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What are personal values? Discover yours in 5 steps

April 27, 2022 - 12 min read
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What are personal values?

The benefits of recognizing your personal values

How to find your personal values

4 tips for living in alignment with your values

We’re constantly making decisions – what to eat, which meetings to attend, who to call when we need to connect. But making decisions isn’t always easy. When you are wrestling with a tough choice and feel stuck, the answer can often be found in your values. 

You can use your values as a north star to help guide you. But what are your personal values, and how do you connect with them?

Here is more insight into personal values, why they’re important, and ways to find yours.

What are personal values?

Values, such as honesty, love of learning, authenticity, or courage, are what you deem important in life. Values show you who you are or want to be and provide a framework for how you act.

The values you embrace could be those you picked up from your family values, your education, your religious traditions, and maybe your mentors. No matter where they came from, they all tie together to inform your behavior.

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Examples of personal values

People’s personal values tend to change over time. What was important to you in high school is likely different from what you value most in retirement. And since these morphing values change based on your experiences, each person’s personal values are unique to their journey.

Here’s a healthy list of examples of personal values to start with when working to define your own. As you consider what’s important to you, you may notice that it’s not on this list, and that’s fine. Use this list to get a sense of where your priorities lie.

  • Authenticity
  • Achievement
  • Adventure
  • Autonomy
  • Balance
  • Boldness
  • Challenge
  • Community
  • Compassion
  • Connection
  • Courage
  • Craftsmanship
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Determination
  • Empathy
  • Faith
  • Fame
  • Family
  • Forgiveness
  • Freedom
  • Friendships
  • Fun
  • Grit
  • Harmony
  • Health
  • Honesty
  • Independence
  • Influence
  • Inner Peace
  • Innovation
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Knowledge
  • Leadership
  • Learning
  • Logic
  • Love
  • Loyalty
  • Marriage
  • Meaningful Work
  • Morality
  • Nature
  • Openness
  • Optimism
  • Partnership
  • Playfulness
  • Power
  • Productivity
  • Recognition
  • Religion
  • Responsibility
  • Risk-taking
  • Security
  • Service
  • Spirituality
  • Spontaneity
  • Stability
  • Success
  • Status
  • Trust
  • Vitality
  • Wealth
  • Wisdom
  • Zest
woman-thinking-personal-values

The benefits of recognizing your personal values

Recognizing your values can help you to live more intentionally and increase integrity. Here are other benefits of living in alignment with your values.

  1. You’re more reliable: Taking action through the lens of your beliefs helps you live with more integrity. This integrity means that If you’re more likely to follow through on commitments that align with your values, others can rely on you to be consistent and dependable.
  2. Increased self-confidence: Making moves that align with your values can be an instant confidence-booster. You can trust that you’re moving in the right direction for where you are and where you want to be.
  3. Clearer decision-making abilities: It’s easier to make better decisions when you have more data. And your personal values are an additional data source. By factoring them into your choices, you can feel more decisive.
  4. More motivation: Connecting with internal drivers can be incredibly motivating. You have a north star guiding to in the direction that fulfills you.
  5. Better future planning: Though your core values may shift over time, it will likely be a slow change. So you can trust that rooting your future plans in your current values are intentionally made.
  6. Improved well-being: Defining and living by your core values is integral to personal development. You’ll grow confidence in your decisions and goal-setting abilities and feel self-assured that your daily life is what you want it to be. This assurance can help you to feel more in control and reduce stress.

How to find your personal values

Just as your values themselves are likely different from someone else’s, your process of discovering them will also be unique. Here is a general guide to get you started so you can narrow in on what’s most important to you:

  1. Review the list of personal values
  2. Consider where you are and who you know
  3. Choose the 10-15 values that resonate most
  4. Bucket any values that complement each other
  5. Order them by priority


1. Review our list of personal values

This list should give you a jumping-off point to think about what’s most important to you. If you know immediately that family and loyalty are essential to your happiness, take note of them.

As you’re going through, think of where you want to go and the set of values you will want to carry with you on the way.

2. Consider where you are and who you know

Your life experiences so far have all contributed to your values in some way. Some of your life decisions have likely been made based on core values. Think about the times you overcame hardships, where you excelled, and times you felt the most fulfilled. Look for the values that guided you in those times.

Just as your own life serves as a resource for understanding what is important to you, looking at other peoples’ lives can also help. Who do you look up to? What values do they live by that matter to you?

By looking at how you and other people came to be where you and they are, you have further defined your core values.

3. Choose the 10-15 values that resonate most

The full list of values can be overwhelming. And there’s a tendency to want to prioritize everything. But choosing 10-15 of the most important values will help you stay focused.

4. Bucket any values that complement each other

Once you select your tops values, you might notice patterns. Maybe you have artistry, creativity, and craftspersonship. These can all be grouped under one high-priority value.

Clustering your list of values will help you see the areas that are most important to you and those that carry the most weight.

5. Order them by priority

Whether you have clusters of values or not, you can still put them in order of importance. It’s hard (or impossible) to do everything at once. So keeping a narrow focus on some top values can help you succeed in aligning with them.

man-smiling-personal-values

 4 tips for living in alignment with your values

Of course, there are things you cannot control: a client’s response to your latest pitch, your partner’s mood, a power outage.

But here are four areas you can control right now that might boost your connection to your personal values.

1. Address your mindset

How do you show up every day? Do you show up ready to take on difficult projects and cheer others on? Or are you more likely to shy away from challenging work?

You can positively influence those around you and your own mental well-being by leaning in on your values. If hard work and dependability are important personal values to you, then establishing a mindset to live up to them will support your personal growth and help you feel more aligned.

2. Be aware of where you put your effort

How intentional are you with your commitments, completing your assignments, and connecting with family members and loved ones? If you have ever heard that you are where you put your energy, it rings true.

If your actions do not align with your values, you may feel disconnected from your daily routine. Or you could have the urge to change things up. When your actions align with your values, though, you’ll likely feel more settled in life and work.

3. Notice how you treat others

When faced with challenging situations, how do you respond? Does your behavior reflect your list of core values? Try to build your self-awareness and practice being clear, empathetic, and direct. These qualities will likely feed into the relationship-based values you have highlighted.

4. Establish short-term and long-term goals.

What’s on your agenda? The way you plan for each day and look ahead to your future gives shape to your purpose and meaning. When you set goals based on a set of values, you’ll feel more motivated to achieve them.

5. Take care of yourself

Are you giving yourself the movement, nutritious foods, and rest you need? Nutrition and mental health are closely linked. And physical well-being feeds into your mental well-being. So fortifying yourself allows you to face the many things out of your control.

What are your personal core values?

When you have a clear direction of where you’re heading in life, your values shine through. You have purpose and meaning because you know what you want to achieve, and you can make decisions and take actions based on a handful of guiding principles.

Finding purpose and meaning in your work and daily life can lead to a more fulfilling life.

The next time you’re faced with a decision, consider your values. You’ll know exactly what to do.

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Published April 27, 2022

Lois Melkonian

Better Up Fellow Coach, PCC, CBC

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