Personal values are the values that you hold dearest to your heart. They’re central to your sense of yourself as an ethical being.
We will often also call them our core values.
We develop our personal values from our cultural and social context. Our families, cultures, and societies give us values that are passed down from generation to generation.
Religion is another important place where people source their inspiration and values. Many religions encourage us to embrace personal values like charity, goodwill, and justice.
Personal Values Examples
1. Family – Family values are the moral and ethical principles of typical family life, including sacrificing for loved ones, putting your loved ones first, and keeping your loved ones at the center of your thoughts and actions.
2. Loyalty – Loyalty might be a core personal value to you if you highly prize friends that are reliable and trustworthy. You might put your friends or chosen family first, always being there for them when they need you.
3. Compassion – A compassionate person is someone who prioritizes caring for others and feeling sympathetic for people in need of help and protection.
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4. Fairness – If you value fairness, you might be highly sensitive to situations at school or in the workplace where a teacher or a peer has exhibited favoritism or allowed someone to get away with living by a different set of rules to everyone else.
5. Honesty – You may highly value telling people the truth. This one gets tricky when being honest can be hurtful to others. So, a person who really puts honesty first might be the sort of person who will tell the truth even if it hurts to do so.
6. Generosity – This may be a core value of yours if you cherish people who will give their time and resources to people in need. You may consider yourself to be a generous person if you find joy and meaning in giving to others.
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7. Integrity – Integrity is the quality of having strong moral principles. So, a person with integrity will always act with honesty and adhere to their own moral code regardless of what others do.
8. Perseverance – People who value perseverance will work through adversity and be determined to get a result. This is a great treat for employees and entrepreneurs alike.
9. Trustworthiness – A trustworthy person is someone who others can rely on to keep their commitments, maintain integrity when people aren’t looking, and keep the secrets of others. This might be valuable for a manger-level employee who is trusted with money-making decisions.
10. Courageousness – If you value courage, it means that you highly respect people who are willing to take risks and stand up for what they believe in even when the going gets tough.
11. Self-Discipline – If you value self-discipline, you might be a person who wakes up early, exercises daily, and doesn’t get distracted by vices.
12. Humility – You might highly value humility if you find yourself disgusted by people who are arrogant or braggadocious, and instead find yourself gravitating to people who are always expressing their gratefulness for the blessings in their life.
13. Kindness – If you value kindness, you’ll likely always be respectful of people around you, be gentle with criticism, and always willing to welcome people with open arms.
14. Individual Responsibility – If you value individual responsibility, you respect people who get up and work hard for what they’ve got, don’t ask for hand-outs, and will always expect higher of themselves.
15. Gratitude – You value gratitude if you find yourself respecting people who say please and thank you. If you’re a religious person who values gratitude, you may always insist on praying before eating your dinner.
16. Empathy – If you value empathy, you may find yourself gravitating toward people who can put themselves in the shoes of others. You, personally, may find yourself feeling for the sick or downtrodden and wanting to do something to help them.
17. Patience – A person who has patience as a core personal value is going to prioritize giving their time to others. They will sit down and be calm while waiting for others. This is a great trait for a teacher.
18. Open-Mindedness – An open-minded person is someone who is always willing to hear new points of view and even change their own point of view if new arguments are highly convincing. It’s the opposite of stubbornness.
19. Thoughtfulness – You may highly value people who are thoughtful. If this is you, then you might find yourself rolling your eyes at people who are full of bluster and never stop to reflect on their own actions.
20. Optimism – Some people are perpetual optimists. They value optimism, perhaps because by being optimistic, you are more willing to have a go at achieving even unattainable goals. You may also be more willing to persevere through hard times.
21. Altruism – If you highly value altruism, then you value people who do good deeds for the intrinsic value of those good deeds, and not in order to feel good about themselves or get something out of it.
22. Tolerance and Diversity – If you value tolerance and diversity, then you’re likely very comfortable with multiculturalism and want to encourage people to live and respect the wide variety of cultures and traditions that exist in modern society.
23. Forgiveness – Forgiveness is a central value in Christianity. It emphasizes the importance of redemption and getting a second chance. If this is a personal value of yours, then you likely don’t hold grudges and want to move forward and see the best of people in the future.
24. Being True to Yourself – This value is all about making sure people are not hiding who they really are in order to satisfy others. Instead, it thinks that humans flourish when they are living their best life.
25. Community – If you value community, then you are someone who might do a lot of volunteering and find meaning and purpose in being a member of a community group.
26. Social Justice – If social justice is central to your personal value set, then you likely want to see the oppressed and downtrodden get better treatment. You might advocate for fairness in your workplace and want to dedicate your time and resources to stamping out discrimination.
27. Dependability – If you value being dependable, then you might make sure you always turn up 5 minutes ahead of time so you’re never late and you never miss a deadline. If you say you’re going to do something, you will do it.
28. Work Ethic – Work ethic is a personal value that’s great to mention in an interview or CV. It means that you always put your head down and work your heart out to do a good job. You’ll never be found slacking off!
29. Respect – The value of respect reminds us that we should always be polite and caring for others. Even when someone disrespects us, we hold ourselves to higher regard and always treat people with the respect that we want to be treated with.
30. Compromise – The value of compromise is a very wise value. It involves recognizing that you will never get your own way, but by getting people together to reach an agreement, you can achieve great outcomes for all.
31. Playfulness – Playfulness is a value if you think it’s inherently important for living a good life. You might think that taking time off for relaxation and play is incredibly important for you, and that you’ll make sure you never let work take over life.
32. Pragmatism – A pragmatist values setting goals that are achievable. You’re the opposite of a dreamer. Instead, you have aspirations, but the most important thing to you is that you set yourself to tasks that you know can succeed at.
33. Environmentalism – Environmentalism may be a core value to you if you think it’s extremely important to care for the environment and natural world. It’s even more of a personal value if you act on it by limiting your waste, driving less, and buying ethical products.
34. Independence – Independence is important to you if you refuse to be tied to a job or a partner. Many modern-day women, for example, want to maintain their independent identity even while having a partner who they love.
35. Individual Liberty – If you value individual liberty, then you respect other people’s rights to make decisions for their own lives. It tries to ensure people don’t impose themselves on others. However, this rubs up against communitarian values where you need to do things for the greater good.
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Determining your Core Personal Values
When coming up with what your personal values framework, have a think about what’s important to you and what inspires you. Some sources can include:
1. What are your Family’s Values?
Our parents are the first people who teach us the difference between right and wrong. They lay the foundations for our lives by exposing us to stories that can help us build a moral framework, as well as exposing us to important influences like our church group or close family friends. Similarly, our siblings and cousins are often the first friends we have, and we learn right from wrong through playing with them.
2. What are your Religion’s Values?
Throughout history, societies have turned to religion for our values. Religious texts allow people to contemplate right from wrong and learn from a higher power about how we humans are expected to behave here on earth. Agnostic people may turn instead to philosophy for wise people who can teach us important lessons about right and wrong, and how to live a good life.
3. What are your Culture’s Values?
Each culture has a set of values around which it is oriented. We have western culture, for example, which values individual liberty and democracy. Similarly, in the United States, individual accountability is an important value. In societies like Denmark, care for the community is more heavily emphasized. You may embrace these sociocultural values as personal values if you find they resonate with you.
4. What are your Mentors’ Values?
There may be mentors in your life, such as teachers or coaches, who you admire for their wisdom and the way they behave. Reflect on why you respect them. Chances are, it’s because of the values they live by: respect, integrity, hard-work, or compassion.
5. Who are the People you Admire?
While a mentor might be a person in your life who you know personally, there may be other people you admire who are celebrities or politicians. For example, you might admire a sports star, actor, or philanthropist who is changing the world. Reflect on what values they have that make them admirable. This might be their work ethic that got them to the top, their humility in interviews, or their generosity in giving to the poor and needy.
6. What does Your Ideal World Look Like?
Reflect on the world you want. Consider what it looks like. It might have many of the values you embrace weaved into it. Your ideal world might be peaceful, compassionate, and fair. Or, it might be one full of wealth and pure meritocracy where the hard workers and people who take individual responsibility truly are the wealthiest and most successful of all.
Personal Values for a CV
The best personal values to include in a CV or resume are ones that demonstrate that you will be an excellent employee. For example, employers often want employees who:
- Have work ethic – This will show that you’re going to work very hard and not waste your employer’s money.
- Have integrity – This will show that you can be trusted, even when no one is looking.
- Value cooperation – In today’s workplaces, you need to work in teams to get jobs done. A person who works well in teams is a valuable asset to a company.
- Are optimistic – Your employer wants a positive person who will spread motivation and positivity around the workplace and to customers.
Benefits of Clear Personal Value Sets
Having a clear value set has several important benefits. For example, it can help you to:
- Make decisions. If you know what you truly value, then you can use your values as a guide when making decisions – big and small! For example, it can help you make decisions about what career to go into (one that will help you exercise your values) or what to study at university.
- Work through difficulty. If you know who you are and what you value, then hard times are easier. You will have your values as a guiding star, reminding you to persevere and carry on through difficulty.
- Set goals. You’ll know what you value and what you want, meaning you will be able to identify exactly what you want out of a good life.
- Make social connections. By knowing who you are, you can gravitate to others who share your personal value set.
As you can see, there are many different personal values that can help shape our character and guide us through life as we interact with others, make decisions, and face challenges both large and small.
When telling others what your personal values are, make sure you state examples of personal values that are genuinely reflective of yourself, not just ones that you think sound good. People will know if you’ve not told the truth because you need to demonstrate and live by your personal values every day of your life.
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.