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How to Define Personal Values in 4 Easy Steps

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Do you know who you are as a person? What matters to you most? Whether you are on track in life? Do you have a robust framework for making important life-decisions? You can find answers to all these questions by defining your personal values.


“To be mature you have to realize what you value most. It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity. They seem never to have paused to consider what has value for them."

—Eleanor Roosevelt

Why values?

Your personal values are the strategic foundation for your life. Without knowing what truly matters to you, you may end up working hard in a completely wrong direction. You can avoid this mistake by establishing what your personal values are and using them as a strategic framework life.

Once you establish your personal values, you can use them to:

  • Make important life decisions – such as what job might be good for you, where to live or what matters to you most in a relationship

  • Evaluate how you are doing in life and see if you are on the right track

  • Make the most of your life by defining what to focus on when it comes to work life, love life and physical environment

  • Develop a robust framework for life - your core values are a robust framework and a foundation for your entire life. Once established, they will serve as your life-long compass.

What are values?

Individual values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. In other words, values are your fundamental beliefs that guide your attitudes or actions.

Examples of values are: freedom, determination, drive, balance, beauty.

We all have different values.

Are some values better than the others?

Yes, some values can be healthier and more conducive to wellbeing than the others. You can use these criteria to ensure you land on the healthiest values for you.

Constructive vs Destructive

We don’t want to value things that harm ourselves or others. We do want to value things that enhance ourselves and others. There is also a blurry line between growth and harm. This is why what you value is often not as important as why you value it.

Controllable vs Uncontrollable

If you value things that are outside your control, you essentially give up your life. Money is a good example of an uncontrollable value. If economy collapses, you will lose a lot more than just money, but your perceived purpose of living. We need values we can control, otherwise our values control us.

Some examples of bad values are:

  • Feeling good all the time

  • Always being the centre of attention

  • Not being alone

  • Being liked by everybody

  • Being rich for the sake of being rich

Some examples of good values are:

  • Being content with what you have

  • Giving to others more than taking

  • Being self-sufficient

  • Acting for the good of others

  • Being conscientious

Are values fixed?

Values can evolve, but you will likely find yourself that 90% of what you define today will still be there years down the line.

This doesn't mean you should freak out about getting it super right. Once you know how to think about values, you will notice more of what defines you and will add things to your list of values later on.

What is important is to define YOUR values. Not the socially expected or imposed on you by someone else values.


4 steps to defining your personal values

There are many exercises available out there to define one's values. But when it comes to your life foundation, you don't want to take it lightly. At Life Startup we developed a 4-step methodology designed to define your values.

In each step you will look at your values from a different angle, which will ensure you have a very comprehensive view and don't miss anything.

Here are the 4 steps to defining your personal values:

Step 1 - HELICOPTER VIEW. Start with thinking about life and work in general and reflect on such questions as why we live, what is the purpose of work, what constitutes a life well lived. Reflecting on these questions will help you identify some of the most fundamental and deep-sitting values and will help you uncover what matters to you most in life, work and in relationships with others.

Step 2 - ZOOM-IN. Once you reflected on bigger questions, it's time to look at specific life experiences that may highlight some of your additional values. For example, you can think of a time when you had to make an important life decision. What were the key drivers that helped you in making that decision? How do they reflect your values?

Step 3 - LAUNDRY-LIST. Now that you have an initial list of values, go through a laundry-list of lots of values to make sure you are not missing anything out. Add anything that is not yet on your list. You might find clusters of values emerging - you can put them in groups and name them in your own way. This way you can really make your values list YOURS.

Step 4 - PRIORITIZATION. Finally, you will land on a few top values. You can decide how many values you want to have in your final list, you can have 3, 5 or 10. We recommend having top 5 defined and memorised, so that you can easily access them as your mental crib sheet for future decision making.


I've defined my values, now what?

Once you know your values, you should be proud - you have developed your design principles that will serve you as a great instrument for the rest of your life.

The first thing you can do is use your top 5 values to assess your current situation.

  • Are you living your values?

  • Is anything ignored?

  • Do you need to re-balance something slightly?

  • Tweak or do you need a major change?


If you would like to know more

Because values are such a fundamental factor defining your life fulfilment, you want to make sure you get it right.

We offer detailed guidance and support through the 4-step process of defining your values.

Check out our Events page and pick a date that works for you.

When you sign-up for our 'Defining Your Values' event you will:

  • Receive a mission pack with detailed exercises to help you reflect on each of the 4 steps.

  • Discuss your reflections with the coach, ask questions, uncover hidden insights and gain confidence in your final list of values.

This is a great opportunity to invest in yourself and take strategic approach.

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