Core values are the values that we hold most dear and use as our guiding principles. They shape our interactions with others as well as internal monologues.
Core values represent the fundamental beliefs and aspects of identity that we hold close to our hearts. They underpin each person’s idea of a meaningful, moral, and worthwhile life.
These values serve as a compass, helping us navigate through tricky situations and moral dilemmas. They may also shape the careers and partners we choose, and the way we spend our money and time.
While core values are deeply personally, examples of core values that many people hold include kindness, honesty, compassion, hard work, and self-reliance.
Core Values Definition and Overview
Core values are fundamental beliefs and principles that guide a person’s behavior, attitude, and mindset.
They form the foundation of an individual’s identity and help shape their decision-making processes. Core values reflect what someone considers important for themselves and their community.
Core values can come from various sources such as:
They are often deeply ingrained in an individual’s personality and worldview since early childhood but can change over time with new life experiences and exposure to different perspectives.
For instance, some people may derive their core values from religious or spiritual teachings, while others may have learned them through observing positive behaviors modeled by significant figures in their lives. Often what we consider important is influenced by our surrounding culture and community norms.
Identifying one’s core values helps individuals understand the motives behind their actions, allows them to align their decisions with what they believe in, cultivating more authentic relationships with oneself and others.
Examples of Core Values
Note: After these first 10 case studies, I’ll list all 165. To see the whole list, simply scroll down!
Honesty is an essential core value that refers to truthfulness and sincerity in all our interactions.
It means being transparent and forthcoming while taking personal responsibility for our actions. Maintaining this value can build trust, respect, and credibility in any relationship.
Example of Honesty
An example of honesty would be when someone accidentally scratches a friend’s car while backing up their own car. Instead of leaving the scene or ignoring the scratch, they immediately call their friend and inform them of what happened. While this might not be in the individual’s best interests, it’s the correct action according to their core value set.
Compassion is a core value that involves being sensitive to the needs of others.
It means caring for people and their feelings, emphasizing empathy over sympathy, and going out of one’s way to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.
With compassion, we can help reduce human suffering and improve the world around us.
Example of Compassion
An example of compassion might be volunteering at a local homeless shelter on weekends, providing clothing and meals for those in need. It involves understanding that everyone has different struggles and showing empathy through acts of kindness and support.
Respect is essential among people. It includes treating others with kindness, fairness, dignity, and honor despite differences or disagreements in beliefs or opinions.
It also requires acknowledging personal boundaries and appreciating different views as it provides the foundation for harmonious relationships.
Example of Respect
An example of respect is being polite and courteous to people of different ages, religions, or nationalities. It involves avoiding discriminatory language or actions and acknowledging the inherent value and dignity of every individual.
Responsibility is another core value that means taking ownership of one’s actions and decision-making processes in any given situation.
It regards accepting accountability when things go wrong while proactively taking steps to prevent further results from happening again.
Example of Responsibility
An example of demonstrating responsibility as a core value would be making sure that you pay all your bills on time and don’t spend outside your monthly limits. This shows that you’re taking responsibility for your own life and behaving in a way that is safe and sustainable.
Perseverance is the dedication towards achieving goals despite setbacks or challenges along the way- essentially never giving up!
The more we push ourselves outside our comfort zone past failures, the more capable we become to achieve success.
Example of Perseverance
An example of demonstrating perseverance would be deciding to re-sit your university exams after you failed them the first time. At a time when many people may have given up, you chose to get up, try again, and work harder and smarter the second time. (Related to this is the concept of the internal locus of control, meaning you believe you have the ability to control your future).
Accountability refers to being responsible for one’s actions irrespective of whether they lead to a success story or failure reports – always owning up!
When we hold ourselves accountable, we take responsibility for what happened or what went wrong; thus accountability makes us better versions of ourselves every day.
Example of Accountability
A mechanic who holds accountability as a core value might take cars back if they didn’t fix them properly first time and fix them again at no extra cost. They are making themselves accountable for their actions, demonstrating that they are honorable and fair.
Equality emphasizes treating everyone equally and justly regardless of background or status assigned by society.
Equality promotes fairness through impartiality irrespective of situations in any relationship. With equality, people experience equal opportunities and privileges in life.
Example of Equality
A little league coach who holds equality deer to them might make sure that every player on the team gets a fair amount of time on the field, even if they’re not the best player in the team. The coach knows that giving everyone a fair go is more important than winning that children’s baseball trophy!
Patience is the ability to tolerate difficult situations and withstanding unpleasant distractions of life without losing one’s calmness.
It demands humility, which allows understanding that sometimes things or solutions may take longer to arrive than expected and being ready to wait.
Example of Patience
People who hold patience as a core value will rarely raise their voice or tell you they don’t have time for you. They will give you all the time you need to explain yourself because they think this is the honorable thing to do.
Integrity involves conducting oneself with honesty and adhering strictly to ethical principles regardless of circumstances around us.
It requires living up to our beliefs and values while fostering trustworthiness, maintaining commitments, and building positive relations with others.
Example of Integrity
Integrity encompasses many core values at once, but a good example would be someone who refuses to do something that they don’t believe is right and honorable. When you stick to your principles even when it’s not easy or popular, you are demonstrating integrity.
Empathy involves giving priority to other people’s needs over oneself by understanding their feelings and situation without judgment.
It demands recognizing that everyone perceives realities differently, hence treating them according to how they would like to be dealt with.
Example of Empathy
An empathetic person will be slow to judge. They might spend time to listen to the homeless person and hear their story rather than instantly dismissing them as a no-good no-hope loser.
Gratitude is the conscious practice of focusing on what we have, rather than what we don’t have.
It involves acknowledging all the blessings, both big and small, in our lives, such as our health, relationships, and material possessions.
By embracing gratitude, we can cultivate a positive outlook on life that enhances our overall well-being.
Example of Gratitude
Balinese Hinduism holds gratitude as a core value, and adherents to this way of life means daily expressions of gratitude, such as giving daily offerings to the Gods.
Generosity is the act of giving to others without expecting anything in return.
It means sharing resources like time, money, and energy with those in need while showing kindness and compassion.
This core value encourages people to contribute positively to society and helps create a sense of community.
Example of Generosity
An example of generosity is when someone donates money to a charitable because that helps those in need of food, shelter, or medical assistance. It involves giving selflessly without expecting anything in return and feeling a sense of fulfillment for having assisted someone else.
Trustworthiness means consistently upholding honesty, accountability, and dependability in one’s actions and promises without fail.
Trustworthiness requires being true to oneself as well as others while staying true to each commitment taken throughout life through personal or professional development.
Example of Trustworthiness
A person who is trustworthy will do what they promise, every time. For example, a person who lives by the value of trustworthiness will definitely pick up bread on the way home if he tells his wife that he was going to – he won’t forget because being trusted with his word is an important value to him.
Loyalty is a core value that emphasizes the importance of remaining steadfast and devoted to one’s friends, family, organization, or even country.
It is a highly prized trait for many people, as it fosters trust, reliability, and commitment. Being loyal means standing by someone through thick and thin, offering support in difficult times, and sticking around even when things get tough.
Example of Loyalty
A loyal friend visits their friend after they have done something embarrassing and lets them know you still love and care for them even at their lowest moment and when they’ve let themselves down.
Kindness is a core value that emphasizes the importance of being considerate and caring towards others.
It involves acts of generosity, empathy, and compassion. Being kind doesn’t just benefit the recipient; it also has significant positive effects on the person showing kindness.
It can lower stress levels, increase happiness and well-being, and enhance social connections.
Example of Kindness
An example of kindness is when someone offers to lend a helping hand to their neighbor by mowing their lawn or bringing them groceries. It involves acts of compassion and consideration towards others.
Fairness is a core value that stresses the importance of treating others equitably and impartially.
It means making decisions based on objective criteria rather than personal biases or interests.
It involves acknowledging individual differences while ensuring that everyone has equal access to opportunities and resources.
Example of Fairness
An example of fairness is when someone ensures that everyone gets equal opportunities regardless of age, race, gender or other differences. This may involve applying consistent rules and policies in the workplace for all employees.
Tolerance is a core value that emphasizes the importance of respecting difference.
It involves being open to hearing different viewpoints, beliefs, backgrounds, and lifestyles without judgment or prejudice.
Being tolerant requires an open mind and willingness to learn about other cultures, traditions, customs.
Example of Tolerance
An example of tolerance is when someone learns about the culture and traditions associated with other religions without judging or forcing their own beliefs on others. It involves respecting diversity and acknowledging individual differences while still being kind to everyone.
Open-mindedness is a core value that underlies all of the above values.
It involves being receptive to new ideas and willing to consider different perspectives. Open-minded people are curious about the world around them and eager to learn from others.
They are not afraid of change or uncertainty but instead embrace it as an opportunity for growth and discovery.
Example of Open-Mindedness
Attending interfaith events at places of worship outside one’s own or engaging in alternative health practices despite deemed unconventional by society are an indication that a person understands the importance of open-mindedness.
A to Z List of Core Values
- Being present
- Continuous learning
- Customer service (core value for companies)
- Do not Judge
- Growth mindset
- Hard work
- High standards
- Information sharing (corporate value)
- Informed decision-making (corporate value)
- Karma (core Hindu value)
- Keeping promises
- Leading by example
- Legacy building
- Life-long learning
- Lifting others up
- Living in the moment
- Living with purpose
- Mutual respect
- Open communication
- Personal growth
- Respecting boundaries
- Social justice
- Unconditional love
- Utilitarianism (seeking the greatest good for the greatest number)
- Work ethic
- Work life balance
The above list of core values can be used for a personal values statement, personal credo, code of ethics, mission statement, teaching philosophy, or any other statement where you need to present your core values. But choose the ones that resonate with you the most and come up with your own personal examples of how you live those values every day of your life – even when it’s hard!
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]