How to Define Your Personal Values and Live By Them (2023)

When we think about the big questions, such as who we are and what we want to achieve in life, we often ponder things like our personality traits and goals. We try to figure out if we are introverts or extroverts, if we are agreeable or not, or how many of our New Year’s resolutions we have managed to tick off our lists. But how about personal values?

The truth is, we rarely think explicitly about our moral standards and how they influence our character and life.

But what if I tell you that our personal values were around long before everyone started using goal-setting, Myers-Briggs personality tests, and self-awareness as pathways to understanding what makes us tick and how we can use these revelations to succeed.

Personal values shape who you perceive yourself to be. It may even heavily affect something as trivial as your purchasing decisions. [1]

So, let’s take a look under the hood and see how you can discover your own guiding principles and utilize them to enhance your relationships, careers, and everything in-between.

Table of Contents

  1. What are Personal Values?
  2. Why Are Personal Values Important?
    • 1. Personal Values Help with Self-awareness
    • 2. Personal Values Influence Our Outcomes
  3. How to Find and Nurture Your Personal Values
    • 1. Ask "Who Am I Today?"
    • 2. Prioritize Your Values
    • 3. Complete a Values Audit
  4. Final Thoughts

What are Personal Values?

Before we start, it is integral to define what personal values are.

Personal values are part of the moral code that guides our actions and defines who we are. They are what we consider important, the things that matter to our well-being and happiness.

The simplest way to describe what personal values are is to think in terms of your personality and behaviors. Ultimately, your values become woven into your personality and become part of you.

Some of these are more of a universal rule of conduct—think along the lines of religion and the morals it teaches us. Then, there are some values that each of us decides to adopt, depending on what we hold dear in our lives and what we want to achieve and become. For instance, I may value kindness and compassion over fame and popularity.

To give you an idea of some values you may have, here is a good list of personal values example:[2]

  • Authenticity
  • Achievement
  • Adventure
  • Beauty
  • Boldness
  • Compassion
  • Challenge
  • Curiosity
  • Determination
  • Fairness
  • Faith
  • Fame
  • Friendships
  • Happiness
  • Honesty
  • Kindness
  • Learning
  • Loyalty
  • Meaningful Work
  • Openness
  • Optimism
  • Pleasure
  • Popularity
  • Recognition
  • Respect
  • Self-Respect
  • Spirituality
  • Stability
  • Success
  • Status
  • Trustworthiness
  • Wealth
  • Wisdom

As you can imagine, the above can play out differently for each of us—there are varied combinations and priorities we use to adopt these. The end result? The writer and poet Robert Zend greatly put it:

“People have one thing in common: they are all different.”

Before we delve further into the “so what’s” and “how’s” of our moral principles, there’s one more important thing to remember. Values are often more or less visible to others and are expressed through our current actions, words, and behaviors, but more importantly, they also carve the people we are striving to become in the future.

Our personal values are not only an extension of ourselves, but they also shape our characters. They are us—who we are and what we stand for.

Why Are Personal Values Important?

Why does it all matter so much anyway? Why do I have to know what my values are?

Personal values are the main driver behind our personality and actions, and any endeavor to re-invent ourselves will have to tap into our current moral principles to give ourselves a chance at a more fulfilling life.

Knowing moral values definition can aid us in a variety of ways. It can help us find our purpose, ease decision-making, increase our confidence, and guide us through difficult situations.

Personal values bleed into your personal, academic, and professional life. For instance, it can impact learning approaches in your studies, particularly in higher education. [3]

Here are a few other benefits of knowing how our codes of conduct can help us turn our lives around.

(Video) What Are Your Personal Values? How to Define & Live by Them

1. Personal Values Help with Self-awareness

Self-awareness has earned a lot of attention in recent years. Indeed, its advantages are undeniable. It has been linked to enhanced personal development and better relationships, among a plethora of other gains. [4]

It helps us make sounder decisions, communicate more effectively, get more promotions, and be less likely to lie, cheat, or steal.[5]

Simply put, self-awareness is a must-have skill we should all nurture.

Self-awareness is basically an awareness of your personality. There is certainly value to be had—personally and professionally—in what the Greats have wisely taught us: Know Thyself.

How would you otherwise know what you want to achieve, what you are capable of, or how far you can push yourself if you don’t have a clue who the person staring back in the mirror really is?

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Understanding who we are begins with an awareness of what drives us, what makes us tick, and what we hold dear—that is, it starts with knowing our personal values.

2. Personal Values Influence Our Outcomes

What do you do with all the self-knowledge, though?

The coaches and gurus often advise that, in order to succeed and get everything we want in life, we need to play to our strengths.[6] Using our powersinstead of dwelling on our foibles can make us happier and less depressed. Of course, this implies that we know what these are to start with.

There is another equally important side to why knowing ourselves and what we value in life can be beneficial. Yes, I’m talking about personal reinvention, self-improvement, life enhancement, and all the similar buzzworthy concepts of late.

But it all comes down to change. Bluntly speaking, you can’t change what you don’t know.[7]

When we talk about personal reinvention, we usually mean creating new habits, new behaviors, new ways of thinking, and, of course, adopting new personal values.

To change our outcomes and, ultimately, our lives, we need to change our actions and mindset. In order to do this, we need to weed out the trifles and decide what truly matters.

How to Find and Nurture Your Personal Values

To discover exactly what your personal values are, there are questions and techniques you can use. Here are a handful of ways to help you get started to personal define what your values are.

1. Ask “Who Am I Today?”

As adults, we all have a certain set of values (adopted knowingly or not), which guide our actions and define the people we are today.

So, a good starting point is to make a list of 10-15 values we believe we live by. Use the list I provided at the beginning or find a more detailed one online. Pick the ones that best define you. Be honest with yourself.

To get a 360-degree picture of yourself, I would recommend that you do the same exercise with your family and friends. Show them the full list and ask them to pick the values that they think are synonymous with your personality. Do the two lists match?

The goal of this activity is to draw a realistic portrait of who you are. It is the starting point of the bigger pursuits of self-awareness, self-reinvention, and leading a more fulfilling life.

(Video) How to Find Your Core Values | 3 Easy Steps

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2. Prioritize Your Values

Not all we deem important is created equally in our minds. That is, some values are more significant to us than others. This is what determines your primary and secondary behaviors. For instance, you may value family and career, but we all know that a balance is hard to achieve. In your mind, one tops the other. Therefore, you should always take steps to advance what is dearer to you.

Our current lives and the behaviors that guide them are structured according to our values and their rank in our own rules of conduct list. Therefore, one way to change our results and draft a different version of ourselves is to re-shuffle the list. If you want to spend more time with family, put it at the top, above anything else.

Read your list often. It’s also a way to reinforce your identity. Sometimes you can get so caught up in the web of your busy everyday life that you forget to focus on the most important person in your life: you.

Get to know yourself so that you can like yourself and avoid sabotaging your own efforts to change the things you want to.

3. Complete a Values Audit

The beautiful thing about personal values is that we all have a say and a choice in the people we evolve to become.

That’s what the gurus always trumpet: If you don’t like your life, change it.

Of course, this is easier said than done.

A good starting point is to have your values list, ranked by importance, and to re-assess it regularly—say semi-annually or annually. As our life circumstances change, so may the things we consider important to us. For instance, when you are fresh out of college, financial security may not be a top guiding principle as it may be for someone married with kids.

Read your existing list often and change it around as needed. Your primary behaviors will follow what you find significant.

But there is another side to this—it’s the process of adding new values, embracing and making them part of our lives. One way to find such new values is to look at the people we respect and want to be like. Listen and watch them carefully— what principles do they live by? Can you emulate them?

Once you find a new guiding value you want to adopt, you must own it. As the popular author and entrepreneur Mark Manson writes:

“So, here’s the catch: sitting around thinking about better values to have is nice. But nothing will solidify until you go out and embody that new value. Values are won and lost through life experience. Not through logic or feelings or even beliefs. They have to be lived and experienced to stick. This often takes courage.”[8]

Therefore, a value audit is an essential part of the process, both to re-examine our current priorities and to find new mountains to climb.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

Change is part of the re-invention process.

How to Define Your Personal Values and Live By Them (1)

How to Define and Embody Your Personal Values


(Video) Personal Values Examples [COMMON CORE VALUES]

How to Define Your Personal Values and Live By Them (2)

Personal values are part of the moral code that guides our actions and defines who we are. It reflects what people think and state about themselves and understanding human behavior.

How to Define Your Personal Values and Live By Them (3)

List 10-15 values you believe you live by and ask your trusted loved ones to choose from the list that they think are synonymous with your personality. This helps to draw a realistic portrait of who you are.

How to Define Your Personal Values and Live By Them (5)

(Video) What Are Your Personal Values? How to Define & Live by Them

Read your list often, because it helps reinforce your identity.

How to Define Your Personal Values and Live By Them (6)

Do a values audit; rank your list of values by importance and reassess semi-annually or annually. Life circumstances may change things up from financial security to meaningful work.

How to Define Your Personal Values and Live By Them (7)

Don’t forget to embody your new values. According to author and entrepreneur, Mark Manson, values are won and lost through life experience.

Final Thoughts

In the end, our personal values are our moral compass of what to say, how to behave, how to treat ourselves and others, and what life choices to make.

Knowing what someone finds important can help you draw an accurate picture of their inner landscape, and it can also guide how you treat them, speak to them, appeal to them, or convince them to go your way. It is a valuable insight to have.

Research confirms this:

“Personal values reflect what people think and state about themselves. Understanding personal values means understanding human behaviour.”[9]

Like our personalities, what we believe to matter in our lives is highly subjective, nuanced, and sometimes even self-contradicting. And it’s dynamic—it largely follows our life trajectory, but it can be further colored by the people that we meet, the goals we set, and the events that enter our lives.

But what we believe in, our personal values, are ultimately what shapes us as individuals.

If you want to make any kind of change, you must decide what to value and where your priorities lie.

That’s the surest path to self-renovation.

Featured photo credit: Pietro Tebaldi via

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(Video) How To Determine Your Core Life Values


How do you define personal values? ›

Personal values are your central beliefs and the tenets that guide your actions. These principles influence your behavior and personality traits and guide you through success and challenging times. These individual values inform your decision-making, aspirations, and relationships with loved ones.

What can you do to live by your personal values? ›

Here's how to really live your values:
  1. Write them down. It sounds basic, but writing down your values is the first step toward really living them. ...
  2. Define your values. ...
  3. List the ways your values show up for you. ...
  4. Identify when your values are out of alignment. ...
  5. Recommit to your values. ...
  6. Create a Core Values Action Plan.
12 Jul 2022

What is the importance of personal values in our life? ›

Our values are important because they help us to grow and develop. They help us to create the future we want to experience. Every individual and every organization is involved in making hundreds of decisions every day.

What are your personal values as a leader and how do you live these values in your day to day work? ›

13 Important values of a leader
  • Empowerment and development. As a leader, you are in a position of power. ...
  • Vision. Leaders have the important responsibility of creating and maintaining the organizational vision. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Reinforcement and influence. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Humility. ...
  • Passion and commitment. ...
  • Respect.

What are personal values give your own examples? ›

Consider these examples of personal values when creating your list:
  • Achievement.
  • Courage.
  • Friendship.
  • Honesty.
  • Empathy.
  • Understanding.
  • Success.
13 May 2021

What are the 5 basic values? ›

They have to solve problems sensibly from the earliest days of their careers. Obviously, there are many ways to sort and define the five cornerstone values: integrity, accountability, diligence, perseverance, and, discipline.

What is a personal value statement example? ›

Here is a sample: “To be a decent person who is respected by family, friends, loved ones and my chosen communities. I am here to make a positive difference despite being imperfect. My work reflects my values and enables me to travel widely and enhance the lives of others.

What are 4 habits you can do to help you live by your values? ›

If you turn these 4 steps into daily habits you soon begin to see some of the benefits which I have listed above.
  • Make better choices. You make thousands of decisions every day, some big but many small ones. ...
  • Develop positive habits. ...
  • Keep your agreements. ...
  • Raise others up.

How do you live your values interview question? ›

Values interview questions with sample answers
  • Tell me about a time you faced an ethical dilemma at work and how you handled it. ...
  • How do you define integrity in the workplace? ...
  • How do you approach team projects? ...
  • Describe a time you solved a problem in a nontraditional way. ...
  • Have you ever dealt with a difficult customer?

What are 5 things you value most in life? ›

  • Your Health. Treat your body with the respect it deserves. ...
  • Your Friends. Spending time with friends is key to our emotional wellbeing. ...
  • Gratitude. Appreciate the miracle of life. ...
  • Your Reputation. ...
  • Your Family. ...
  • Your Education. ...
  • Giving To Others. ...
  • Life Experiences.
17 Oct 2022

How do you write a personal value statement? ›

Here are six tips for writing your personal value statement:
  1. Brainstorm your values and assets. Before you begin writing, take the time to contemplate your most in-demand skills, proudest accomplishments, and relevant work values. ...
  2. Be authentic. ...
  3. Stay present. ...
  4. Keep it concise. ...
  5. Tailor it to the position. ...
  6. Use action verbs.
1 Sept 2022

How can you benefit from knowing what your values are? ›

Benefits of identifying your values
  • Values can improve your problem-solving and decision-making skills. ...
  • Values can help you realize what's most important. ...
  • Values can help you increase your self-confidence. ...
  • Values can help you enhance your career choices. ...
  • Read over the company's values.
25 Mar 2022

How do you develop value in life? ›

To summarize:
  1. Make a list of values (you can use people you admire as inspiration).
  2. Pick the values that are most important to you personally.
  3. Think about why they matter to you.
  4. Write them into powerful statements.
  5. Tell those around you about your values and have them hold you accountable.
  6. Live those values.
30 Apr 2021

Why are personal values and ethics especially important? ›

Personal values and ethics are important for all human beings. They are especially important for business managers as they are custodians of the immense economic power vested in business organizations by society.

What are the most important values that have helped in your personal and professional development so far? ›

Professional values to adopt in the workplace
  • Strong work ethic. Work ethic is a trait that most employers look for right away in an employee. ...
  • Responsibility. ...
  • Integrity. ...
  • Honesty. ...
  • Reliability. ...
  • Adaptability. ...
  • Accountability. ...
  • Self motivation.

What values do you think the society you live in holds as most important? ›

Social values include justice, freedom, respect, community, and responsibility. In today's world, it may seem our society doesn't practice many values.

What are personal values and beliefs? ›

What is a personal value? Values are stable long-lasting beliefs about what is important to a person. They become standards by which people order their lives and make their choices. A belief will develop into a value when the person's commitment to it grows and they see it as being important.

What are personal morals and values? ›

People's values define what they want personally, but morals define what the society around those people want for them. Certain behaviors are considered to be desirable by a given society, while others are considered to be undesirable.

What are the 7 human values? ›

The main Human Values are honesty, fairness, respect, responsibility, caring and citizenship. These values are the core of any human society and they should be applied in every area of life.

What are main points of values? ›

What are importance of values? Values are extremely important because they help us grow and develop and guide our beliefs, attitudes and behaviour. Our values are reflected in our decision-making and help us in finding our true purpose in life and become a responsible and developed individual.

How do I write a vision for myself? ›

These steps can guide you through the process of writing a personal vision statement:
  1. Identify your strengths. ...
  2. Reflect on your values. ...
  3. Get a different point of view. ...
  4. Evaluate your skills. ...
  5. Select your desired position. ...
  6. Write your vision statement.

How do I create a mission and vision of myself? ›

Steps to create a personal vision and mission statement
  1. Identify your achievements in the past. ...
  2. Note down the values and principles that you want to cultivate. ...
  3. Write down the difference you can make to your family, company, world etc. ...
  4. Set yourself a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) ...
  5. Prepare your mission statement.
24 Jan 2018

What are the 12 living values? ›

Love, Peace, Respect, Tolerance, Responsibility, Honesty, Humility, Cooperation, Happiness,Simplicity, Freedom, Unity.

What are the 5 essential steps you can do to become a person of value? ›

Adesoji James Adegbulu
  1. Focus on your own growth. You have to be committed to your own personal development. ...
  2. Offer More Value. There is no way people will know you as a person of value if you are not offering more value. ...
  3. Sharpen Your Skills. Do you have skills? ...
  4. Work Harder on Yourself. ...
  5. Value your Time.
5 Jan 2015

How do living values help a person short answer? ›

A person's values help to define who he/she is and help determine the choices he/she makes. Living values provide principles and tools for development of the whole person recognising that the individual is comprised of the physical, intellectual, social emotional and spiritual dimension.

What are your values the 3 types of values for life? ›

Knowing what is important to them will help them find success in their personal and professional lives.
  • Character Values. Character values are the universal values that you need to exist as a good human being. ...
  • Work Values. ...
  • Personal Values.
11 Nov 2016

How do you answer how do your personal values align with our company values? ›

Avoid simply memorizing the hiring company's values and reciting them back to the interviewer. Instead, spend time absorbing what the company's values mean and consider how you emulate those values in your life. This way, your response will feel genuine and thoughtful.

What is an example of a value in life? ›

Kindness. Treating others with kindness can be an important life value, especially when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships. Kindness is one of the important values to have because it influences the way you view the world and treat other people, regardless of their background or actions.

What is the most valued thing in life? ›

Never lose sight of these 7 critical things in life.
  • Peace. Rule #1, protect your peace. ...
  • Health. So many of us take our health for granted until something life-changing happens, and our health becomes at risk. ...
  • Family & Friendship. Our relationships are our foundation. ...
  • Purpose. Purpose is our “why.” ...
  • Time. ...
  • Learning. ...
  • Love.

What is the value of a personal statement? ›

The value of a unique personal statement is that it makes you memorable to the admissions committee. A personal statement's purpose is to help the committee get to know the applicant beyond the confines of the standard application materials.

Why is living your values important? ›

Values help us live with direction and purpose – like a guiding compass. Whatever is going on in our lives, our values can show us a path forward, and help us make better choices. Values are also intimately linked to our sense of self, and they're essential for our mental health.

How can you identify your value? ›

Guide to determine your values
  1. Write down your values. Review the list of examples of core values above and write down every value that resonates with you. ...
  2. Consider the people you most admire. ...
  3. Consider your experiences. ...
  4. Categorize values into related groups. ...
  5. Identify the central theme. ...
  6. Choose your top core values.

What does it mean to live into your values? ›

“Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. WE walk our talk – we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs”.

What does it mean to live well to be successful or to live a fulfilling life? ›

Living a fulfilled life simply means achieving success, satisfaction, and happiness in life. Just as success means different things to different people their ideas of a fulfilled life could also be quite different. It all depends on their priorities and what they perceive to be a fulfilled life.

How do you think your most important work and personal values will affect your career choice s )? ›

By being aware of your own values, you will not find it difficult to decide what job you should pursue, whether to accept or decline a promotion, or even whether you should keep or leave your job. Needless to say, these issues can have a huge and negative effect on how we perform at work.

What is the best way to live a happy and successful life? ›

Here are some strategies to help create happiness and success, on your terms.
  1. Dream big and have passion. ...
  2. Write down your goals. ...
  3. Believe in yourself and your abilities. ...
  4. Always do your best because everything you do matters. ...
  5. Treat people with respect and kindness.
14 Feb 2021

What does it really mean to live a good life? ›

If you say that someone is living the good life, you mean that they are living in comfort and luxury with few problems or worries.

What does it mean to live a truly good life? ›

So when we say someone is living well or that they have lived a good life, we may simply mean that they are a good person, someone who is courageous, honest, trustworthy, kind, selfless, generous, helpful, loyal, principled, and so on. They possess and practice many of the most important virtues.

What is the secret to personal happiness? ›

The most important happiness choice is to invest in your closest relationship whether it's a spouse, partner, parent, sibling or friend. We all know that exercising and taking care of yourself correlates with good health. The happiest among us actually do exercise and take care of ourselves.

What factors and personal values do you consider most important in achieving a certain goal? ›


Not something you think you should do or something other people want you to do. You need to have a real, deep down and genuine pull to achieve what you want. If you don't have that real desire then you'll always find a reason to put it off or you won't give it your all.

Why are your personal values and goals important to your professional development? ›

Setting goals is important because they help you achieve direction and purpose in your life. Goals also provide a way for you to expand your skill set, increase your knowledge, push your comfort zone, boost your career, and find more fulfillment in your daily life.


1. How To Define Your Personal Core Values
(Coach Ajit x Evercoach)
2. Build your Life with your Values | Simon Sinek | Ted 2015
3. How to Define your Personal Value Proposition for your Life and Career
(Jamie Hammond)
4. How To Define Your Top 5 Personal Values | #MasteryClips
(Brandon Eastman)
5. How To Identify Personal Values (Yours and Others)
6. How do you work out your personal values
(The Right Questions)
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