List of Personal Values

My wife and I are working on a list of personal values for ourselves as a family. This is an attempt to switch from "bottom up" to "top down" budgeting, decluttering, time management, and general decision making. By examining recent and ongoing decisions--and whether or not they worked for us--we are trying to generalize a "mission statement" of our values as individuals, and as a family. Our list is in progress and I'm not sure if it will actually help us when it's done, but it's an interesting, clarifying exercise.

We've been consulting various Internet lists of common values for ideas. We don't necessarily believe that there are "twelve essential core human values," or anything like that. People are different and value different things. At the same time, people are pretty similar to each other, and the things we value in common (we all need to eat!) generally don't need to be stated. I don't think there's a system by which you can reliably describe all human values.

But you can make a list to start from. Just for inspirational purposes. And there are lists out there, of varying levels of helpfulness. I found many of them hard to use because they're way too long, repeating the same concept several times in synonyms. I do think synonyms are helpful in that a particular way of phrasing a certain concept may resonate with you more than another--you may prefer the specific nuance of a certain phrasing--but I also wished the lists had been shorter, and had been grouped conceptually rather than alphabetically. I couldn't find a list like that, so I decided to make it.

How to Use This List

This list is intended to help you find the vocabulary to create a prioritized list of personal values.

The values in this list are grouped with a header and several synonyms or related concepts. You don't need to use my "header" word as the main name of your value, but could instead choose one of the synonyms which resonates more with you. You may also develop a nuanced personal definition of the concept which focuses on some of the synonyms and doesn't include others.

Several values will probably be important to you, but not all of them will be important enough to you to be worth putting on your own personal list. Don't feel compelled to stick to the list if you come up with something different that's important to you: your personal values are just that, personal, and you may very well have values that I haven't thought of!

"Hey, Frugal Bagel, frugality isn't on the list!"

Some behaviors seem to me to be the result of one or more values, instead of values in and of themselves. Why are you frugal? If it's to become financially independent, maybe your true value is freedom. If it's for security, maybe your value is stability. And so on. When identifying a value as something that personally motivates you or your family, make sure you choose a value that you believe in for its own sake.

Example: I like to write blog entries. Why? Because it makes me feel productive, like I'm making something, not just passing the time. Why do I like to feel productive? I don't know, it just makes me happy. Once you get to "it just makes me happy," that's a good indicator of a core value: for me, productivity.

It might be a longer chain: Sandra spends a lot of time at work. Why? Because she wants to be promoted. Why? Because she wants to earn more money. Why? Because she wants to provide a "safety net" for her family. Why? Because she wants her family to be safe and secure. Why? Because it makes her feel like a loving protector. Why? Because being loving makes her happy. So, while you might have initially come to the conclusion that her driver was productivity because of the nature of the behavior (work), by following the chain you get to the true driver, which is family love.

Remember to keep asking yourself why!

List of Personal Values

About the Self


  • Growth, learning, continuous improvement
  • Achievement, mastery, leveling up
  • Striving, trying, effort
  • Perseverance, determination, grit
  • Discipline, control
  • Toughness, resilience, survivorship
Nightmare state: Stagnation Motto: "Always be improving." Sample savings goal: Climbing Mount Everest Sample enjoyable mundane activity: DuoLingo Sample prized possession: "Worst Case Scenario" handbook


  • Freedom, liberty
  • Autonomy, dignity, choice
  • Self-reliance, self-sufficiency, ability, skill, DIY
  • Resourcefulness, ingenuity
  • Zen, non-attachment, minimalism
Nightmare state: Dependence, encumbrance, obligation, being tied down Motto: "Don't fence me in." Sample savings goal: Early retirement Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Fixing toilet Sample prized possession: Swiss army knife


  • Creativity, originality, imagination, self-expression
  • Personalization, customization
  • Pride, confidence, self-respect
  • Being yourself, living your truth, inner light
  • Honesty, straightforwardness, forthrightness, sincerity
Nightmare state: Self-loathing, conformity, closetedness Motto: "To thine own self be true." Sample savings goal: Tattoo Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Slipping carefully crafted jokes into unexpected places, e.g. homework, employee review Sample prized possession: I don't know but you are the ONLY one who has one


  • Home, family, roots
  • Nesting, homesteading
  • Permanence, durability, solidness
  • Dependability, reliability, can be counted on
  • Responsibility
  • Safety, security
  • Consistency, integrity, trustworthiness
Nightmare state: being adrift, nowhere to hang your hat, flakiness Motto: "Home is where the heart is." Sample savings goal: Home down payment Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Hanging curtains Sample prized possession: Grandmother's locket


  • Health, wellness, fitness
  • Rest, relaxation, self-care
  • Serenity, calmness, balance, centeredness, inner peace
Nightmare state: Stress, exhaustion Motto: "Take it easy." Sample savings goal: Meditation retreat Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Running Sample prized possession: Hot water bottle

About Others


  • Love, affection, warmth
  • Closeness, connection, understanding, attachment
  • Commitment, loyalty
  • Honesty, openness, vulnerability
  • Support, caretaking, nurturing
Nightmare state: Lack of close ties, unnecessariness Motto: "Love is all you need." Sample savings goal: Kid's college Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Making hardworking spouse's favorite dinner Sample prized possession: Photo album


  • Cooperation, collaboration, unity
  • Diplomacy, mediation, negotiation, compromise
  • Sharing, living communally, hospitality, neighborliness
  • Kindness, empathy, consideration, courtesy, thoughtfulness
  • Politeness, respect, patience, professionalism, decorum, tidiness
  • Modesty, humility
  • Environmentalism, tread lightly on the earth
Nightmare state: Conflict, rudeness, resource hogging Motto: "Mama said, don't take more than a mouthful." Sample savings goal: Green home improvements Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Standing in line Sample prized possession: Guest towels


  • Community, participation, inclusion, belonging
  • Communication, making connections, building a network, social ties
  • Energy, liveliness, humor, playfulness, good cheer
Nightmare state: Loneliness, isolation, nobody to talk to Motto: "Be excellent to each other and party on, dude!" Sample savings goal: Giant wedding Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Anything, stuffing envelopes, as long as it's in a room full of other people Sample prized possession: Phone

About Work


  • Thoroughness, attention to detail
  • Craftsmanship, quality
  • Accuracy, precision
  • Efficiency, optimizing
Nightmare state: Shoddiness, slapdashery, "good enough" Motto: "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right." Sample savings goal: Building the perfect home to exact specifications Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Researching cheese slicers Sample prized possession: The perfect cheese slicer


  • Making, creating, producing
  • Prolificness, body of work, output
  • Accomplishment, effectiveness, getting things done
  • Meaningful actions, working toward a goal, making progress
Nightmare state: laziness, idleness, ineffectuality Motto: "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation." Sample savings goal: Home office/workshop Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Laying tile Sample prized possession: Knitting needles


  • Ambition
  • Status, recognition, legacy, reputation, fame, accolades
  • Influence, power, authority
  • Competition, winning
  • Nightmare state: Failure, obscurity Motto: "Reach for the stars." Sample savings goal: Endowing a building with your name Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Counting money Sample prized possession: Trophy

    About the World


    • Boldness, daring, going for it, taking action, making a leap
    • Variety, spice, freshness
    • Excitement, danger, thrills
    • Activity, doing, moving, changing
    • Travel, seeing the world, exploration
    • Having experiences, trying new things
    Nightmare state: Routine, boredom, staleness, rut Motto: "Not all who wander are lost." Sample savings goal: Travel Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Trying out a new routine Sample prized possession: Rugged backpack


    • Appreciation, admiration
    • Beauty, style, elegance
    • Sensory experiences, pleasure, enjoyment
    • Quality, the best of things
    Nightmare state: Ugliness, dreariness Motto: "Art for art's sake" Sample savings goal: Trip to sample the world's best cuisine Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Writing with a perfectly balanced, extra glidey pen Sample prized possession: Designer suit


    • Changing the world, making a difference
    • Charity, generosity, spread the wealth
    • Equity, equality, justice, fairness
    • Environmentalism, saving/protecting the earth
    • Dreams, hope, optimism
    Nightmare state: Apathy, greed, pettiness Motto: "I have a dream." Sample savings goal: Creating a foundation Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Giving to beggar Sample prized possession: "Save the Whales" button


    • Search for truth
    • Intelligence, intellect, ingenuity
    • Science, reason, logic, objectivity
    • Curiosity, interest
    • Questioning, challenging, open-mindedness
    • Wisdom, experience
    Nightmare state: Ignorance Motto: "Knowledge is power." Sample savings goal: Education Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Reading the manual Sample prized possession: Bookshelf of textbooks


    • Meaning, significance
    • Awe, wonder
    • Worship, exaltation, devotion
    • Tradition, ritual, rites, ceremony
    • Respect, reverence, solemnity
    • Faith, belief, conviction
    • Gratitude, counting blessings
    • Higher power, the divine
    • Communing with nature, admiring creation
    Nightmare state: pointlessness, flippancy Motto: "There are more things in heaven and earth…" Sample savings goal: Pilgrimage to a holy place Sample enjoyable mundane activity: Wondering at the infinite variety of gravel Sample prized possession: Symbol of faith necklace

    What do you value?

    I hope this list of values is helpful to you. I'm sure there are some values I've left off, and some nuances I've not explored; let me know your innovations in the comments! Next time, in the thrilling conclusion to this impromptu Values Week, I'll post the list in progress of my own values.


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