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…

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:

  • 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.

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.

Last Updated: July 21, 2020 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Guy Reichard. Guy Reichard is an Executive Life Coach and the Founder of HeartRich Coaching & Training, a professional life coaching and inner leadership training provider based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He works with people to create more meaning, purpose, well-being, and fulfillment in their lives. Guy has over 10 years of personal growth coaching and resilience training experience, helping clients enhance and transform their inner worlds, so they can be a more positive and powerful influence on those they love and lead. He is an Adler Certified Professional Coach (ACPC), and is accredited by the International Coach Federation. He earned a BA in Psychology from York University in 1997 and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from York University in 2000.

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Knowing your personal values will help you find fulfillment and direction in life. Your values can act like a compass, guiding you to life and career choices that give you meaning. When you have a choice to make or feel stuck, examining your values and staying true to them will help you get on the right path. You can discover your personal values by doing the following activities that reveal what’s important to you. Once you discover your personal values, you can use them as a framework to redesign your life. This will help you create a life and career that are aligned with your values.

How to define your personal values and live by them for a fulfilling life

A life of regret is no life at all. Sure, we all have regrets for things we’ve done, mistakes made and opportunities lost. But if we make a conscious decision every day to minimize those regrets, we will lead a happier more fulfilling life. And hopefully those around us will as well.

These sixteen ways to live a happier more fulfilling life come from my past and present experiences from getting it right, as well as getting it wrong. They are delivered in no particular order.

Prioritize your time wisely.

As we all know, life moves at the speed of light. Time is our most precious asset. Wake up each day with a plan to accomplish something meaningful. Something you will feel good about when you turn out the light that night.

Build relationships over possessions.

You won’t be taking your possessions with you nor are they a meaningful source of lasting happiness. The relationships you build and the lives you impact will be your legacy.

Take what you can from life, but always give back.

There is nothing wrong with investing in yourself and your future. For pursuing success in all areas of your life. But one of the best ways to seek happiness is through service to others. Remember that giving time is more valuable than giving money.

Be accountable for your words and actions.

Accountability is the path to true accomplishment. Personal accountability is infectious and others in your life will follow suit. Always consider the consequences of your words and actions. Not doing so can be a fast track to regret.

Be disciplined in your personal and professional life.

Being accountable requires discipline. Discipline is the only way to discover your best personal self: the cross section between purpose, talent and effort. Discipline leads to accomplishing goals and avoiding bad decisions.

Expunge hate from your heart.

Life is too short. This too requires discipline. Hate will consume you, exhaust you and distract from the positive aspects of your life. Put your ego aside and replace it with humility.

Forgive yourself and others quickly.

We all make mistakes, hurt those we love and meander off the path of righteousness at times. The faster we forgive ourselves and others the more time and energy we have for love.

Put your family first.

Your family relies on you to be strong, to lead, mentor and provide for them. Making time for work and hobbies is important, but every now and then we need to remember that making more money or the extra round of golf can wait.

Find purpose in your life’s work.

Without purpose it’s hard to truly be passionate. And without passion it’s impossible to inspire and lead others. Living a purpose-driven life is the foundation of fulfillment and happiness. Find your purpose and pursue it relentlessly.

Chase your dreams and never quit.

As a former Navy SEAL, the never-quit attitude is ingrained in me forever. Just make sure you are pursuing the right “dreams” that will add value to your life and others. Dreams that are aligned with your purpose.

Pursue passions bigger than yourself.

If we don’t break outside our comfort zones and find pursuits that leave a positive impact on the world, we live a very small life.

Don’t hold on too tight.

I often find this very hard to do, but sometimes we just have to let go and have a little faith. There are things simply out of our control and we can drive ourselves crazy trying to contain them.

Lead by example on and off the battlefield.

We all have the opportunity to lead in our lives. At home, work, in our communities. But leadership requires consistency of character. Actions speak louder than words.

Protect those who can’t protect themselves.

This doesn’t mean we all have to grab a weapon and head down range. It can come in the form of a simple gesture. Don’t stand on the sidelines with your smart phone. Do something.

Strive to improve a little bit every day.

If we can attempt to improve ourselves even 1% each day, at the end of a year we will be 37x better than when we started. Improvement requires regular learning, feedback and reflection. But don’t forget to take action as well.

Leave no regrets on the battlefield of life.

As Tecumseh said in his poem “Death Song”:

“When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear death, so that they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

Take a few minutes each day to reflect on how to practice these tips and see what happens!

How to define your personal values and live by them for a fulfilling life

A life of regret is no life at all. Sure, we all have regrets for things we’ve done, mistakes made and opportunities lost. But if we make a conscious decision every day to minimize those regrets, we will lead a happier more fulfilling life. And hopefully those around us will as well.

These sixteen ways to live a happier more fulfilling life come from my past and present experiences from getting it right, as well as getting it wrong. They are delivered in no particular order.

Prioritize your time wisely.

As we all know, life moves at the speed of light. Time is our most precious asset. Wake up each day with a plan to accomplish something meaningful. Something you will feel good about when you turn out the light that night.

Build relationships over possessions.

You won’t be taking your possessions with you nor are they a meaningful source of lasting happiness. The relationships you build and the lives you impact will be your legacy.

Take what you can from life, but always give back.

There is nothing wrong with investing in yourself and your future. For pursuing success in all areas of your life. But one of the best ways to seek happiness is through service to others. Remember that giving time is more valuable than giving money.

Be accountable for your words and actions.

Accountability is the path to true accomplishment. Personal accountability is infectious and others in your life will follow suit. Always consider the consequences of your words and actions. Not doing so can be a fast track to regret.

Be disciplined in your personal and professional life.

Being accountable requires discipline. Discipline is the only way to discover your best personal self: the cross section between purpose, talent and effort. Discipline leads to accomplishing goals and avoiding bad decisions.

Expunge hate from your heart.

Life is too short. This too requires discipline. Hate will consume you, exhaust you and distract from the positive aspects of your life. Put your ego aside and replace it with humility.

Forgive yourself and others quickly.

We all make mistakes, hurt those we love and meander off the path of righteousness at times. The faster we forgive ourselves and others the more time and energy we have for love.

Put your family first.

Your family relies on you to be strong, to lead, mentor and provide for them. Making time for work and hobbies is important, but every now and then we need to remember that making more money or the extra round of golf can wait.

Find purpose in your life’s work.

Without purpose it’s hard to truly be passionate. And without passion it’s impossible to inspire and lead others. Living a purpose-driven life is the foundation of fulfillment and happiness. Find your purpose and pursue it relentlessly.

Chase your dreams and never quit.

As a former Navy SEAL, the never-quit attitude is ingrained in me forever. Just make sure you are pursuing the right “dreams” that will add value to your life and others. Dreams that are aligned with your purpose.

Pursue passions bigger than yourself.

If we don’t break outside our comfort zones and find pursuits that leave a positive impact on the world, we live a very small life.

Don’t hold on too tight.

I often find this very hard to do, but sometimes we just have to let go and have a little faith. There are things simply out of our control and we can drive ourselves crazy trying to contain them.

Lead by example on and off the battlefield.

We all have the opportunity to lead in our lives. At home, work, in our communities. But leadership requires consistency of character. Actions speak louder than words.

Protect those who can’t protect themselves.

This doesn’t mean we all have to grab a weapon and head down range. It can come in the form of a simple gesture. Don’t stand on the sidelines with your smart phone. Do something.

Strive to improve a little bit every day.

If we can attempt to improve ourselves even 1% each day, at the end of a year we will be 37x better than when we started. Improvement requires regular learning, feedback and reflection. But don’t forget to take action as well.

Leave no regrets on the battlefield of life.

As Tecumseh said in his poem “Death Song”:

“When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear death, so that they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

Take a few minutes each day to reflect on how to practice these tips and see what happens!

How to define your personal values and live by them for a fulfilling life

Apr 24, 2019 · 4 min read

And why is this important?

Many people talk about getting clear on your values or using values as a guide in your life, but perhaps you aren’t clear what values are anyway? And why are they important?

Values are the individual beliefs that people hold and the things that people deeply feel are important in their lives. These beliefs are the underlying motivations for how people act and behave. We can also define values as the preferences in your life. We create them throughout our lives, starting in early childhood.

Values var y between individuals, but there are common and shared values that occur within a family, culture, group or country. One example of a shared value is ‘patriotism’ common within a country. Many family members share similar values because of their upbringing.

Everyone has values, some people just are more aware of what their values are than others. Being aware of what your most important values are — your core values — provides a valuable guide for living a life that feels meaningful and can greatly help with decision making.

Making decisions that go against one of your core values will cause a sense of “distress” or “discomfort”, or feelings of guilt or even a loss. Following one’s core values brings meaning and purpose. They uphold your sense of personal responsibility, giving you a sense of “self-worth.”

Your values will evolve over your lifetime, as your circumstances change, however many do remain constant. Values form a vital part of your personality as they can, and should, determine how you live your life.

Discovering your own values, these things important to you in life, is a process of self-discovery that everyone ideally should take. You will feel better when you live a life in alignment with your values. With so much emphasis placed on happiness in our society, we each need to learn about what our deep core values are — to enable ourselves to live a full and meaningful life.

Once you determine what your core values are and have prioritized them, an important part of the process, you can use your values to guide your life.

Author Stephen R. Covey states:
“People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.”

Spend your time and energy on things that nurture your values. Doing so will ensure that you experience a sense of meaning and more satisfaction with what you are doing and how you spend your time.

Realistically, not every activity you have to do will or even can be a match with your values. However, to live a more fulfilling life, try to spend most of your time doing things congruent with your value system.

If you don’t find meaning in an activity, perhaps none of your values are being met, or worse, are being violated or disregarded. You need to pay attention to these activities and your feelings. Knowing that something is violating a value is a massive hint from the universe or your inner knowing that you need to change your life.

If you can’t change the activity itself, at least not right away, such as your stressful job, then try to find some aspect of your job that can somehow align with a value you hold.

For example, if connection is a core value, you can try to reach out more to co-workers or customers and find that moment of human connection, even if it’s only fleeting. Doing these actions consciously can reduce your job dissatisfaction and even provide a moment of meaning, for both of you. This can be a game changer and greatly increase your life satisfaction.

So what are your values? How do you figure that out?

My next article will be about how to determine your core values, an important personal assignment for a healthier life.

I’ll leave you with some examples of core values. There are too many to list here. Search the internet for a list of core values and you will find many to browse through. Become familiar with what values are, which words describe the values and you will have made a head start into the inner dimension of self-discovery.

Some common values are:

and so many more.

Everyone wants to live a life of meaning. Finding out your core values is a key step to making sure you are doing your best to live the life that is best for you. You are unique and your values are unique to you. There is no right or wrong here.

Once you find out what they are, and remember they can change and evolve as your life changes and evolves, they can be a lighthouse to guide you to a beautiful life.

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

Core values are your moral compass: what you deeply believe is morally right. What we must remember is that your core values are always believed or perceived to be moral or influenced by morality. However, these fundamental beliefs and guiding principles often trigger and fuel the thoughts, emotions and behaviors that help people realize moments of happiness and positive experiences and, ultimately, progress toward achieving goals, realizing success and self-transcendence.

We know that core values are developed through life experiences, familial patterns, social conditioning and consumption of content, events and opinions. Our beliefs that affirm our core values are often those unquestioned convictions that we accept as truth based on our own current cognition. Aligning and living our core values is where humanity places our feet on the ground running at full speed ahead.

Our values are carried both consciously and unconsciously and are embedded into every priority decision we engage and participate in. To better represent ourselves, align our core values and maximize our strengths and motivators, here is a process for keeping your core values aligned, being more intentional and making your relationships, work and life more meaningful.

Six Steps To Identify And Align Your Personal Core Values

To uncover what you truly value in life, you must commit to getting real with yourself and not view yourself through a filtered and conditioned lens. We must commit and choose to be deeply cognitive about this process and get vulnerable with the truth. So make sure you give yourself privacy and time or have a trusted advisor or coach working with you to help you define your core values.

How to define your personal values and live by them for a fulfilling life

Your character is defined by values. And your core values are the result of your behavior. That means your values are defined by your actions—not the other way around. Aristotle said it best:

“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way.”

For example, when you always tell the truth, you become an honest person. It’s as simple as that. And yet, we collectively underestimate the importance of values. We think our values have everything to do with how we are perceived. But that’s not why values matter.

Values have a great impact on our inner world. They define us. They form the foundation of our character. And since you have to live with yourself, your values should be one of the most important things in your life.

But what if you don’t have values? Or what if you’ve never thought about setting your own core values? There are great risks involved with living without values.

You risk become a faceless human that becomes indistinguishable from every single other faceless person that has ever lived. And before you know it, you adopt the values of other people.

That’s how we become dependent on our parents, friends, or spouse. We can’t let our identity depend on the identity of someone else.

That’s why recently sat down to define my own personal core values to get things straight for myself. I recommend you to do the same. Once you know who you are in life, you stop trying to be who you are not. That gives you tranquility. Here are my core values:

  1. Authenticity—Be the same person at every occasion in life. Don’t act differently in front of your parents, friends, co-workers, in-laws, and strangers. Stay your true self. And never be afraid of other people’s judgments.
  2. Truthfulness—Tell the truth. Always. Especially when it comes to your own life. Don’t have money? Don’t pretend that you’re wealthy. Never went to college? Own it. Be honest about who you are and what you’ve done. You’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror with pride.
  3. Joyfulness—Life is short. Do things that bring you joy. And NEVER do something you hate for longer than is necessary. Enjoy the small things. Music, other people, working out, walking, laying down, reading, and so forth.
  4. Curiosity—Get to the bottom of everything that you do. Not because you must. But because it’s fun to know things. Life is fascinating. Acknowledge it. And then, try to understand it. But leave it at trying. Some things can’t be understood. But you can still admire it.
  5. Responsibility—Own your actions, mistakes, and current life situation. Understand what’s in your control, and fully own it. Don’t like something? Change it. But don’t take responsibility for things that are not on your plate. Focus on yourself. What other adults do is not your concern, nor your responsibility.
  6. Love—Build intimate and deep relationships with a few people. Depth matters more than breadth. Spend more time with your spouse than your co-workers. Get to know your siblings on a deeper level. Have two or three friends that you spend your time with. Love your family. The people you see every day should get your highest priority.
  7. Fearlessness—Don’t fear the future. And don’t be afraid of what people you don’t care about think of you. Only care about what you and the people you love think about you. Everything else is noise. Have dignity. Do the right thing and don’t fear the rest.
  8. Loyalty—Even though you might not see your old friends, co-workers, team members, stay loyal. Once you build a bond with someone, don’t break it unless it’s necessary. But most importantly, stay loyal to yourself. Never sacrifice your own mental well-being for others. Treat yourself like you treat someone you love.

I don’t need more or fewer values than this. The list is long enough to live a rich, strong, and fearless life. And it’s short enough to remind yourself of these things.

Remember: Your values must be in line with who you are.

Never copy someone else’s values. Looking at other people’s values for inspiration is great, and to help you with that, I’ve created a list of 115 common core values you can use. But this remains an inherently internal practice.

Your goal is to find the values that already exist inside of you—and strengthen them. John C. Maxwell, the author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, said it best:

“When values, thoughts, feelings, and actions are in alignment, a person becomes focused and character is strengthened.”

Pick your values. Stick to them. And watch as your character is formed. Once that happens, you’ll never want to be anything else but yourself.

How to define your personal values and live by them for a fulfilling life

Previously, I shared how to define your personal core values and shared how I discovered my own. Since that time, many have asked, “OK, now what?” Knowing your true core values is only a step in the path to an authentic life. Learning to apply them daily is a major component to happiness and success.

The key to daily application of your core values is to establish behavior that keeps them front of mind. You want to identify the opportunities that will lead to your success and prevent decisions that will get you into trouble. Here are the methods I use to make sure that my core values take root and precedent.

1. Put them where you can see them.

My core values are all a single word so they are easy to apply in multiple places. But even if they are four to seven word phrases you can still put them on Post-it notes, your screen saver, home screen, and anywhere else that is in your line of sight. The important thing is to keep them top of mind when you don’t have the time to dig into your brain.

2. Discuss them with close family and friends.

Your core values take on life when you have deep discussions about them. Share them with your significant other and your best friend. Get in the habit of using them to describe your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. My core value of Truth is an important topic when dealing with the critical people in my life. The more intimate the discussion, the more the values will comfortably settle into your soul.

3. Put the right people in your life (and eliminate the wrong ones).

The most impactful way to use core values is to manage the company you keep. Other people don’t have to share your core values, but they do need to fit them. One of my core values is Creativity. I don’t require all people in my life to be creative per se, but I do require them to be supportive of a creative approach. Otherwise, I know we will have useless conflict. Time is a limited commodity that other people consume. Use your core values to make sure your time is being spent with people worthy of your values.

4. Assess your daily tasks each morning.

Core values are great filters that help you make good decisions. When I list out my daily tasks, I use my values to evaluate whether or not they are the right things for me to be doing. For example, I determine each day if each task meets my core value of Impact. I want to know that everything I do will achieve maximum results for minimum effort. Make sure everything you do is consistent with who you are and you’ll find your day running efficiently and effectively.

5. Integrate them into your regular conversations.

Core values take on a whole new life when they become an integrated part of your dialogue. Even casual conversation spurs opportunity to express yourself through value-speak. Since Consistency is one of my values, I often use that word to explain why I must stay true to my own writings even when it feels unnatural. Make your values a key part of your normal vocabulary and you won’t have to remind yourself which one you are constantly forgetting.

6. Apply them as key motivators.

Your personal core values are the basis for determining your preferred future. Every opportunity and goal should be looked at through the lens of your core values or you will create unnecessary self-conflict and struggle on your journey. Take a day or two each quarter to do strategic planning and really think about how your life objectives and core values fit together. As long as they are in sync, your mind and soul can work together to accomplish great things.

7. Evaluate your day at bedtime.

The only way to truly improve is to see where you have strayed from the perfect path. Every day I take time to offer prayer and determine if my behavior was consistent with my core values. Here I apply my core value of Diligence and thoroughly examine my day for transgression. Because I’m human there is always something I could have done better, so I consider the better alternative and look to improve tomorrow. No need to beat yourself up. Embrace the benefits of living values and enjoy the personal growth.

It is very common to hear from career experts that you should define your values first before you could set your career path. This may sound easy, but you actually cannot define your values without knowing what they are actually.

How to define your personal values and live by them for a fulfilling life

Well, your values are comprised of the things you think and believe are essential in the way you work and live your life. Your values are what should help you identify your priorities both at work and in life. It is also your values that you can use to determine whether the things that are going on in your life are part of your plans or intentions.

You can say that life is good when your decisions, behavior, and lifestyle actually match your values. This is when you can feel contentment and satisfaction. On the other hand, you will always have a feeling that something is wrong when such things do not align with your personal values. As a result, you will suffer from discontentment and unhappiness. With all that said, it is important that you make a conscious effort to identify your values and live your life according to them.

How Do Your Values Affect You?

Whether you are aware of them or not, values do exist. But what can make life much better and easier is your awareness of such values. Ideally, all the plans and decisions that you make should be in accordance to your values.

Imagine that you have to work 70 hours a week and you are someone who values your family, do you think you will suffer any internal conflict and stress? If you are someone who doesn’t enjoy being competitive and you are put in a situation where everyone is competitive, do you think you will find satisfaction in your workplace?

In such situations, the conflict between your values and the things you are actually doing can definitely affect the quality of your life. But when you get a clear understanding of your own values, it will be much easier for you to decide if you are in the right place or not. By being aware of your own values, you will not find it difficult to decide what job you should pursue, whether to accept or decline a promotion, or even whether you should keep or leave your job. Needless to say, these issues can have a huge and negative effect on how we perform at work. Thus, we should find a way to really understand what it is that we want in life so we could be in a better position to pursue our personal and career goals.

You will realize that your values are generally consistent and stable. But of course, there no boundaries or limits to them. This means that as you go on with your life, you may feel that your values are changing and are possibly getting bigger. This is because your standards of a good life also change as you gain experience and meet different kinds of people. With that said, it is vital that you always revisit your values to make sure that you will not lose sight of what matters in your life and what career moves you should and should not make.