Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Define Your Personal Values and Live By Them for a Fulfilling Life

How to Define Your Personal Values and Live By Them for a Fulfilling Life

When we think about the big questions, such 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 an introvert or extrovert, if we are agreeable or not, or how many of our New Year’s resolutions we have managed to tick off our lists.

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.

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.

What are Personal Values?

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 person values you may have, here is a good list:[1]

  • 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 Whats and Hows 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, behaviors, but more importantly, they also carve the people that we are striving to become in the future.

Advertising

That is, 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?

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 our moral principles 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.

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

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.[2] It helps us make sounder decisions, communicate more effectively, get more promotions, and be less likely to lie, cheat, or steal.[3]

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?

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.

Personal Values Influence Our Outcomes

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

Advertising

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.[4] Using our powers instead 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.[5]

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 to help you get started.

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 online a more detailed one. 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.

2. Prioritize Your Values

Not all we deem of importance 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 would 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.

Advertising

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 everydays 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 of 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.”[6]

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.

Advertising

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

Change is part of the re-invention process.

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.”[7]

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 unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

More by this author

Evelyn Marinoff

A wellness advocate who writes about the psychology behind confidence, happiness and well-being.

Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It) What Is External Motivation and How Can You Use It? How to Define Your Personal Values and Live By Them for a Fulfilling Life How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life How to Stop Struggling with Instant Gratification and Reach Your Goals

Trending in Self-Understanding

1 30 Essential Core Values for Living the Life You Want 2 24 Self-Reflection Questions To Get You To Rethink About Life 3 Self-Introspection: 5 Ways To Reflect And Live Happily 4 What Is Reflective Practice (And How To Get Started) 5 10 Self-Exploration Practices to Discover Your True Self

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 19, 2021

30 Essential Core Values for Living the Life You Want

30 Essential Core Values for Living the Life You Want

The weather will always change. Technology will always change. Trends will always change. We will always change.

In a world that is constantly evolving and taking new forms, it can be somewhat overwhelming trying to make sense of this thing called life.

One of the things that rarely changes in this world though and what can provide a guiding light for you throughout your life is your core values. This article will provide you with a core values list of 30 incredible values to adopt and use when all else seems to be changing.

What Are Core Values?

Core values are principles or beliefs that you hold most dear and that are of central importance in your life. When everything around you is changing, when the world is difficult to understand, and when you are riding up and down the emotion rollercoaster, your core values will always be there for you.

Why Are Core Values Important?

Core values are important because they act like a compass to help you lead the amazing life that you want, no matter where you find yourself in this world.

Not only that, having the right core values can improve your decision-making, your productivity, your achievements and perhaps most importantly, your ability to love and be loved. They’re kind of a big deal. And it isn’t just us saying this, studies[1] have shown core values to have a whole host of other benefits.

30 Best Core Values to Live by

You might already have a few core values in mind or in your heart which is great. If you need some more ideas or haven’t really thought about your core values until now, here are our 30 favourite core values that you can adopt right now.

1. Acceptance

The ability to accept what you can control and what you can’t control. Being able to understand that on some days you are the hammer, and other days you are the nail. With acceptance as a core value, you can build either way and be happy while doing it.

2. Adaptability

Life is going to throw you curve ball after curve ball and if you aren’t ready for them, you are going to strikeout. Your life and the life of those you surround yourself with are far too complex to confine yourself to one mould.

Be adaptable and ready and willing to change when you need to.

3. Awareness

Awareness is one of the best core values that you can adopt. Period. Awareness means paying attention to yourself, to others, to the world around you, to emotions, to situations. It means being able to see everyone and everything clearly – most importantly yourself.

4. Balance

There are going to be times when you need to sprint in life, and other times when you are going to need to slow down. The yin and the yang.

Balance is one of the most important core values in many ancient cultures because it reflects nature for what it truly is: perfectly balanced and able to bend, rather than break.

5. Calmness

As well as being a sublime state of mind, many people forget that calm is a simple decision to make.

Advertising

You can be calm in any situation should you allow yourself to be. No amount of angry drivers, long queues or frustrating technology can penetrate you when you adopt calmness as a core value.

6. Community

Every one of us is a social creature, whether we believe it or not, and community has been a key core value for us as a species for thousands of years.

We are hard-wired to socialize; to eat, drink, gossip, laugh, tell stories, share ideas, give and receive amongst ourselves. Community also enhances the effect of other core values on this list, such as creativity.[2]

7. Compassion

Compassion is taking the time to understand the suffering of others and hopefully, being able to do something about it. There is a lot of struggle and suffering that can be alleviated in the world; with a core value like compassion you might be able to do help your fellow humans in some meaningful way.

8. Creativity

With technology taking most of the administrative jobs, creative people are going to be leading us into the future.

Someone who cherishes creativity is able to think up new and big ideas, see things that other people can’t and see the world around them through their own lens, not somebody else’s.

9. Discipline

Discipline will lead you to the life that you want, should you adopt it as a core value.

“Discipline Equals Freedom” is a term popularised by ex-Navy Seal Jocko Willink, and what it means is that if you can be disciplined in the right things, you will be free in the right things too.

Discipline to workout means more freedom in your body as you age. Discipline to save means more freedom with your time and money in the long-term. And so it goes…

10. Empathy

There is perhaps no greater value on this list that will connect you deeper to not just the closest people in your life but to complete strangers too.

Practising empathy requires the understanding that other people have a nagging voice in their own head, just like you do. That they have a worldview different to yours based on their experiences. And that’s ok. It’s not easy to adopt empathy as a core value, but it is certainly worth it.

11. Freedom

Freedom comes in many forms and that is why it is one of the ultimate core values to have. The freedom to choose, freedom to speak, freedom to live on your own terms, freedom to love and be loved.

If freedom becomes a core value of yours, watch how your life changes for the better.

12. Gratitude

Gratitude provides a powerful perspective shift whenever you feel yourself get into a rut.

Advertising

You can become grateful for the big things like having shelter, food and great people in your life. You can also become grateful for the small things like the cup of coffee that you just drank or the soft sheets on your bed.

13. Happiness

Happiness is a powerful core value and is not just restricted to your own happiness but also friends and family.

When happiness guides your decision-making rather than superficial things like money and status, you will find yourself in a much more satisfying position than if you chase other people’s idea of happiness.

14. Health

They say that a healthy man has a lot of dreams and wishes whereas a sick man only has one – to be able to get out of bed.

Health is the precursor to every other core value on this list; if you don’t have your health, you can’t do much else until you do. Because of this, health has to be a core value in your life.

15. Humility

Humility

is the antidote to arrogance and selfishness and is a value to adopt if you want to keep your feet firmly on the ground. It is said that you are never as good or as bad as people say you are.

Humility recognizes this and keeps you moving towards your goal, no matter what anyone else says.

16. Innovation

The act of innovation involves taking one existing thing and making it better. Although images of whacky car designs and complicated technology can spring to mind when thinking about innovation, it doesn’t have to be that grandiose.

Simply seeing something small and making it better in your own life is enough to make a world of difference.

17. Knowledge

Knowledge is power. Not power in the 14th-century medieval banker-sense but in the power to change your own life-sense.

Knowledge about yourself, others and the world allows you to understand everything that you see a bit better. When you see things for what they are, you can act accordingly and get to where you want to be.

18. Leadership

It take guts, determination, confidence and humility to lead. All of these qualities are both rare and admirable and are the reason why leadership is such an excellent core value.

The future is dark and unknown but also full of hidden treasures. We need someone to lead us, will it be you?

Advertising

19. Love

It can be argued that all of the core values on this list can be tied together by the one, all-encompassing value of Love.

When you value love deeply and try to show it in everything that you do, you make your world and the world of others a much better place.

20. Moderation

Forget this diet, that diet, eating there, eating then, working out before coffee or always in the afternoon. It’s all noise that works for some people some of the time – moderation is the key.

Not acting in moderation can also have some damaging consequences, especially for your health.[3] What works well for all people is everything in moderation.

Of course, life should be fun too so even ‘everything in moderation’, should be in moderation.

21. Peace

Peace is another core value that takes years of practice to perfect. However, its rewards are boundless with both the journey and destination full of rewards.

Peace enables clear decision-making, freedom in thoughts and actions as well as providing a deep understanding of the special life that you live.

22. Purpose

Purpose can be doubled up with ‘meaning’ as these are two values that provide the drive in any endeavour that you might pursue.

Purpose is what gets you out of bed every morning, it is why you sacrifice what you sacrifice and often entails something bigger than yourself. If you don’t have a purpose, it is unlikely that you will find much meaning in your life.

23. Responsibility

Nobody likes having to take the dog on a walk, having to clean the dishes or do things that they are reluctantly responsible for. However, responsibility can actually be an awesome way to add meaning and value to your life.

When other people depend on you and you fulfil your role as provider, not only are they better off but you get the satisfaction that comes along with it too.

24. Service

Similar to the responsibility point above, when you adopt service as a core value, you will have very little time to wallow in any self-pity, anxiety or existential angst because you will be busy making the world a better place.

Funnily enough, by serving others, many people find that they themselves are internally served with feelings of satisfaction and contentment.

25. Spirituality

Of course, there is the importance of physical health, mental health and emotional health, but spiritual health is just as important.

Advertising

Spirituality has nothing to do with religion, it simply means taking the time to listen to your body, to watch your thoughts, to connect with and appreciate the world and the universe that you find yourself in.

26. Trust

Trust is a core value on this list because it requires many other difficult skills that also help to develop you as a person.

To be able to trust and be trusted, you need strong relationships, an ounce of risk, a healthy dose of vulnerability and a smidge of humility. All of this creates a recipe for a very positive life with trust at the centre.

27. Understanding

Understanding comes from a place of acceptance of what is, not what should be or could be. It is the ability to recognise someone else’s viewpoint without trying to change it. It is learning that it is useless to fight against the way the world is and other people are, and to learn to dance with them instead.

28. Wealth

Not in the monetary sense but in the ‘having everything that you need sense’. Someone who is truly wealthy possesses great relationships, plenty of freedom, a life filled with joy as well as many of the other values on this list.

Adopt wealth as a core value and it will act as a magnet to other incredible things.

29. Wisdom

Contrary to popular belief, wisdom does not come with age but rather, experience. There are many young people with more wisdom than the oldest people that you know. What makes someone wise is their ability to see broadly and clearly, to use good judgement and to be decisive when necessary.

Wisdom is something that we all should seek.

30. Wonder

The final value on this list is wonder and it is the ideal place to finish.

Wonder is thinking about the possibility of what comes next, dreaming about how you and things could be better, pushing your own boundaries and what you think you are capable of each day.

Wonder is practical dreaming, and you should start right away.

Final Thoughts

Now you have a good idea of some of the core values that you can adopt, it’s time to not only decide which ones you like the best but also integrate and use them in your daily life.

Core values are designed to guide your decisions in your most difficult moments. Now you have everything you need to go and live the life that you want to live!

More About Self-Discovery

Featured photo credit: AndriyKo Podilnyk via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

Read Next