Whether you think about them or not, you have personal values. We all do. They influence us in big ways and small—from the clothes we wear, to the things we do and say, to the way we treat others, and even in the decisions we make in our daily lives. In short: our values are some of the fundamental elements that both make us unique and tie us to others.

Because they’re often so automatic, personal values can be difficult to identify, but there are ways to figure out what yours are, then begin working toward aligning your life with them—even if they only serve as an indicator of why you do what you do.

What are Personal Values?

Personal values can be described as an individual’s guiding principles. They establish what is important to you as a person—like honesty, integrity, dignity, or compassion. Because these things are inherently important to us, our values play a critical role in many aspects of our daily lives. They are also essential in helping us determine our own purpose.

How Personal Values Can Affect Our Daily Lives

The Importance of Personal Values in Daily Life It is important to focus on what is most important in your life. How you spend your time, what your day-to-day activities look like, and what matters most to you at home or in your career should all come back to what you value as an individual. Your priorities determine many things about your life—how you work, who you choose to surround yourself with, and even where you choose to live. If something isn’t aligned with your core values, then it won’t matter if it meets some arbitrary standard of success. It doesn’t mean that something can’t be done well (or done at all); rather, it means that something will never move beyond a shallow imitation of itself because its core foundation isn’t solid. This becomes a problem when people lose sight of their true purpose by focusing on artificial details that don’t actually add value to their experiences.

What Influences our Personal Values

Many times, we don’t think about what influences our personal values, but the reality is that there are a number of factors that can. How we are raised—and who raised us—establishes teachings or principles that we may adhere to. The people we respect, and our role models growing up, show us different things and help us define who we want to be.  In short, everything from religion, to peers, education, upbringing, and location can help influence the values that, by the time we are adults, seem to make up who we are as individuals.

The Impact of Personal Values on Decision-making

Understanding what your personal values are can be very important, because if you understand them, you’ll have a better idea of what motivates you in life. And that can impact everything from relationships to work to buying decisions.

Let’s consider, as an example, someone with strong family ties who has to make a decision about where to live or what kind of career to pursue. They might have values like “family”, “relationships,” “connection” or “security”, and those core values will play an important role in that decision-making process, even far beyond determining whether they stay in close proximity to family by location.

Similarly, someone who is extremely driven by security and stability may want to find a job with generous retirement benefits, while someone who is more focused on individuality may not care as much about having a stable job with decent pay but would instead prefer more creative opportunities.

Finally….

Knowing what your own personal values are is the first step towards living in accordance with them. When you know your values, you can make a conscious decision about the kind of person you want to be, instead of making decisions mindlessly based on what seems easiest or what’s popular at the time.

Want to know more? Check out the Compass program—in The Network—to help discover your own values, mission, goals, purpose and more. Or, if you just want to jump in, download out our Values worksheet.