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4 Min Read

How to Discover Your Personal Values (With Examples)

Nicole Klemp

When you’re on the job hunt and considering potential employers, you probably look at things like how interesting the work is, how much it pays, and what benefits the company offers. You may even choose an organization based on its culture, personal development opportunities, or flexible work-life balance. But have you ever considered how your decisions align with your personal values? 

Letting your values be your guide can help you make the best choices for you. But to do that, you first have to know what those values truly are. Every person is different, with a unique set of personal values and beliefs. By taking an honest look at what’s most important to you, you can define your values and use them as a guide in work and life.

What are personal values?

Our personal values are the ideals we choose to live by (or at least try to). They’re like our moral compass, guiding our decisions and actions. They are the principles that are most important to us as individuals and help us live a fulfilling life.

Some of your values may be inherited from your parents or others who have been prominent in your life. Affiliations with certain groups like religions, societal influences, and other life experiences can also shape your values. 

Some values are inherent to your personality—you can just feel them in your gut. You may even adopt a value because you want to rebel against an influence in your life. (For example, if you were raised by a dishonest parent, you might value honesty above all else.) Regardless of where your particular value set comes from, what matters is that it’s true to you and how you choose to live your life.

Below are some common examples of personal values. (For a complete list of values, we recommend Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead list.) 

Personal value examples

  • Authenticity
  • Creativity
  • Kindness
  • Financial Security
  • Compassion
  • Health/fitness
  • Nature
  • Accomplishment
  • Creativity
  • Dependability
  • Loyalty
  • Beauty
  • Bravery
  • Gratitude
  • Love
  • Connection/relationships
  • Learning
  • Leadership
  • Survival
  • Self-preservation
  • Security
  • Adventure
  • Family
  • Work
  • Success
  • Calm
  • Freedom
  • Curiosity

When people choose to make decisions that aren’t based on their personal values, they may feel dissatisfied. From an HR perspective, you can see how important values are to the employee experience. When someone is in a role that doesn’t align with their personal values, they will likely struggle to succeed. That’s why defining and understanding what makes a person tick is crucial to engagement and productivity.  

How do you define your personal values?

You probably connect with several items on the personal values list above, and there may be others you would add. Most people have many personal values, and it’s good to understand them all. However, narrowing down your personal core values to the top five to eight that are most meaningful to you can be helpful.

When narrowing down your top values, think about which ones are most prominent in your daily life. What are your non-negotiables? For example, if your hobby is painting and you couldn’t imagine going a day without doing it, it’s fair to say that “creativity” is one of your top values.  

Clinical psychologist and writer Nick Wignall recommends creating a personal vision statement to define and clarify your values. He suggests you start by asking yourself questions like these:

  • What qualities in yourself do you want to cultivate? 
  • What habits do you want to build? 
  • How do you hope other people would describe you when you’re not around? 
  • In the story of your life, what are the main obstacles to overcome? 
  • Who are your personal heroes? 

According to Wignall, our values are the guiding principles that help us make good decisions in the face of uncertainty. “Getting to know your values is like discovering a map when you’re lost in the wilderness. It won’t magically solve all your problems, but it will help you navigate them with confidence and skill,” he writes.

Living your values

“Be real.” “Be true to you.” “Live the life you love.” These popular phrases can be heard and seen everywhere, from the school guidance counselor’s wall to your yoga teacher’s tank top. But what all these cute sayings really mean is to live life in a way that aligns with your personal values. Your intentions, the things you say, and your actions should all match the values you hold dear. 

“Open your arms to change but don’t let go of your values.” – Dalai Lama

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