities we are not as happy.


So how do you find purpose? This is where values come in. Values are unique to each individual and are based on personal experiences and preferences. Some change over time as life evolves, while others remain constant.


When work meets our values, work becomes purposeful; it serves the purpose of achieving what we find important in life. And with purpose, comes happiness.


Why are values important?

Back to college applications. I have outlined an exercise below called ‘Explore’ which is designed to help you understand your values: your conscious and unconscious drivers that motivate you. Knowing these will help you make a more informed decision when deciding on your course or career options.


Exercise: Explore your values

You might want to print out the page to help you complete the exercise. Look at each of the values listed in the table and rate them as follows:


1 = not at all important to you

2 = fairly important

3 = very important

4 = extremely important


If you feel there is something missing in the table, feel free to add it in and rate its importance.


Now that you have completed the table, you are going to choose your top 5.


Pick out all of the values you marked with a 4. If there are less than 4, look at the ones you have marked with a 3 and try to choose which are the most important.

You may need to ask questions like: “If I had to choose between X and Y, which would I choose?”


When you have your list of 'My Top Values', see how they relate to your thoughts about which courses and career options you are considering.


Good luck 😊


This exercise was adapted from the Firework career coaching programme.



About the Author

Sarah Morris is a Firework career coach, and runs Brain Happy, a training and consultancy business specializing in mental health in schools and workplaces. Learn more about Sarah here.


#excercises #values #positivepsychology