Your personal core values are what make up your identity. Have you ever completed group work with someone who was frequently late, leaving you to do the lion’s share of the project? It can feel baffling to work with someone who works so differently from you. Where are they coming from? The answer can often be found in each individual’s core values.
Your coworker may value freedom above all else, while you value conscientiousness or commitment. This pairing may not always make for the best team, but mutual understanding breeds empathy and compassion, which opens the door to effective collaboration and communication.
Core values are frequently associated with brand identity. In order to build a successful brand, you need to determine your brand’s core values. Human beings see brands as people, and we don’t want to be associated with someone who doesn’t share our values.
In this post, we’ll cover the benefits of personal core values, including why they’re important, examples of personal values, and how to find your core values.
Why is it Important to Know Your Values
Define Who You Are
We all have different personality traits and tendencies, but it’s our values that help us choose between right and wrong. Be intentional about the type of person you want to be.
What values are the most important to you, and are you living up to those values? What values do you appreciate in others, and how can you emulate those values in your own life? Personal values help define who you are, and when you live up to those values, they will determine how other people see you.
This will happen naturally, whether you’re thinking about your personal values or not. By taking the time to understand your values, you gain control over how you see and interact with the world and how those around you view you.
Focus and Get Back on Track
If you’re feeling lost, disengaged, or unhappy with your life, defining your personal values can help you get back on track. Identifying your values can help you find purpose in life by zeroing in on what matters most to you.
After defining your own values, you can use them to guide your life back to the goals, dreams, and needs that are most important to you. It’s a tough exercise that asks you to be completely honest about who you are and what you care about, but knowing your values will provide you with a new sense of purpose and direction.
Improved Decision Making
Understanding your own personal values improves your decision making. Whether it's a small decision or a larger life decision, you can use your values to guide your decision making process.
Your values might determine the food you choose to eat, what businesses you buy products from, who you spend time with, or what event you choose to attend.
For example, if environmentalism or sustainability is one of your main values, you can use that to guide what brands you choose to support or where you choose to live to reduce your transportation emissions. If freedom is a value you hold in high regard, you might choose a remote work position over an in-office job to give you the freedom to work when and where you prefer.
When in doubt, fall back on your values to help you make decisions. The bigger the decision, the more important it is to consult your personal values.
Negative Values Can Develop Without Intention
Values aren’t always positive. When you're not intentional about understanding and developing your own values, you may find yourself leaning toward negative ones.
Negative values and attitudes may be towards life, other people, or yourself. They can include:
- Seeing the world as a brutal place
- Thinking everyone around you is untrustworthy
- Believing only the strong will succeed/survive
- Believing you don’t deserve good relationships
- Believing you don’t have the power to change any aspect of your life
By learning about your own values and intentionally choosing the values you want to seek and uphold, you can prevent negativity from dictating your life.
Personal Values Examples
Personal values are descriptors of who you are and what’s most important to you. There are plenty of free personal value lists available online. Narrow down your values to 3-6 personal core values. These will be the values you live your life by. Your values will help you reach your goals, make decisions, find fulfillment, and ensure your personal needs are being met.
Personal Value Examples:
How to Define Your Personal Core Values
Brené Brown Values Exercise
Brené Brown is an accomplished author who has spent two decades studying and sharing insights on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy.
The Brené Brown values list provides examples of the different values a company or person might hold. There are over 100 values, including Accountability, Balance, Creativity, Dignity, Freedom, Health, Inclusion, Kindness, Optimism, Power, Trust, and Wisdom.
What values on Brené’s list resonate most with you? You can begin by circling all of the values you feel are the most important. Take the time to think deeply about each of the values until you find a core set of values (anywhere from 4-6) that matter most to you.
View the Brené Brown list of values.
The Theory of Basic Human Values
The Theory of Basic Human Values was developed by social psychologist and cross-cultural researcher Shalom H. Swartz. The theory identifies ten basic personal values that are recognized across cultures and describes the dynamic relationships between them. The theory arranges the values in a circular structure to better portray the relationships between the ten values.
The ten universal values are organized into four higher-order groups—Openness to change, Self-enhancement, Conservation, and Self-transcendence. Each value has a central goal that acts as the primary motivator.
The Schwartz Value Survey (SVS) is a way to understand the values someone holds. There’s a shortened version of the Schwartz Value Survey that guides you through ranking each of the 10 values from 0-8 to give you a better understanding of what matters most to you.
Create Your Own Personal Values List
Look at personal value lists to give yourself a starting point. What words resonate most? What elicits a response, either positive or negative? Pick out any words that you connect with and feel strongly about. There are going to be duplications, but it’s better to begin with several value options and narrow your list down.
Cluster similar values together and narrow each cluster down to the one word that describes what you value most in the world. For example, Honesty, Trust, Truth, and Integrity might resonate with you, but which one word describes you best? Adventure, Wonder, Exploration, and Freedom share common threads, but they have subtle differences. In the end, you want to narrow down your list to 4-6 personal values.
If you are struggling to create a list of personal values, ask your friends and family what they think you value. Don’t rely on their opinion alone, but this can provide you with key insight into how others are interpreting your actions.
It’s important that your values resonate with you personally. What human behaviors make you angry? If someone doesn’t hold the door for you, for example, how upset do you feel? If you’re at the movie theatre and someone puts their feet on the back of your seat, does it make you mad? How do you deal with that anger? Do you turn around and assertively ask them to stop, do you switch seats, or do you just sit there and think, “Oh well, if it means someone’s feelings could be hurt, it’s not worth the trouble.” What do you value more, justice or harmony?
Keep in mind that there’s not a wrong answer. This is a deeply personal exercise. Use a personal value list and insights from your friends and family, but take the time to deeply reflect on the things that excite you or upset you most. Once you define your core values, you can begin to live them and allow them to guide your decision making.
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