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How to Identify Your Needs and Values

Caroline White Photography

Like a GPS which helps us get to a set destination, our needs and values help us navigate our daily situations and when faced with significant career and life decisions, i.e, pursuing a new role or company, relocating, continuing or ending a relationship, starting a family, and other life-altering choices.

In this article, my goal is to help you fine-tune your built-in GPS to create more harmony and simplify meaningful life decisions. We'll accomplish that by showing you how to identify your primary needs and core values.

Are you aware of your primary needs and core values?

While training to become a Certified Professional Coach in New York City, one of the fundamental skills taught was to anchor to what is most important to us. From this place, all choices, conflicts, dilemmas, and paradoxes can be measured, creating a life we truly love.

Once I learned this concept, I began to analyze past behaviors and observe the action of people in my life with intention. My compassion grew towards myself and them as I realized in many instances, we were each trying to meet our own needs the only way we knew of at that time.

As a mother, whenever my son starts to act up, I apply this new perspective by asking him "What do you need right now?" Viewing his needs through this lens helps me relate to him and keeps our conversation from going down a slippery slope of assumptions and potential frustrations.

Similarly, we can apply this needs and values perspective to strengthen and nurture healthy relationships and connections with co-workers, managers, employees, and clients. The more we understand their needs and values, the easier it is to influence, navigate conflicts and implement initiatives successfully - achieving desired goals, and enhancing individual and collective team performance.

As we evolve and change, so do our needs and values as we go through different stages of life. Even if you have explored them in the past, you may be surprised by what you learn today.

What are core needs and values?

Our core values define what's most meaningful and essential to us. One of my coaches, mentors, and author, Martha Lasley, believes that when we align our values, our mission and life's vision becomes more evident and definable. "Values hold the essence of your experience and form the building blocks of your personal foundation." Courageous Visions, How to Unleash Passionate Energy in Your Life and Your Organization.

Our primary needs drive most of our actions and behaviors. All of us share six universal needs, to varying degrees. Tony Robbins calls them the needs of the personality: certainty, uncertainty, love/connection, and significance, and the needs of the spirit: growth and contribution.

Psychologist Marshall Rosenberg believes that everything we do or say is an attempt to meet our needs. Another of my coaches, Stacey Martino, uses the analogy that our needs are like buckets we walk around with, three on each arm, trying to fill them in any way possible.

How does this apply to your life?

Honoring our needs and core values when making significant decisions, setting goals, or engaging in professional or personal relationships enables us to act and behave in ways that align with our essence, feeling peaceful and grounded even when situations seem extremely difficult.

However, when we ignore or downplay what truly matters and make decisions based on people around us, our fears, biases, or current circumstances we can be left feeling doubtful, dissatisfied, guilty, or full of regret.

Neglecting our primary needs signifies a lack self-awareness, which can create chaos in our lives and the lives of those around us. We may feel anxious, insecure, edgy, paranoid, bored, demotivated, lonely, detached, disconnected, powerless, useless, unseen, unheard, stagnant, stuck, selfish, self-absorbed, or isolated. Undoubtedly, this can diminish our ability to show up in the best way possible, detract from our well-being, and strain our relationships.

Unmet needs can also manifest in unhealthy choices or behaviors that do not serve us such as being controlling, hoarding, creating drama, manipulating, demanding, deceiving, allowing abusive behavior, obsessing, over-extending ourselves, and overindulging in food or other unhealthy habits.

What does this look like in action?

For those of us whose primary need is "certainty," we may go to great lengths to ensure stability, playing small and making life decisions that hold us back from taking chances or pursuing our dreams.

Conversely, for those of us whose primary need is "uncertainty," we may go out of our way to seek adventure or break-up the routine by engaging in over the top behavior, creating drama or chaotic situations in our relationships.

When our primary need is “love/connection,” we may devote a great deal of time and energy securing people, relationships, and love, even going to the extreme of staying in unhealthy partnerships out of fear of being alone.

If our primary need is "significance," we may behave in ways that get us noticed, acknowledged, and appreciated. We may brag incessantly, or look for constant validation from our work or those around us, engaging in negative attention.

At the soul level, those of us with the primary need for "growth" may focus on learning and developing new talents, skills, and ways of being. The desire for "contribution" makes us feel best when helping others, giving of ourselves, or standing up for a cause that resonates with us. In extreme cases of satisfying the need for "growth and contribution," we may over commit, feel guilty saying "no" and run ourselves ragged.

Years ago, I discovered that freedom and independence had been pervasive core values in my life while I was a young girl growing up in the Dominican Republic. I wasn't surprised to find that now my primary needs appear to be "certainty," "love/connection," and "growth," with "contribution" as a close fourth.

As a new entrepreneur, you can imagine the uncertainty I faced while running my own business. I had to acknowledge, but let go of, the need for a high level of certainty to successfully navigate this new phase of my life. Focusing on my core values of family, freedom, and integrity helped me to find a place of calm amid the emotional storm.

How do you identify your primary needs and core values?

Here is tool to help you figure out what they are.


Get in a comfortable sitting position, away from distractions. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth on a count of four. Clear your mind and focus simply on your breath. Do this until you feel relaxed and in the present moment. When you are ready, answer the following questions.


  • Think about a time when you felt passionate about your life or work.

  • What made your life or work particularly meaningful or fulfilling?

  • When was a time when you felt lit up about life?

  • What were you doing, who were you with, how were you being?

  • Write your answers without editing or censoring. Journaling our thoughts helps the brain solidify information. Then, review what you wrote.

Assessing needs:

Based on what you wrote, on a scale of 1 to 5 (high), which of the six universal needs were being met and contributed to you feeling your best, feeling the happiest, or feeling on top of the world?

Prioritizing needs:

Note which "needs" had the highest score during your peak experiences? These are your primary needs. What did you learn? Please journal your answer.

Assessing values:

Based on what you wrote, can you identify your top 10 values? Here as some suggestions to help you: dependability, reliability, loyalty, integrity, commitment, open-mindedness, consistency, honesty, efficiency, and the like. Don’t limit yourself to this list; you can also Google "list of values." Use whatever words work best for you.

Needs and values in a nutshell

At this point, you have confirmed your values and your primary universal needs. Expecting others to fulfill our needs and values can lead to us blaming everything and everyone else around us for our situation.

When we put the responsibility onto someone else to meet our needs, there is not much we can do about any given situation. Not a very empowering scenario, is it?

Having an awareness and practice of meeting our own needs and values is a powerful tool that enhances self-leadership and empowerment, creating the life and career we each desire. Applying needs and values-based principles when dealing with others can lead to significant enrichment of our relationships. Understanding that everyone we meet is seeking to meet their needs allows us to approach them from a place of compassion and prevent us from taking things "personally."

  • How is having this insight helpful to you?

  • What surprised you about your findings?

  • How is your life and career currently misaligned with your needs and values?

If you find yourself wanting to take a closer look at the gaps in your career or personal life, you don't have to do it alone--we are here to support.

Your internal GPS is already in place. Let's fine tune it to create the results you desire.

If you enjoyed this article, I would love to read your comments and will be grateful if you share it with your social networks.

In the meantime, be fearless! (act despite the fear)

With love and gratitude,


About Dr. Ginny A. Baro

Dr. Ginny Baro is an international executive coach, speaker, and #1 bestselling author of Fearless Women at Work. She is the CEO and founder of ExecutiveBound™ and Fearless Women @Work™ and the creator of the innovative and proven method, C.A.R.E.S. Success System™.

Ginny specializes in helping executives develop leaders, maximize performance, and increase profits. As a career strategist, she partners with talented individuals who are navigating a corporate hierarchy or transitioning into an entirely new phase of their professional careers.

She has successfully facilitated leadership training and coaching programs for global companies with over 65,000 employees and delivered keynotes impacting international audiences larger than 7,000 people.

For over two decades, Ginny held multiple Director and senior leadership roles in financial services and technology. Her academic degrees include a Ph.D. in Information Systems, an MS in Computer Science, an MBA in Management, and a BA in Computer Science and Economics. She's a Certified Professional Coach (CPC) accredited by the International Coach Federation. For more information, visit

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