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.