When I ask clients, "What matters most to you?" (instead of cocking a revolver I usually add that it’s off the record, so they know I wanted the non-scripted, non-positioned answer), I usually get things like family, success, self-improvement, pushing my personal envelope, yadda, yadda. So much for differentiating yourself from other applicants. Yes, you can definitely get admitted to Stanford GSB by uttering such banalities, but if you do it's likely because, aside from your 770 GMAT score, you buried your banal answer within an otherwise absorbing tale of personal growth or discovery (or because, although you thoroughly botched your Stanford MBA essay, your résumé shows that you have founded an organization that has "changed the world" in some fashion).
My point is not to make you self-conscious or insincere when responding to Stanford GSB's excellent MBA essay question prompt. It's to get you past the idea of starting this critical Stanford MBA essay by answering their question. Leave that for last. Instead, start by identifying the life experiences that have meant the most to you in your life and/or have forced you to change or grow the most, regardless of whether you think they connect to something that matters most to you.
Stanford MBA Essays - MBA Applicant
Stanford GSB hints at the value of this approach in its : "illustrate how you came to be the person you are, "illustrate how a person, situation, or event has influenced you." The key to this Stanford MBA essay question, in other words, is change, process – envisioning your self and life as a verb, not a noun. Kudos if you see an echo between this advice and for Harvard's non-optional optional MBA essay question. The two MBA essay questionss are similar in many ways. It's often said that admissions departments mimic Harvard, but Stanford GSB may be the true pied piper.