Personal Core Values: The Definitive Guide (+ Flashcards)
Knowing your personal core values is essential to living your most authentic and purposeful life.
If you are feeling lost, getting clear on your values can help you find yourself.
If you are discontent with the way your life is set up now, finding your values can give you the clarity you need to get back on track.
If you are looking to get clear on who you are and the way you want to live your life, your values are the bedrock of that.
Bottom line, your values let you live happily and fulfilled.
And this definitive guide to personal core values will tell you everything you need to find yours!
Let’s get started!
What are personal values?
A broad personal values definition is, “what one considers important or worth seeking.
More specifically, your personal core values are the select values that you hold most dear in the world.
They are your core beliefs about what is essential. These personal values make up the heart of who you are and what is important in your life.
Your personal core values should be what you care about most in the world, not the things others think you should care about most.
There are lots of personal values examples. My 5 most important values are family, wisdom, effectiveness, authenticity, and freedom.
Your most important personal values might be love, financial security, knowledge, creativity, personal growth, or any combination of all of the values in the world.
Below you will find a list of core values that is made up of some of the widest held and most important values in our society.
This list can help you find your core values.
There are lots of different types of personal values, so feel free to come up with your own too if it feels right!
I also created a deck of values cards that you can use to make the process of finding your values easier.
You can get your own deck of values cards in the Llama Store here or get a digital flashcard version by entering your email below.
The deck of flashcards has the below list of values and their meanings.
Core Values List*
Be of Service
*This list, while not a personal values list of all the values in the world, is an excellent place to start as it gives examples of personal values held most dear by many in our society.
Why are values important?
Alexander Hamilton once said, “If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.”
The importance of your values is that they let you know what you stand for.
When you know your values, it allows you to “fall” only for the things that align with your deepest held truths.
Knowing your values also helps you live authentically and be your authentic self, because you know the core of yourself.
Spending time observing and finding your personal values is one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself.
In his book, The Other 90%: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life, business guru and author Dr. Robert K. Cooper says:
Every one of us has inherent qualities that anchor us in the world and enable us to shine. To live in that way, we must clarify our own values and understand those of others. It’s one thing to be alive. It’s something else altogether to live – and work – according to who you are deep down.
Author Roy Posner also explained the importance of values in A New Way of Living: Essays on Human Evolution & Transformation:
Values drive us, motivate us, move life, move us forward — enabling progress, even evolution.
Values are what enable us to take the Next Step.
Your values give you the groundwork for creating your most authentic and purposeful life.
Plus, beyond just giving you the framework for living authentically and purposefully, you can use your values to help you do other things!
Your values can help you find your purpose.
Your values can help you set boundaries to create the space for the life you want to lead.
Your values can help you make important life decisions, and find a workplace that aligns with who you are.
The list of how your values can help you goes on and on!
Knowing your values gets you clear on who you are, and is fundamental for living your best, most fulfilling life.
And, when you know your most important personal values, life becomes so much more fun!
Now it’s time to find your values.
Personal Core Values Exercise
Finding your core values is a discovery process, but this personal core values exercise makes that process simple!
This values exercise can be done alone, but it is also a good values exercise for groups if you want to do it at work or with friends (this makes it more fun too!).
*This exercise can be done just using the list of values from above, but if you would like a digital version of the Tomi Llama values flashcards to help make the process easier, just enter your email below!
Step 1: Grab a sheet of paper and your values flashcards
To do this exercise, all you need are two things: a sheet of paper, and either the Tomi Llama values flashcards or a list of values.
Whatever you use, whether it is a list of core values or the values flashcards, it doesn’t need to have all of the values in the world.
It just needs to have enough personal values to start the conversation (and, if you feel like a value that is important to you is missing, you can just add it!)
Step 2: Do a first, quick run through of each value
The first time you go through your values deck or list of values can be a simple, quick, yes-no-yes-no run through of the deck or list.
This first round through the list is where you make quick choices on whether each value sounds like you or not. All it takes is a simple, “is this me? yes or no.”
If it’s a yes, put it in the yes pile, if it’s a no, put it in the no pile. Don’t worry about spending too much time on each value - just go with your gut.
Step 3: Go back through the values you said yes to
After the first time through the values, look at your "yes" pile and go back through them again. Take a little more time with each card to narrow down the list of core values further.
Questions that can help guide you in figuring out whether or not a value is one of your core values include:
Does this value represent how I show up in the world?
Is this value something I stand for?
Would I be okay if this value wasn’t very present in my life?
After you go through your list a second time, just repeat the process and keep doing so until you have narrowed down your list of the values to those you hold most dear.
And that’s how you find your core values!
Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time around.
It can take some time to figure out the heart of value most, and your values can even change as you go through life!
You might need to periodically revisit these top values to confirm if they feel true and right for you.
Below is guidance on how many core values to have, how you can narrow your list of core values, and what to do with your core values once you find them.
How many core values should you have?
Try to get your list of personal values down to your 5 most important values. Whenever I do this values exercise with groups though, two sets of people emerge.
The first group can narrow their values down to their 5 most important values very quickly and easily.
The second group is stuck at 10 to 15 values, and they struggle to figure out how to whittle the group down.
Since this is a process, neither group is better than the other, but someone in the group with more personal values inevitably asks me why they need to narrow down their list of core values down to their 5 most important values.
My response is that it doesn’t have to be 5, but humans are complex people.
Three values are not enough to honor our complexity, and 7 to 10 is too many and makes it hard to live by them.
One of the most powerful benefits of knowing your 5 most important values is that you can use them for different things in life, like making important life decisions.
If you have too many values, then it becomes difficult to use your values to their biggest effect.
How to narrow your list of personal core values
Getting your list of core values down to five can be a challenge.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to make narrowing your list easier!
Below are 3 helpful strategies that you can use to help you determine what values truly are your top personal core values.
1. Look at the different types of personal values in your list
There are lots of different types of personal values, but certain values are often grouped together and belong to a family of values.
For example, the values of truth, trust, honor, and integrity often show up together.
They would be considered similar types of personal values and classified in the same family.
Another example of a family of values would be spirituality, religion, and faith.
Another family could also be creativity, originality, ingenuity, curiosity, and open-mindedness.
You may be having a hard time figuring out which value in a family aligns most with who you are because they can be so similar.
If this is the case, then watch yourself in action for a while to determine which value shines through the most. When you figure it out, that is one of your core values!
2. Ask others what they think.
Others often can see you more clearly than you can see yourself. If you ask others what are your core values, they will likely be able to provide some valuable insight.
Your family and friends are an excellent resource for helping you find your 5 most important values.
Ask them what they see in you and what they think you might value most, or, if you already have an idea of your values, ask them what they think sounds the most like you.
3. See what makes you angry.
When you get angry, a lot of times it might be because of a violated personal value.
If you find yourself getting really angry over something, it might be because that violated value is one of your core values!
Anger, while not always fun, is a great tool to help you find your top values.
What to do once you know your values
The purpose of finding your most important personal values is to use them to make your life better than ever.
There are two steps in doing that: understanding how your values show up, and then putting them to use.
Understand how your top personal values show up
The way I like to think about how our personal values show up is that every value comes in 2 flavors: above-the-line or below-the-line.
Using your personal values in an above-the-line way means that, when you rely on that value in the world, that value has a positive impact on you and on others.
Using them in a below-the-line way means the way you stand in that value negatively impacts you or others.
When I started trying to figure out my 5 most important values, I wasn’t even aware that some of them were being used in a below-the-line way.
One of my 5 most important values is wisdom.
Once upon a time, I was also an attorney. When those two came together, I had a habit of being a smartass. I loved feeling like the smartest person in the room and letting everyone else know that.
I was using my value of wisdom to show, “I’m smarter than you,” as opposed to working to use that value for everyone’s benefit.
When you become aware of how you hold your values, you can suse them to build others up versus tearing them down.
It’s also important to understand how you hold your personal values in relation to others.
When others have values that go against what one of yours is, it can be a source of friction.
For example, one of my most important personal values is family, whereas one of my son’s most important values is independence.
I love to spend time with my family, but my son greatly values going off and doing his own thing, and it would be easy to take this personally if I wasn’t aware of his values.
When you recognize that you might hold your values differently from others, it can help you navigate those differences better!
Knowing how your top personal values show up in your life and in your relationships with others will give you clarity on why you live the way do and exactly how you hold your top values.
Putting your personal values to use
Now that you know your personal core values and have an understanding of how they show up in your life, it is time to put them to use!
You can find ways to put your values to use in the Superpower System.
You can also use your values to help you find your life purpose.
Knowing your core values gives you the foundation for living authentically and having a more purposeful, fulfilling life.
And, if you don’t quite have it down yet, that’s fine.
It took me a long time to find my own values, but the process of getting there was the most powerful part.
The most important thing to keep in mind is this:
This is just the start!
With love and authenticity,
PS, I’d love to know: What are your values? Comment below!