Jump to section Personal values 101 20 core value examples 6 tips for defining your own core values Living by your values Moving forward It’s a Sunday morning. You’re standing in line at your favorite café, ready to indulge in your weekend ritual of a cappuccino and a good book. Four people are in front of you. Then three. Then two. Then… out of nowhere, a man cuts to the front. The barista is taken aback. But they obviously don’t want trouble. They serve him and you’re up next. “Can you believe that guy?” you mutter to the barista. You value patience and fairness. He obviously doesn’t. Every day, we make judgments based on our values. They inform our behaviors and understanding of right and wrong. They help shape how we think, act, and feel. And ultimately, our values help guide us to our purpose in life. What we do with our careers, our personal lives, and even our relationships rely on our values. Value systems can be shared by different societies and cultures. Societal values can help us shape what we determine to be right or wrong, good or bad. Though, as we see by the coffee shope example, there’s room for deviation.
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Personal values 101
20 core value examples
6 tips for defining your own core values
Living by your values
It’s a Sunday morning. You’re standing in line at your favorite café, ready to indulge in your weekend ritual of a cappuccino and a good book.
Four people are in front of you. Then three. Then two. Then… out of nowhere, a man cuts to the front. The barista is taken aback. But they obviously don’t want trouble. They serve him and you’re up next.
“Can you believe that guy?” you mutter to the barista. You value patience and fairness. He obviously doesn’t.
Every day, we make judgments based on our values. They inform our behaviors and understanding of right and wrong. They help shape how we think, act, and feel. And ultimately, our values help guide us to our purpose in life. What we do with our careers, our personal lives, and even our relationships rely on our values.
Value systems can be shared by different societies and cultures. Societal values can help us shape what we determine to be right or wrong, good or bad. Though, as we see by the coffee shope example, there’s room for deviation.
To most Americans, the most important values are having a happy relationship, an honest and respectable life, and safety and security.
Understanding your own values is a fundamental part of self-awareness and getting to know yourself as a human being. Understanding what you value can help you understand the world around you.
With a better understanding of your values, you can become more empathetic. You might show better emotional regulation. Or you might improve your communication skills.
But identifying your values is difficult. It requires deep self-reflection and self-honesty — both of which are hard work. When you’re hustling and bustling every day, taking the time to do this comes at a premium.
We put together this list of personal values examples to save you time. You can go through them, see which you relate to, and try to understand how they fit in your day-to-day. Then you can begin the work of self-improvement and find direction in your life.
Personal values 101
Before we get into examples, let’s establish some core principles. Knowing how values work will help you in your personal development.
What are personal core values?
Personal values are how you differentiate between “good” and “bad” in your community, culture, or society. They’re what you view as the ideal standards of behavior, like patience and honesty.
You probably have some guiding principles in your life that inform your decision making, goal setting, and overall disposition. These are probably your core values.
What is a personal values system?
Your personal values system is the cumulation of all your personal values. Together, they shape how you interact with the world around you.
How are personal values formed?
You likely picked up your values from how and where you were raised. Your parents or primary caregiver, your siblings, your school, your friends, your community, your culture, your religion, your country — all of these factor into how personal values are formed.
Why are core personal values important?
Common core values are essential to social cohesion, but they can also cause conflict or discrimination. One study by the Association for Consumer Research found that people of culturally diverse backgrounds may be identified by their values with 65% accuracy.
These differences in values might be strong enough to cause friction.
Are personal values permanent?
Although your core values may be fairly stable, it might surprise you to know that your values change and evolve.Personal values are constantly changing. This is why it’s important to understand your own personal values system and to check in with your values regularly.
Sometimes we hold values that seem right but haven't been tested. For example, before you have children you might think that you value order and predictability. Two kids later you might realize that other values like laughter, flexibility, or creative expression matter to you far more.
Through self-reflection and self-examination, you might find certain values are holding you back or hurting your relationships. For example, values around money and status that once seemed compelling may stop being helpful if you realize that you are still seeking satisfaction.
Once you’re aware of them, you can consider whether they still matter to you. You may find that you need to change or reframe them so they are more helpful and less harmful in your life. Or, if the values still hold true, you can change your life to honor the values that matter to you.
Understanding and staying aligned with your values requires some effort and Inner Work®. But living and working in alignment with our values is critically important for well-being. Ask for help if you need it. At BetterUp, we can help you on your journey to be your best self.
20 core value examples
Here’s a list of core values to inspire you. Try to look for them within yourself:
- Personal growth
You can see how these might define your behavior or affect life decisions. If you value humility, you’ll be less likely to be flashy about your skills — no matter how talented you actually are.
6 tips for defining your own core values
Here’s how you can start identifying values in your own life. Open a document or pull out a notebook and try the following brainstorming exercises.
1. Think of the most meaningful moments in your life
What made them meaningful to you? Who were you with? What were you doing? You can define “meaningful” however you like — but it usually encompasses moments where you were at peace and filled with purpose.
Parents experience this during their child's birth, first steps, and first words. You might experience it at work when you’re using your skills to do something important for the company. Or with a friend when you’re helping them through a hard time and know your words resonate with them.
As you list your meaningful moments, a theme should emerge. This will point to some of your core values.
2. Think of the moments you felt the least satisfied
This is similar to our first exercise. But this time, try to imagine the opposite. What were some of your worst life experiences? Why were they unfulfilling to you? What were you doing? How were other people behaving toward you?
You might feel unfulfilled at work if the organization’s values don’t match your own. It’s the same story when spotting red flags in a relationship. Mismatched values might leave you feeling unsatisfied.
3. Pay attention to what stories inspire you
When you read the news, see if any articles catch your attention. Look for people whose behavior you admire or respect. Think about why they speak to you and what that says about you.
4. Figure out what makes you angry
You can learn a lot about your values by paying attention to what irritates you. Maybe a movie character rubs you the wrong way, someone in your life upset you, or you found a task frustrating. Your anger might be rooted in a contradiction of your values.
5. Imagine your ideal world
If you had the power to reshape the world, what would it look like? Think of the services you’d like to provide (or not provide), how citizens would treat each other, and what activities they would partake in. Chances are, your choices will reflect your values.
6. Review the accomplishments you’re most proud of
You’ve done a lot of things in your life. Think of the ones that fill you with pride. What did you do? What was the impact? Why those accomplishments and not others?
You might see some overlap with your most meaningful moments here. Was your college graduation one of the best days of your life? Is that more important than a really great day you had with your friends? What does that tell you?
Living by your values
It’s good to understand your values, but they mean nothing without action. Here are some tips that will help you live more authentically.
1. Create a list of priority values
Not all values are equal, and some might even conflict. You’ll have to think of which ones are most important to you.
Make a list of your top values. If you’re stuck between two, imagine a situation where you could only satisfy only one of them. Think about which one you would choose.
Here’s an example you might find in your personal life.
Let’s say your best friend has a foul odor today, and you’re wondering if you should say something. Your top two values are honesty and kindness.
Do you tell your friend and risk hurting their feelings? Or do you keep it to yourself, sacrificing your honesty? (Sometimes, being honest is being kind. But you get the idea!)
2. Use your values to set goals
Your values should inform your five-year plan and vision statement.
Consider the following question: What do you have to change to better live by your values? This question can help you set short and long-term goals.
For example, if you value co-operation, you might look for a job that focuses on teamwork. If you value learning, you enroll in night classes to earn additional qualifications.
3. Allow for exceptions
Values are your ideal vision for the world, but sometimes they conflict with reality. To mitigate this, think of circumstances where it’s acceptable to compromise. You can value loyalty to your best friend unless they violate your trust.
4. Strengthen your values with good habits
It’s easy to lose track of your values when you’re busy with daily life. Here are some habits that can help you when you don’t have much free time:
- Read them out every morning
- Plan how you’ll live by your values throughout the day
- Print out your values and carry them with you
- Place them somewhere visible, where you’ll see them every day
- If you accidentally stray from your values, analyze the situation after. Ask what you could have done differently
These small daily tasks will help you live a life that adheres to your values.
5. Practice Inner Work
Inner Work®️ is about exploring your internal self and connecting it to the world around you. This means making the changes necessary to live your values every day.
It can also mean recognizing when some values don’t serve you anymore. After some self-reflection, you might find that your attitudes do more harm than good. Inner Work is about recognizing that and finding the courage and motivation to make the daily changes that will help you live with more clarity, purpose, and passion.
BetterUp can help you use Inner Work® to strengthen your values and find alignment.
Now you’ll know why it irks you so much next time someone cuts you in line. People with mismatching values are at best draining and at worst enraging. The same is true for other aspects of your life. But it’s important to live by what you think is right.
When you live by your values, you’ll notice that things start to feel easier. It’ll improve your emotional health and help you feel more at peace. Plus, you’ll unlock your potential, knowing that you’re doing what you were meant to do.
We hope that these personal values examples will help you find your way. And if you’re struggling to identify yours, try working with BetterUp. We can help you do the work to learn what will lead you to your best self.
Published June 7, 2022