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Have you ever asked yourself what the real influences of your decisions are? Why you prefer one situation over another? For instance why do you prefer being employed over working on your own? Or is it the other way around? Or why are you living where you are living right now? Why are you with the person you are in a relationship with right now?

It’s not primarily due to the circumstances or your emotions, especially not when there was a real decision involved. So why are you making these decisions then?

The answer lies at the core of your character, of what defines you as a person; and that is your personal value system.

What are Personal Values?

Personal values are the general expression of what is most important for you. A value expresses the worth of something, and in this case what you categorical like and dislike. So they are like categories for all your preferences in life. Values are formed starting in early childhood and are later consciously re-evaluated and can therefore be changed.

By comparing two values you can discover which is representing something that is more important than the other. Therefore you rate the one value over the other.

Personal values are generally operating in the background. They influence everything what you do but usually it happens on auto-pilot. You just know intuitively what you like and dislike and decide accordingly.

Why is it Good to Know Your Personal Values?

The answer is twofold:

First you get clarity and build your self-awareness by identifying your values and secondly knowing your highest values can act like a guide for you. It makes intelligent decisions easier. Also knowing your negative values, those from which you try to keep away from, is very helpful as well. When you are clearly aware of your value hierarchy you can consciously check situations against your value-system, which will create better decisions and results. It will be easier to keep your balance in life.

For instance when you are about to make an important decision you can double-check if going the one or the other way would go against one of your core values. On the long run, that would pose a problem for you.

So all in all it’s an awareness building process which can give you direction in life.

A List of Core Values

There are a lot of value lists out there, so here are just the real core values that most people have and that differentiate a character the most. I tried to keep the list tight and avoid repetition by synonyms:

Abundance Accountability Achievement Action
Adventure Ambition Awareness Balance
Beauty Being the Best Calmness Cheerfulness
Clarity Comfort Compassion Competition
Connection Contribution Control Courage
Creativity Curiosity Determination Discipline
Effectiveness Empathy Energy Enthusiasm
Excellence Fairness Faith Fame
Family Flexibility Freedom Friendship
Fulfillment Fun Harmony Happiness
Health Honesty Honor Humility
Independence Integrity Intelligence Intimacy
Inspiration Kindness Knowledge Liveliness
Love Money Nature Passion
Peace Perfection Persistance Philanthropy
Power Respect Security Simplicity
Significance Spirituality Spontaneity Strength
Stability Success Status Teamwork
Tolerance Tradition Truth Vitality
Wealth Wisdom

Create Your Value Hierarchy

In order to create your 10 top-values do the following:

  1. Select the 10 values from the list above that you like most. (of course you can also do a Top 5 or Top 7)
  2. Start with the first in the list. Then order this by importance by comparing two values by asking: “Which one is more important to me if I had could only have one and had to compromise the second?” Remove the winner and write it on top of a new list and then continue with the remaining 6 on the old list and so on.
  3. Do this for all 10 until you have an ordered list of your top 10 values.

Here are my top 10 personal values:

  1. Fulfillment
  2. Inspiration
  3. Contribution
  4. Health
  5. Family
  6. Love
  7. Creativity
  8. Success
  9. Truth
  10. Integrity

If you like, write your Top 10 (or Top 5) in the comments below!

Your value hierarchy expresses your character of course. Someone who values adventure highly is a different character as someone who values stability more. Someone who values success highly is different than someone who values family on top.

An interesting exercise is also to create your top 10 negative values, which express what you really dislike or what is totally unimportant to you.

Are Values Fixed or Can I Change Them?

By there very nature, your value-system tend to be more stable, it is your character in it’s many facettes. But single values are not static and fixed. They can change. Personal values usually change when something big happens, or when you are consciously re-evaluating your life and make a decision, based on your experiences, to change your value hierarchy.

As an example I valued diversity a lot in my first business. Later I learned by experience all the drawbacks of doing a lot at a time and now I value simplicity more.

So what when you are dissatisfied with a value you have and what to change it?

For instance you may have the top value of stability and you want to become a bit more flexible in your life. (could be the other way around as well…) Changing this would work if you create experiences and enjoy them that are in alignment with the new value: flexibility in this example.

So to integrate a new value into your top-values:

  1. Create positive experiences that express this value in your life
  2. Decrease experiences that are aligned with the opposite value in your life
  3. Also working on your beliefs will make it easier to adapt to new values.

What are your TOP 3 personal values? Write them into the comments below!

34 comments

  1. Mario February 22, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Great post Myrko,

    I came up with the following list….any advise on how to interpret or look at it? thx in advance…

    Freedom

    Wisdom

    Health

    Courage

    Significance

    Adventure

    Truth

    Compassion

    Integrity

    Independence

  2. Myrko Thum February 22, 2013 at 10:07 am

    @Mario, Freedom and Wisdom are most important for you. So as a guide for decisions, anything that would try to box you in or keep you away from feeling free would be a serious problem. Courage, Significance and Adventure are asking for a very active lifestyle. So try to integrate events that reflect these values to feel fulfilled and aligned with your values. Money, Success and Wealth is not on your list, which is totally fine and interesting. It may be that you need to consciously work there to keep that area in balance for you.

  3. Ingeborg February 22, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Hey Mirko,
    how are you doing?
    I did myself a bit of thinking on this subject in the past weeks,
    i ended up with:
    Compassion
    Family
    Independance
    Making a difference
    Personal Fulfillment
    Personal growth
    Teamwork
    Trust
    Vision
    Wisdom
    the order not being quite clear acutally ;)
    what do you think?
    thanks and take care
    you’re doing a great job, very dedicated!
    Ingeborg

  4. Harry @ GoalsOnTrack February 22, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    My top 5:

    Happiness
    Integrity
    Compassion
    Discipline
    Contribution

  5. rochelle February 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks for the great post.
    1. Health
    2. Happiness
    3. Awareness
    are my top 3. I found the exercise challenging & insightful.

  6. pendy February 22, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    This is my top 10 values :
    1. COMFORT
    2. COMPASSION
    3. FREEDOM
    4. HAPPINESS
    5. HEALTH
    6. LOVE
    7. MONEY
    8. PEACE
    9. SIMPLICITY
    10. TRUTH
    Thanks Myrko Thum . Have a nice day .

  7. khadro February 23, 2013 at 2:35 am

    Hi Myrko,
    thx for your great posts, i like them.
    My top3 personal values:
    health
    peace
    freedom

    i think if i have these 3 i can solve everything else, just depends on my willpower.

  8. Zack February 23, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Myrko, you are the man. Every time I read your posts I get the sense of how much work you have put in behind the scenes, but this one is of your best. Way to understand man!

    Zack

  9. Myrko Thum February 23, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Good to hear Zack, I also found reflecting on your own values helps to avoid getting too much off balance, for instance only going after your job/success, when family and love are in your top values.

  10. Zack February 24, 2013 at 12:14 am

    I was reading that list and I was thinking that one of my top values is teaching/nurturing/showing/explaining a similar value system that you, Myrko, I think endorse, one that puts personal accountability into a societal situation. Anyone have a word for that?

  11. Sharon February 24, 2013 at 4:33 am

    Myrko:This was a very helpful and useful exercise. Thank you so much!
    Here are my Top 5 Values:
    1.Health
    2.Intelligence
    3.Wealth
    4.Respect
    5.Independence
    Sharon

  12. Zack February 24, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Oh and by the way that little antidote at the end of your reply was a square hit on the nail of the hammer. I imagine that over-focus on work is the #1 misalignment of values. My bet for why this is so is that work has the appearance of being under our control; we can see immediate results if we work a little later, work a little harder, work our selves to the bone; we can satisfy that creative impulse that way. But with relationships it is a much slower process. We build them brick by brick when we have the time, the opportunity; and one mistaken move and we can do quite a bit of damage to what took along time to help create. That is so if you are aware that you are creating; building relationships. The greatest challenge though to the family/love value is that if is difficult to see the creative process in the simple mundane-ness of simply being with those we care for. The value-added of our time is not so immediately apparent. I am thankful that recently I have become more aware of the power of the mundane interactions. I will now (almost) watch a movie or some such other thing that I do not enjoy doing simply to have time with people I enjoy who do. I am working on it at least. Stealing time from career is the difficult part.

    Thanks again Myrko for the platform to think out loud.

    Zack

  13. Jor Barrie February 24, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Hi Myrko; thanks for a great post! It has shown me that I really didn’t have a clue about my priorities! :-)

    I came up with the following:

    Honesty
    Integrity
    Health
    Peace
    Love
    Empathy
    Creativity
    Inspiration
    Beauty
    Effectiveness

    Although to be fair, there are a few more I would have liked to fit into my top ten! It seems far easier to think of things I don’t value highly, like power or wealth.
    It would be interesting if you could manage to make sense of my list; I am going to have a try myself again, but it seems easier to make something of other people’s lists!

    Thanks again,

    Jor.

  14. nergis usta February 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    great list, thanks myrko! :)
    Health
    Family
    Love
    Faith
    Success
    Fulfillment
    Creativity
    Inspiration
    Intelligence
    Courage
    Enthusiasm

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  16. padma prakash February 25, 2013 at 5:40 am

    Thanks great inspiration,
    health, happiness, peace, family, humanity, cultural positive thinking and creative
    thanks again
    padma

  17. Lubna wain February 26, 2013 at 5:23 am

    Hi
    Truth. Excellence, fairness, integrity. Effectiveness, knowledge, compassion, health, intelligence, determination.

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  19. Myrko Thum February 26, 2013 at 9:07 am

    @Jor Barrie, I think knowing your values is foremost valuable for yourself as described in the post. You have honesty and integrity on 1 and 2 and that speaks for itself, you are obviously very truth-loving and wouldn’t comprise that for anything.
    Then you have interpersonal, social values like empathy, love and peace which probably makes you a people person easy to be with. :-)

  20. sabelo March 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    1. peace
    2.spirituality
    3.honesty
    4.discipline
    5.happiness
    6.kindness
    7.love
    8.empathy
    9.faith
    10.fairness

  21. Lubna wain March 24, 2013 at 1:24 am

    Shan’t to know your comments on my values

  22. Ali April 14, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    I found it very interesting to assess what my core values actually are versus what I would like them to be. Had a hard time keeping the 2 separate.
    What I think mine are now:
    connection
    harmony
    comfort
    integrity
    health
    balance
    courage
    clarity
    happiness
    passion

    I would like to add discipline to that list, as well as increasing the importance of balance and passion, and add family. Fulfillment sure sounds good as well.

    Thanks for this very helpful article.

  23. Ali April 14, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    To add to my post above – I also would like to reduce the importance of comfort, and take connection down from the top to increase my self responsibility and self dependence.

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  25. Rob July 29, 2013 at 5:18 am

    Here’s my top 5:

    1 Fairness
    2 Adventure
    3 Health
    4 Family
    5 Simplicity

    Now that I see this list I understand better my current life situation and the decisions that I’ve taken. They’ve always been in line with these values.

    Great post, thanks.

  26. SIMEON AGBOOLA September 27, 2013 at 11:46 am

    My core values: integrity. 2.respect 3.success 4.love 5.personal development

  27. Dariuz October 5, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Thank you Myrko. Here are my Top 10 (I added a value which you didn’t have in the list):
    – Love
    – Health
    – Wisdom
    – Loyalty (my addition)
    – Honor
    – Courage
    – Knowledge
    – Honesty
    – Balance
    – Discipline

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  30. HK January 17, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    this was a very interesting exercise (and insight):
    Integrity – Family – Health – Friendship – Intelligence – Kindness – Fulfilment – Curiosity – Knowledge – Liveliness and most of the others

    what was also interesting was those that were definitely not on my list:
    Power – Accountability – Ambition – Money – Control – Status – Fame

    I love to help people, am well educated, am interested in a wide range of things and do not tend to attract money ….

  31. Mike March 6, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Loved the post, thanks so much, my top 3 are:

    1. Integrity
    2. Honesty
    3. Health

  32. Maryam March 12, 2014 at 6:15 am

    Appreciating the post,I think we must be able to consider these moral value when we are in dilemma,I have seen people who clame these value but when they were in bad situation they put every thing under their foot and forgot everythings and consider only themslves or when we make mistake do we compensate it or we shrink all values. People who were in dilemma and kept their values they can clame that they have them,otherwise in my idea they clame a dream.And in my idea we must not judge people who put them under their foot somethimes we are the cause of it ,it happened to me apparently the guy was guilty but the root of that action was me,so I forgave him and so did he ,so there is not any formule for it ,it depends!

  33. Ridwan March 17, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    My core values are stated below 1 self discipline 2. Moderation 3. Respect 4. Courage 5.money 6. Fulfilment

  34. Isabel July 18, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    My top 5:
    1. Love – Agape love, showing compassion
    2. Integrity – Doing what is right, staying true to yourself and others
    3. Respect – High regard, showing consideration
    4. Determination – Belief and willpower, having hope and showing courage
    5. Awareness – Knowledge, the full truth and self awareness

    This was awesome – it made me think!

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