Spend good: a quiz to help you prioritize


Sometimes this blog might come off as a little preachy, but that’s not really the intention.  I try not to be a preachy fellow except occasionally for matters that affect me, my loved ones, and/or my community.  That means usually, whatever you want to do with your own time and money is none of my business!  This blog is meant more as a nonpartisan source of ROI information 🙂

When I write about saving money by, say, never going to the movies again, the point isn’t that everyone should stop going to the movies.  Rather, the point is that going to the movies should be a deliberate decision.  Each person has unique preferences, so the value of a trip to the movies will be different for everyone.

That is what this post is all about: doing it good, aka, squeezing every last drop of value out of life.  You’ve got a fixed amount of time and money.  Make it count; spend like you mean it.  Spend well (spend good).

Intentional spending for value:

I’ve already written about intentional spending for happiness, where I argued that a lot of what makes us happy can be boiled down to one thing: spending time with people we love.  So, at least if happiness is a goal, my implicit (and admittedly sort of preachy) argument is that you would be wise to include friends and/or family as top priorities in your life.

But what other priorities should be elevated to maximize value?  That is really up to you.

What do you value most in life?  I’ve tried to answer this question at least three times in the last two years.  It isn’t an easy question to answer, but I think it is a fun and worthwhile exercise.  The first time I tried to answer it I was camping here

clackamas river camping

at the Clackamas River in Oregon.  My morbid but actually really fun method here was to write out my own obituary (I’m a big believer in the power of narrative).

Next I went here,

olympic national park

to Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park in Washington, where I just had a basic brainstorm session, thinking up major life values.

The last and most recent time, I took a project management course at Portland State University where we did the same exercise, but with one additional step: a round-robin tournament to identify our top 5 core values.

This was really cool, so I decided to recreate the exercise here.

The Quiz of Values (round-robin tournament):

Step 1: Identify 10 core values.

Brainstorm your own top 10 values or pick from the list below.

You can even explore other more comprehensive lists if you really want to get into the weeds (link 1) (link 2) (link 3).

Save your 10 values; you’ll need them in step 2.

  • Achievement
  • Advancement
  • Adventure
  • Aesthetics
  • Affection
  • Altruism
  • Authenticity
  • Autonomy
  • Beauty
  • Career
  • Caring
  • Challenge
  • Change & Variety
  • Compassion
  • Competition
  • Cooperation
  • Courage
  • Courtesy
  • Creativity
  • Dependability
  • Economic Security
  • Education
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Excitement
  • Family Happiness
  • Faith
  • Fidelity
  • Friendship
  • Gratitude
  • Harmony
  • Health
  • Help Others
  • Help Society
  • Honesty
  • Humor
  • Independence
  • Inner Harmony
  • Integrity
  • Intellectual Status
  • Justice
  • Knowledge
  • Kindness
  • Leadership
  • Location
  • Love
  • Loyalty
  • Morality
  • Originality
  • Patience
  • Personal Development
  • Physical Appearance
  • Physical Challenge
  • Pleasure
  • Power
  • Privacy / Personal Space
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Recognition
  • Self-discipline
  • Self-reliance
  • Self-respect
  • Skill
  • Stability
  • Status
  • Spirituality
  • Sustainability
  • Teamwork
  • Time Freedom
  • Wealth
  • Wisdom

Step 2: Download and open the values prioritization quiz (google worksheet).

  • Open the sheet in google drive or excel or whatever other spreadsheet program you might have.

Step 3: Type your top 10 core values into the sheet.

  • Replace “Value X” with your own value in rows 2 through 11.

Step 4: Complete the round-robin tournament (battle it out).

  • Each of your values has to square off against all the other ones.
  • Choose the winner of each battle by selecting from the drop-down list in the “Choose the Winner” cells (rows 14-58)
  • If you’re finding it hard to pick a winner, think of real life examples where these values might come into conflict.  Which would be the stronger pull for you?  Using real life examples is a best practice for the quiz as a whole.

Step 5: View your ranked results!

  • Scroll down to the bottom to see what your top results are.

Which values are most important in your life?  Which weren’t as important as you might have guessed?  Is there any clear gap between your very important, high-scoring values and your less-important, low-scoring ones, or is it just one big continuum?

Our professor recommended we look only at our top 5, which I think is good advice, but I really wanted to include my 6th on the list because it was still something I considered essential.  Here are my own top 6:

  1. Integrity
  2. Family
  3. Autonomy / Independence
  4. Altruistic Compassion / Empathy / Soul
  5. Wealth of Experience
  6. Wisdom / Knowledge
What it all means:

These are the really important things I should be spending a lot of time and money on.

JD Roth posted about this recently, saying that you should focus on the big things first and let the smaller things fall into place, otherwise life sort of has a tendency to fall out of balance.  These are the big things.

I’ve even gone as far as to craft a life plan around my top goals and values because I want to be intentional with my limited time here on this planet.  And that intentionality means not wasting one extra minute of my life doing somebody else’s work in a fluorescent-lit cubicle just so I can pursue things that aren’t really valuable to me anyway (fancy cars, spa float treatments for my baby, etc).  Like Big Boi says, if you don’t have rims, don’t get a wood grain steering wheel; in fact, you should probably pay your beeper bill before anything else (Curren$y agrees).

Other uses:

My professor neither confirmed nor denied that couples with similar values on this quiz are more likely to stay together, but he did say that he had more than one student break a relationship off after giving this quiz to their significant other only to find no common ground.  This is largely in line with what older people have to say about successful relationships: find someone with similar goals and values.  So there is one additional (and potentially explosive) use.  Luckily me and my sexy lady friend have the value thing on lock.

This quiz can also be adapted to all sorts of other decisions.  Our pre-marital counselor (strongly recommended by my wife’s parents… just kidding; it was a church requirement, or at least that is what they say 😉 ) encouraged using this kind of tool for important decisions such as buying a house.  Our counselor and her husband completed a similar exercise where they ranked their top 10 most important characteristics of a house to expedite the buying process.

You could also do this same thing with goals if that feels more natural.  Goals have a large overlap with values and are usually more concrete, therefore easier to prioritize.  Anyway, the possibilities are endless.  Now if I could just get a programmer to create a nice dynamic web version that accepts more or less than 10 entries, we’d really be cruising.

But don’t be discouraged.  Download the spreadsheet and take the quiz… it’s 20 minutes well spent even if you don’t find out what Disney character you are or what Game of Thrones house you belong in. 😉

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  1. dwayne Hoover says:

    It’s surprisingly hard to narrow the list down to 10, let alone to 5 🙂

  2. Nice! I like the tool you suggest and might give it a try.

    My husband and I did a “Top 10” wish list (his top 10 and my top 10) when we were designing our home, which we subsequently built and have been living in for over 12 years. I think it made the difference between a home that was “OK” and the wonderful home we have now and will have difficulty parting with when the time comes. We simply when down the list as long as it was within the budget.

    1. He wanted to have 1 room big enough to host his 25+ member family in a single room. So, we designed open concept.
    2. I always wanted an “attic bedroom”, so we designed a cabover.
    3. He wanted a 3-car garage to be able to work on projects and run a home-based business – Done, without making the house look like a small house attached to a big garage ;).
    4. I wanted a French-Canadian style home, with a porch, dormers and stone chimney. Luckily, he wanted the same.

    As an aside, we found the pre-marriage couples’ counselling priceless and highly recommend it. We found out a lot about each other during those sessions. Our marriage is stronger for it.

    • Good stuff! If I ever got to build a dream home it would definitely include a lot of open space versus segmented rooms and I’m really into the modern prefab type stuff. But most importantly, I love this German energy-efficiency model for homes called passive house. They are supposed to use radically less energy for things like heating and cooling etc. Especially since we’re thinking about moving to Northern Michigan in the distant distant future, which is supposed to have some pretty brutal winters.

  3. Dear Flannel guy,

    I did something similar a few years ago as part of a corporate exercise. Yours was much better! I’ve been going through a bit of a fog about what to do next and this was a great exercise to go through. I plan on doing this annually just to see how things change.

    Thank you for making this resource available!

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