The Power of Personal Values

November 29th, 2011 by LaRae Quy


question mark

Image by WingedWolf via Flickr

Who are you becoming? With every day that passes and every decision you make, you are either getting closer to who you want to be or you’re taking a step back.


Who a person is becoming is much more important than who they’ve been in the past. Take an inventory of your personal values to see where you are headed. All of the actions, choices, decisions, experiences, and people that you included in your personal inventory of values are pointing to the person you are becoming.

“I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character,” Oscar Wilde (from his prison cell).

Why are Personal Values Important?

Personal values drive our behavior. We react and take actions based on our priorities in life. How—and when—do these priorities take such a stronghold on us? Think back . . .

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We’ve all been asked this question at some point in our childhood. No one asks a child, “Who are you?” So the trend starts early to latch onto a title that promises to give us what we want or allows us to be remembered for something important. As a child, I felt hard-pressed to say something exotic so everyone would be jealous of the life I was to have.

The focus on achievement and what we are going to do in life begins very early and stays with us for most of our adult life. The question of who we are going to become in that process is often ignored—until a crisis reminds us that life is not as fulfilling as we had hoped it to be. That crisis can be a death in the family, divorce, personal conflict, unemployment, or simply coming to the realization that “life is what happened when you were busy making other plans.”

Where Do Values Come From?

Many of our personal values are instilled during our upbringing—parents, teachers, and authority figures that we admire. The region, country, and generation in which we grew up also strongly influence the values that provide our north star and guide our life.

While we are most malleable when we’re young, we can be strongly influenced as adults as well. As a new FBI agent reporting into my first office in Phoenix, I was assigned to the bank robbery squad. Very often the description of a bank robber was sketchy at best because most of them tried to hide or disguise their face in some way. We called them “UNSUBS” or unidentified subjects and they made up a fair number of our caseload.


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We got a tip from a citizen that someone matching a UNSUB from a recent bank robbery was spotted at a nightclub in downtown Phoenix. The squad rendezvoused nearby and we approached the guy—I couldn’t tell if it was our bank robber and neither could anyone else, so we agreed to let him go.

One agent, however, was more diligent and thorough. We had lifted fingerprints of the UNSUB from the bank’s countertop. The agent suggested manually matching up fingerprints before we let him go. It’s a labor intensive and tedious way to match fingerprints in this day and age, but we did not have enough probable cause to arrest him to get the electronically read fingerprints.

So, with a flashlight in one hand and the UNSUB’s fingerprint file in the other, the agent took the time to trace the whorls—and lo and behold, it was a match!

My attitude shifted a little that day—and the importance of perseverance climbed a little higher on my list and has come to embody one of my primary personal values.

The Benefits of Knowing Your Values

Personal values give us direction in the way we live our life. Without them, we muddle around and let life happen to us. We wander from one thing to another, trying to “find ourselves.”

To live intelligently and with purpose, know your values. They will help you to:

1. Create a clear guideline for your actions.

  • You will be less likely to chase after something that does not fit into what you truly want to accomplish in life.

2. Help you make good choices.

  • Good choices are those that are consistent with your personal values. The choices you make determine finding people, places, and things that are compatible with your values.

3. Live with integrity.

  • Live true to your values and you will feel more at peace. You will also feel more fulfilled because you are being true to yourself.

Don’t let the question of who you are becoming be left ignored. Otherwise, obstacles and crises in life can leave you feeling confused about your direction in life.

You are becoming someone: the question is whether or not it’s whom you want to be. Be sure your words and choices reflect the type of person you want to become.

Have you completed a personal values inventory in the past year? Have you shared thoughts about your values with others? What are the personal values that are most affecting your lifestyle at the moment? How important are they to you in the long term?

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One Response to “The Power of Personal Values”

  1. Children tend to mimic people around them, which affects their behavior and attitude as they grow up. Thus, upbringing plays a big part in generating personal values.

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