personal values

What Are Your Core Values? 7 Steps To Define & Live By Your Values

After working with many coaching clients, I’ve discovered that when my clients take the time to determine their values, they develop a new level of self-awareness and clarity and it changes their lives. Unfortunately, few people have taken the time to create a personal values list and miss out on the impact it can make on their lives.

If someone asked you what your values are could you tell them? Most people cannot. You may be able to vaguely describe what your values are and reference a few specific words, but what if you had 5-7 values that you live by and that have deep meaning to you, what could that do for your life?

“Finding your values is like panning for gold; time-consuming and hard to find, but what a treasure it is when you do find it.”

Carlynne McDonnell 

Your values are what determine your character, your actions, your intentions, and much more. But without identifying your values, how will you know when you’re out of sync with your personal foundation? Not knowing the foundation of who you are can result in an unstable life.

If we are going to withstand the trials and tribulations, the temptations and threats of life, we need a firm and healthy foundation. Similar to a building’s foundation, our values need to be deep, reinforced by habits, and periodically inspected to make sure they remain strong. 

Determining your values is a multistep process and is not something to be done in one sitting. Take your time to work through these steps. It’s important to recognize your values can be aspirational, inspirational, or practical. They can also be a combination of these three.

To help you get started, I’ve provided a link to an extensive list of values for you to reference. Link: Values List

The 7 Step Process

Skim through the steps below then click the Values Form link and go through the steps to complete your Values list.

Step 1

Please click the link above and print the values list to help you get started on this activity. Then begin by circling any values that stand out to you. Remember, don’t try to make the list perfect, you are brainstorming. What’s most important in your life? What excites you in life? What are the standards you want to live your life by?

Step 2

You likely have circled several values. In this step, use a notebook or write on the printed list and group the values into related categories. 

  • What are the central themes of the categories? 
  • Are there redundancies? 
  • Are there any categories that are missing? 
  • Which values really grab you? 
  • Are there values that have stories and deeper meaning/history for you? 
  • Is there a value that exemplifies your life or attitude about life?

Step 3

Now start to narrow your list a bit, go through your categories and highlight the values that have the most meaning to you. Choose values that support your way of being/thinking. Use the categories and see if you can find one word that sums up what that specific category’s value is for you. 

  • Can you find a new word that captures the meaning of the category? 
  • Look up definitions of the words to make sure they “fit” with you.
  • Run a couple of them by other people.
  • Do the values fit you in an aspirational way? Inspirational? Practical?
  • Which values best represent what you aspire to be?
  • What values will inspire you moving forward?
  • What values best represent who you are in a practical way?

The goal is to reduce your list down to 5-7 personal core values.  Once you have your values chosen, add these to the values form below then move to Step 5. 

Step 4

In your own words, define each of your values. Use your own unique way of defining your values. You can reference a dictionary but the more the definition is your own, the better. For example, “Confidence” is a value for me. I define  “Confidence” as follows: Fully embracing who I am. Lean into your strengths, weaknesses, gifting, sins, struggles, appearance, etc. 

Step 5

Add more personal meaning to your values by describing how they make you feel and/or include a story behind the value. Remember, you can always save the form and then come back later and recheck the definitions and how the values resonate with you. Once your values are set, you can give each of them a satisfaction rating. 

Step 6

On a scale of very dissatisfied to very satisfied, rate how well you are applying each value in your life. Don’t worry which value is at the top or bottom of the table, it’s not about ranking the order but rating your satisfaction in applying the value. 

Step 7

Once you’ve rated your satisfaction, enter one or more action steps to increase your score for each value you listed. To help you, ask yourself some of the following questions.

  • What would very satisfied look like for this value?
  • Practically speaking, what would living out [value] look like for you?
  • How would [value] ideally show itself in your life?
  • What would the specific results of living out [value] look like?
  • What would be different about you if [value] was more in your life?

Now that you’ve read through these steps, you can use this form to determine your own Personal Values.