Jul 1, 2021 | Leading Self, Learning from the Masters


One of the aspects I truly love about working as a coach is that it gives me a front-row opportunity to see my clients achieving meaningful goals, stepping into their potential and living an intentional and impactful life.

My clients often seek out coaching because they’re looking for a positive change or because they have an important goal to achieve. Many of them are already successful, and they strive to elevate their success even further. Or they come with the realization that they have already accomplished so much – yet there’s still that nagging feeling of ‘something is missing, and I don’t know what.’ They have climbed the so-called career ladder only to realize that their ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

As we go through the coaching journey, there’s often this AHA moment. The realization that ultimate success is not just about ticking the box on the next goal or moving one step further on our career ladders. It is about achieving what truly matters. Then coaching is no longer only about improving performance and reaching goals – although that happens eventually. It’s much more about creating awareness about what really matters and discovering options on how to get there. It’s about choosing consciously and responsibly.

Whether we’re aware of it or not, we choose all the time. The question is whether our choices and the resulting actions bring us closer to alignment.

So, what do I mean with alignment, and how can we get there?

I want to share some insights which I learned from my dear mentor Jan Elfline. Jan is one of the pioneers of coaching, who started her coaching journey in the early 1990s and was amongst the first Master Coaches certified by the International Coach Federation. Her perspective on aligned action is simple, yet so profound.

Being in alignment means that we’re not only aware of our values, but that we honor and treasure them and use them as a compass to guide our decisions and determine our path forward.

Now, what are values?

Values are things that are important to us – it’s as simple as that. They’re the ideals that are at the core of who we are. When we are clear about our values, decision making, and effective follow-through become so much easier – because it just feels like the right thing to do.

When we’re out alignment with our values, life feels a little off. Maybe we’re only marginally conscious of it – that’s when we say ‘I don’t know, this just doesn’t feel right…’.  And when we do something that violates or neglects a core value, we can even feel resentful or frustrated. Why? Because we’re out of alignment.

According to Jan, being in alignment and taking aligned actions means to consciously choose those actions that are aligning with our values.

How to find your values and live by them? Here are some insights and an easy to follow four-step process to experience the power of aligned action.



Try to identify what really matters to you by asking yourself a couple of questions:

  • What’s important to you? What do you care about? What do you want in your life?
  • What was a peak experience in your life? What was remarkable about it?
  • What makes you crazy, frustrated, or angry? As you think of these things – what value is violated/dishonored?
  • What could be a value that is so much part of who you are that you forget about it? An example could be creativity for an artist or functionality for an engineer.

Once you have identified your list of key values, it can be very insightful to go one step further. What do I mean with that? It means to differentiate between so-called end- and mean-values.

A mean-value helps us to get something else that we truly want to have or experience in our lives and that something is what we call an end-value. How can you find out whether a value is a mean- or end-value? Just ask yourself: Is this value giving me something else which I even value more? If so, then it’s a mean-value, and you’d want to understand better what else this is giving you (end-value).

To give you an example of a very prominent mean-value: money. Money could be a mean to get something else that could be very different depending on whom you are talking to. Money could lead to stability. Or it could offer more freedom. The same mean-value, but two very different end-values that lead to different goals and aligned actions to achieve those.

Imagine, you value money because you subconsciously see it as a means to experience freedom. But then you accept a career opportunity that is well-paid but puts you into a very rigid and autocratic work environment. You can guess how long it will take for before you start thinking about how to get out of this.



Now that you went through your values, it’s time to check whether or not you are living in alignment with these.

Here are some questions that could help you:

  • How much does this value show up in your current behavior?
  • Are you honoring this value in your day-to-day life?
  • Does this value get neglected, or do you even even violate it?
  • What can you do to be more in alignment?



Depending on how long your list of values is, meeting all of them every day might be a challenge, at least initially. So, consider choosing the top three, those that matter the most to you. The three you would have the most difficulty to compromise on.

Image what would happen if you use these to steer your direction towards alignment. Not only would you achieve, but you’d be in alignment with what matters to you. That’s when we feel we are climbing the right ladder, and life and work are flowing.  



Being in alignment comes down to day-to-day decision making. The big decisions and the small ones. Questions can provide us with helpful reminders to stay on track. Here are some:

  • As you plan to take these actions – what values do you want to honor?
  • Does this behavior fit well with who you are as a person and what you stand for?
  • Is this commitment in agreement with your values?
  • As you design a strategy for reaching this goal – are you reflecting or violating any of your values?

As you consistently favor choices and actions that align with who you are and what matters to you, the power of aligned actions will start to unfold – helping you to live and lead with intention and impact and to create a career and life you thrive in.





Sabine is an Organizational Psychologist & Expert in Positive Psychology, Leadership & Personal Development.

It is her mission to empower leadership across all levels of an organization and to inspire & enable individuals to thrive at work & in life. 

+49 (0) 179 51 88 944

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© 2021 Sabine Renner