When I was in 12th grade, I asked my dad if I could skip school with the other kids on Senior Skip Day. “Sure,” he said. “You can skip…all the way to school.”
I was mad that I had to walk to school that day, but as I grew older, I realized he was making an important statement.
My dad was trying to teach me the values of consistency and dependability. Today, I have my father to thank for the personal values I hold as a man.
I refer to these core values in times of both happiness and hardship.
These values are the magnets in my moral compass. They allow me to make difficult decisions with conviction…where many men might waiver.
Having values—and being able to define them—makes life easier.
If you are asking yourself what your personal values are but find yourself fumbling for an answer, don’t fret.
Follow this simple, but in-depth, guide to help you define your personal values and hugely simply your life.
A Man’s Guide to Defining His List of Personal Values
This is the most complete guide available to help you define your personal values. If you’re looking for something specific, like a list of values, use the table of contents below:
If you find yourself asking the question “What are values?”, don’t stress. What might seem like a complicated concept is actually pretty simple.
Let’s refer to our friend Webster (the dictionary dude) for a working definition:
: a strongly held belief about what is valuable, important, or acceptable
— usually plural
- cultural/moral/religious values
- traditional/conservative/liberal values
- Her values were very different from mine.
- America was founded on the values of freedom and justice for all.
So, now it’s clear that values are similar to beliefs. Most of the time, these values are expressed as nouns.
Tradition, freedom, wisdom…for example.
These nouns are things you believe are valuable, important, or acceptable (see definition above).
If you family (a noun) is important to you—something you can’t live without—then family might be one of your personal values.
Don’t worry if you can’t think of any values yet. Below, I’ll give you 75 examples of values to draw from.
You may be the type of man who thinks that personal values are too sentimental.
You might say to yourself, “I don’t need values…I’ve got confidence and intelligence.”
But you’d be wrong.
You need values.
You need values to un-clutter your life. You need values to know how to respond in tough situations. You need values to forge lasting relationships with those around you.
Values are important because they act as a set of rules and guidelines for the events you encounter in life.
Life isn’t black and white.
All men are thrust into tough situations from time to time…situations where the right thing to do isn’t obvious. Knowing which values are most important to you before these situations arise will help you make better decisions.
Consider this scenario:
A coworker stole money from your company to cover bills at home, and you caught him in the act. He explains that he has student loans and a new baby on the way, and promises he will replace it once his commissions start rolling in. Your boss calls you into the office and asks if you know anything about the missing money.
A tough situation, right?
Not if you’ve defined honesty as one of your core values. (Honesty should be a part of everyone’s value list.)
Man up and tell your boss the truth, even if it means putting your coworker in a bad position. This might feel wrong, but you’ve been put in a tough spot. There is no easy outcome to that situation, but there is a right one.
You will encounter compromising situations in life…
…but with a system of personal values in place, the decisions you make become easier.
Now that you know what values are and why they are important, you can begin the process of defining your unique set of core values.
Follow these five steps below to begin the process of defining your personal values.
1. Find Your Zen
Deciding on your list of personal values is an important but complex process. It’s not something you can do after a 12-hour shift or a night of binge drinking.
It’s best to give yourself several hours on a day off to find your zen.
Relax in your favorite chair. Go for a run. Sit on your deck. Set yourself up to allow uninterrupted thoughts to flow.
I also recommend that you take something with you to record your thoughts. For this, you could use a smartphone or a good, old-fashioned pen and notebook.
Once you find your zen, you need to:
2. Examine Your Background
Values are like your grandfather’s Rolex—they should be passed down and cherished.
Culture and family are forever. Those two things should shape who you are as a man. Unlike your grandfather’s Rolex, family and culture are two things that money can’t buy.
Examine your background to embody the spirit of your family. Include their traditions, strengths, weaknesses, quirks, habits, and tendencies.
Ask yourself these two questions:
What values does my family hold?
Before you can define your own set of values, you must recognize the values your family holds.
Maybe you had a great grandfather who immigrated to North America, started his own business, and kept it going throughout the Great Depression.
He passed his values of hard work, diversity, and perseverance to your grandfather, who passed them to your father, who passed them down to you.
There is always a core influence behind the values you hold, but you need to identify where they came from in order to keep passing them along.
What values do I want to pass along to my children?
After you have identified the values passed on to you from your family, you have to decide which values you want to pass on to your children.
It may feel like this is too far down the road, but it’s not.
You will be one of the biggest influences your children have. Make sure your personal values are those you will be comfortable passing down the family line.
Ask yourself how you’ll make sure your children receive these values.
Maybe you help them start and grow their own business in high school. Maybe you take them with you to volunteer at a soup kitchen.
Do whatever it takes to make sure that your important family values are not lost.
Before we continue, I imagine some people might be thinking:
What if I don’t know my family or its history? Or what if my family’s history and values are…bad?
If you look at your family background and don’t like what you see, you can start something great for yourself.
The burden is on you to make sure your children acquire a strong set of values.
The fact that you’re creating your own value system from scratch should inspire you to work even harder during the examination process.
3. Examine your influences
It should be pretty easy to identify who you look up to. Who are your mentors?
Jay Gatsby, the protagonist in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, wasn’t born a cultured man. Dan Cody taught him how to be one.
Although we all can’t be lucky enough to be whisked away on a 10-year yacht voyage, most of us have a mentor who has helped to shape us into the man we are today. Sometimes, that man is a father. Other times, it’s a boss or friend.
More difficult than the who is the why. Ask yourself:
Why do I look up to this person?
I’m sure you’ll find that there are very specific things that stand out as you answer this.
What makes them unique? Notice how they react in tough situations, how they lead or follow, and how they treat others.
What values guide their actions?
Once you examine how your role models act, try to determine what values guide them.
Maybe you can recognize that no matter how bad a situation gets, your boss never loses his cool. Instead, he rolls up his sleeves and tackles the problem head-on.
It’s safe to say that your boss likely values perseverance, patience, and poise.
Maybe these are values you will want to focus on as well.
4. Examine your choices
If you have not chiseled your own core values into stone, examining the choices you’ve made in life can help you to better define them.
Who are my closest friends?
Your friends are a reflection of the type of person you are…whether you like it or not.
Examine your friendships—how they started and why they have endured. Often, you share similar values with those you are closest to.
How do I respond to hardship or good fortune?
The way you react to challenging emotional situations can shed light on the type of values you hold. Some people meet hardship with negative emotion, while others put on a game face in order to tackle it directly.
How do I treat others around me?
Examine how you interact with people.
The way you form relationships with other people is a good indicator of your personal values.
If you’re the kind of guy who always makes the group laugh, humor might be one of your personal values.
Or, if you prefer to help people solve their problems, you might highly value logic.
Remember when teachers would have you make weird lists and draw bubbles before deciding on which essay topic to write about?
If you’re like me, this step of the planning process frustrated you.
But here’s the thing:
It’s crucial to brainstorm important decisions. Take that pen and paper (or smartphone) and begin listing values that come to you.
As you do, keep in mind that you are using your background, past choices, and influences to form this list.
If you end up with an extensive lineup, that’s ok! It may be necessary to weed through your list and concentrate on the 10 or 20 values that are most important to you.
Don’t be afraid to put your list down, reflect, and come back to it another time. This is often the best way to make important, potentially life changing decisions.
In order to help you come up with your own core values list, I put together a comprehensive list of values that are common among strong men.
Experts in any field will tell you they have failed more times than others have ever tried.
Don’t give up when the going gets tough. Quitting is like a drug—it’s very addictive.
“Never ever ever ever ever give up.” ~Winston Churchill
What do your life and stairs have in common? They both require steps.
Decide where you want to be in 10 years and plan logical steps to get there. Numbers are your friend.
Consistency isn’t synonymous with boring. Being consistent gives people a sense of comfort in the decisions you make because they can rely on your actions towards them.
A person with conviction believes it’s important to stick to your guns and follow your gut. It requires that you only change your mind if it’s what you truly believe in.
It’s impossible to learn from your mistakes if you don’t have the conviction to stand by your decisions.
Discretion means behaving and speaking in a way that avoids causing offense or revealing private information.
This is a great value to have in social and professional settings where you frequently interact with new people.
If you’re the type of person who likes to set goals and plan how to achieve them, then accomplishment may be one of your personal values.
Remember to always be humble about your accomplishments.
Humor can go a long way in making a tough situation more bearable. As with many values, know which situations are appropriate for humor, and which ones call for a more reserved tone.
Humor should not be overlooked as a core value!
The world is filled with literally billions of people…all of whom are unique in multiple ways.
It’s important to be accepting of people who look or act differently than you do. Belief systems and personal upbringing are completely varied. Oftentimes, extending acceptance can lead to enlightenment and joy.
Accountability means facing your responsibilities and owning up to your mistakes.
When you show that you’re accountable, people will trust you more in the long run.
Great businessmen will tell you that the most valuable thing you have is your name. Unlike ties and pants, your reputation can’t be easily replaced once soiled.
Tell the truth and keep your word, even if it hurts.
“Honesty is a very expensive gift, don’t expect it from cheap people.” ~Warren Buffett
Freedom is a value that everyone should hold dear. Don’t forget how lucky we are to have freedom.
Claiming freedom as a personal value isn’t just about being thankful. It’s about trying to advance freedom any time you see an opportunity.
I’ve said it once before in this article, but it’s worth stating again. Your name and reputation are hugely important.
Diligently protecting and upholding your reputation can go a long way toward success in life.
If you’re like me, the state of your mind directly correlates to the state of your apartment.
If my living space is filled with clutter, you can bet my mind is, too.
Some say women smell confidence on men like cologne.
If you’re confident, people are more likely to trust your decisions and give you greater responsibility.
There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.
Determination means not giving up when things get tough.
If you make a conscious decision to face a tough situation head-on, you’ll find that time changes them into something to overcome rather than just being hardships.
We often learn the most from those who differ from us in culture, race, or beliefs.
Holding diversity as a core value means more than just acknowledging that cultures and traditions differ from your own.
It means striving to expose yourself to those diverse experiences.
Remember the toy monster truck you got for Christmas in 1998 that broke the second you took it outside?
No one enjoys toys that aren’t resilient…
…and the same goes for people.
If you’re the type of person that bends rather than breaks, and always recovers quickly, resilience might be one of your personal values.
Enthusiasm is similar to determination.
If you practice enthusiasm in challenging situations, they tend to lose some of their difficulty.
So much of what we do is about mindset. If you approach a situation with enthusiasm, the outcome will often be positive as well.
Sometimes things seem complicated, and it’s often because we make them that way.
If you’re the type of person who appreciates a minimalist approach to life, simplicity might be one of your core values.
If you’re lucky enough to be successful in life, don’t forget to give back to the world that allowed you to achieve that success.
Even if you don’t achieve wealth and fame, give willingly to help others. Giving things like your time, energy, and compassion can show that you value generosity.
“Wealth is not to feed our egos, but to feed the hungry and to help people help themselves.” ~Andrew Carnegie
Intuition basically means to go with your gut.
Some people make great decisions naturally, without many facts to help them. These people have great intuition.
Know yourself and your track record before you decide that intuition is one of your core values.
You crave power—and that does not make you some sort of super-villain.
Power is a motivating value that, when used properly, can be very helpful to your career and personal life.
In a nutshell, faith means believing everything is going to work out in the end. It can also mean that you believe in something much greater than yourself.
Faith is such a hard value to define because it means something different to so many people.
No matter what you believe, make sure you use that belief to guide your decisions.
I’m not talking about vegetables here, guys.
Freshness means finding new experiences and challenges in life. Some people are comforted by routines…quite happy to never leave their city.
If freshness is a core value, you’re not one of those people.
Balance is an understated value that every man should consider adding to his list. This value refers to not letting any single thing dominate your life. Rather, it keeps stress in check and makes sure personal enjoyment a priority.
Make sure you devote balanced time to work, family, friends, and play.
As a rule of thumb, every man should be a master at something.
Whether it’s business, art, or music, find a skill or hobby that makes you happy, and work to master it.
Dreaming and imagination often go hand in hand in the value lineup of creative men.
Dreams shouldn’t be things that come to you in the night and fade into distant memory. Some of the most important inventions in our history started as dreams.
Does inspiration strike when you let your mind wander? If so, dreaming may be a core value of yours.
For those who maintain hygiene as a deep-rooted value, it is not just about social acceptance. They pride themselves in every aspect of personal care.
For example, not only does flossing prevent bad breath, but scientists also think it may prevent heart disease. This is just one example of why hygiene might deserve to be a core value.
Happiness seems like a value that would automatically be included on everyone’s list.
Who doesn’t want to be happy, right?
Know what things make you happy, and frame your life around those things.
Daring means taking risks. You can’t go through life afraid to swing the bat because, if you do, you’ll never hit a home run.
If you possess the value of daring, you are the type of person who follows their gut and has a high risk tolerance when making life decisions.
The person who values daring can also experience huge payoffs.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” ~Wayne Gretzky
Aggressiveness isn’t necessarily synonymous with violence. If you value aggressiveness, it may simply mean that you act quickly and with force.
Aggressive decision makers know what they want, and do whatever it takes to get it.
This value is particularly helpful in a business or athletic setting where competitive stakes are high.
Being calm goes hand in hand with logic. It’s hard to make good decisions when you’re angry or stressed out.
Learn how to take a step back from a situation and just relax.
If you can do this, you will feel better and have a chance to make better decisions about the things that truly matter.
Imagination may seem like something you are expected to let go when you enter into adulthood, but that is not the case!
In fact, a good imagination can be one of the most crucial components to a successful business.
In a day and age where it seems like everything has been done before, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
No one should be serious all the time.
If you’re the type of person who appreciates taking a break to goof around or let your mind relax, playfulness may be one your core values.
Be careful with this one.
Valuing intelligence does not mean that you consider yourself to be extremely smart. It actually means that you constantly strive to gain and apply knowledge.
Make sure you know the difference between acting intelligently and simply acting.
Dynamism comes from the work dynamic, which means “constant change, activity, or progress.”
A person who is dynamic can quickly and successfully adapt to new situations, no matter what challenges they face. They tend to thrive in chaotic environments.
Think: human pocket-knife.
When you look back on the past five years, do you remember:
The times you spent watching TV?
The times you spent out travelling, hiking, kayaking, etc.?
Memories aside, men who actively seek adventure, lead much richer, more exciting lives.
This value is especially important to those in leadership roles, whether at work or home.
You want people to feel like they can come to you with problems or concerns they have.
People who value approachability are often given growing responsibility in the workplace because they easily gain the trust of others.
A lot of people will say you can do things for love or money, but not both.
Actually, that is not true.
Valuing wealth does not mean you’re selfish. Many people who value wealth do so as a way to provide for their families. Others seek wealth so they can live in greater peace.
This is a value for the more creative and artistic type.
If originality is one of your core values, you tend to stray from the crowd. Like many values on the list, this one comes naturally.
Be careful not to try too hard to be original. What seems original to you might seem annoying or lame to others.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ~Oscar Wilde
Poise means staying calm and balanced when faced with tough situations. It means never letting your emotions get the better of you.
Strive to stay poised, and people will trust and rely on you more quickly.
It’s important to never settle in life.
Humans have many different aspects to their personalities, and growth is possible in all of them.
If you’re the type of person who looks for lessons in your past mistakes, growth may be one of your personal values.
Time is often the only thing it takes for a situation to work out in your favor.
Though patience is often considered to be an attribute of the old, it does not hurt to practice this core value as a young person.
Obedience is not synonymous with being weak or timid, though it is often thought of in those terms.
Not every situation calls for dominance.
There is great value in knowing how to follow directions, especially in the workplace or when one of your mentors gives advice.
Bravery is not true bravery until it is put to the test.
But, being brave isn’t always about facing danger and harm.
Sometimes, being brave means standing alone to make the tough decisions. Others might get mad at you. Regardless, being brave always means doing the right thing.
Peace is one of those words than can refer to many different things.
Although it is commendable to strive for world peace, it is much more plausible for a man to achieve inner peace.
Inner peace means being comfortable with yourself and those around you, and living life with no regrets.
Objectivity means being able to look at a situation from a purely logical position, without letting personal involvement or emotions influence your perspective.
Objectivity is extremely valuable in a work environment, where you’re often confronted with conflicting situations.
Fitness isn’t often thought of as a value, but it should be. If your body is healthy, your mind will follow suit.
Centering your life on health and fitness makes it easier to attend to the other values on your list.
Not every occasion calls for words.
A good man knows when to talk and when to listen.
I could go on and on with quotes here, but the message would be the same. Sometimes it’s important to close your mouth and embrace the silence.
If you’re energized by periods of silence, then it might be one of your core values.
Traditions are about more than celebrations, songs, and other rituals. Traditions are about carrying on the spirit of past generations while acknowledging where we come from.
Although tradition can be one of the most powerful values, always be mindful of the traditions you hold.
Just because something is a tradition doesn’t mean it’s a good one.
“Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.” ~W. Somerset Maugham
In many situations, difficult tasks are easiest to accomplish when you work with others. Don’t shy away from the chance to combine minds and accomplish something great.
Consider The Beatles…or any other famous band.
Collaboration is an especially important value for creatives.
If your physical possessions are organized, then it will be much easier to organize your thoughts and prioritize your responsibilities.
Don’t overlook this much-neglected but important value.
Would you like to be wealthy one day? If you’re like most Americans, the surest path to wealth is one of smart and conservative spending.
For many, this isn’t an easy thing to do. But there are some people who have a naturally frugal mindset.
Self-awareness means knowing yourself, how others see you, how you respond in different situations, and why you react the way you do.
Self-awareness allows you to recognize when you’ve messed up, and helps you identify how to fix your mistakes.
This is perhaps one of the most important personal values.
This value goes hand in hand with punctuality, and can be used as a guiding mantra for your life.
True…many personal situations don’t call for you to be professional like you would be at work. But knowing how to act professionally can help you be more polite, courteous, and dependable…and those are great qualities no matter where you are!
If you value experience, you look at life as a series of opportunities for growth.
It also means that you recognize the value of different experiences, whether good or bad.
Experience is necessary for another value on the list: wisdom.
Wisdom is a word that often gets misunderstood. Wisdom is not simply knowledge. It’s knowledge tempered with time.
If you value wisdom, you value the importance of reflecting on different life experiences, hoping to learn from each one.
Politeness is another often-overlooked personal value.
Not only will it help you gain more friends, but it will ensure that you make great first impressions.
Every man has heard his mom say, “life isn’t fair.”
But that shouldn’t stop you from trying to make it that way.
Being fair goes a long way toward establishing other values, like trust and confidence.
Gaining a higher education is one of the best ways for someone who comes from nothing to achieve great success and wealth.
Do not underestimate the power of education. More importantly, realize that you’re never too old to learn. Education should be a lifelong endeavor for all men.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~Nelson Mandela
There’s nothing worse than a fake person, and they are pretty easy to spot. Simply put, sincerity is being real.
If you’re sincere, you speak your mind from an authentic place, and you do this even if it might not be the most pleasant thought or opinion.
Do not underestimate the importance of being on time. This value often goes hand in hand with others’ ability to depend on you.
If you value justice, you strive for liberty and fairness.
Justice is an important value because, by acting according to what’s fair, you gain trust and demonstrate responsibility. A just man also deals with compassionately with others.
This is another value that may seem counterintuitive, but knowing when to rest your mind and body helps to protect many aspects of who you are.
If your body and mind are tired, you may not make smart decisions. Rest is an important value to consider.
Conservation means keeping things the way they should be—and it doesn’t just refer to the environment.
If you value conservation, you may be more content than most. You do not consume for the sake of it, but choose to live in a thoughtful manner.
This value is very important because things are rapidly changing, often due to negative influences such as pollution and corrupt politicians.
This is another value that is easy to talk about, but much more difficult to live.
If you value longevity, you likely also value health and fitness.
While longevity simply means living for a long time, it’s living longer in order to be with your loved ones that means the most.
Those who value community most likely have warm memories of their hometown, church, school, etc.
As adults, they might volunteer to help others, too.
Don’t slack on giving back to the places that made you who you are. Strive to create a sense of community wherever you go.
Are you someone that always sticks to your word and is there for others when times get hard?
If so, dependability may be one of your core values.
People usually appreciate someone who is able to speak their mind.
Being frank can help to get you out of tough situations and clear up awkward misunderstandings. While not everyone appreciates the concept that “honesty is the best policy,” those who value frankness would have it no other way.
Thinking outside the box is one of the most valuable skills necessary to confront the curveballs life throws your way.
Great men aren’t afraid to get creative and challenge the normal ways of doing things.
As we grow up, we learn that the world does not revolve around us.
It’s important to treat everyone with consideration and respect, even if they don’t offer you the same courtesy.
Learning to accept new ideas is the mark of a humble and learned man.
Being stubborn and closed-minded is not impressive to anyone. As a matter of fact, close-mindedness is often a mark of immaturity.
Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Men who value modesty don’t brag…they let their actions and appearance speak for them.
Talking about your accomplishments doesn’t make you accomplished. It makes you seem insecure.
The term “mind over matter” does not simply refer to monks bending spoons. Controlling your mindset is the most important factor in any task you encounter.
If you’re optimistic about the outcome, you will achieve stellar results.
Ideas are a dime a dozen…
…but it is action that separates high achievers from the rest of the crowd. If you value action, you’re unafraid to make the big decisions necessary to execute your ideas.
“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I want to stress that this list of values is exactly that—a list.
Your list of core values is a very personal, individualized formula for success in life.
It is not meant to be something you can simply adopt without following the 5 steps outlined above. Anyone can make a list, but not everyone can stick to it.
There are two main types of people: talkers and doers.
Which type of person are you?