Have you ever been asked an interview question that completely caught you off guard and left you speechless? That happened to me a few years ago. Up until that point, the questions were the same canned questions you always get during an interview. Then came this question…

What are the personal values that shape your life?

“That’s a really great question,” I responded. Followed by a long period of silence that seemed to last for minutes as I racked my brain trying to come up with an answer. I was embarrassed. Honestly, it’s something I hadn’t really thought about before. I recognized that identifying values was important, especially for organizations and businesses, but I hadn’t ever taken time to think about the ideals that meant the most to me personally.

3 Questions to Help You Define Your Personal Values

That interview question sent me on a journey, albeit longer than I anticipated, to learn more about myself, how I’m wired, and what beliefs shaped the way I see the world. Here are a few questions that we’re most beneficial when it came to defining my personal values:

  1. How would people have described you as a child? Whether we like it or not, much of our personality and beliefs are ingrained in us long before we reach the age where we start thinking about it. The qualities you possessed as a child play a significant role in how you see the world and the things you value. For example, I could get along with pretty much anyone as a kid. Over the years, I’ve seen how this quality has shaped my values of genuine acceptance and inclusion.
  2. If you left behind a list of the top 10 characteristics for the next generation to live a successful life, what would they be? This question automatically causes you to think about legacy. At the end of your life, what do you want the next generation to know? This is a great way to identify the ideals and beliefs that matter most to you. Looking back isn’t the only way to identify your values. In many ways, looking ahead can be just as valuable.
  3. In the past year, what are 3-4 characteristics that would describe you when you’ve been at your best? Your values should bring out the best version of yourself. Whether it’s selflessness, commitment to excellence, willingness to take a risk, authenticity, thinking about those moments when you felt most alive, when everything seemed right with the world, is a powerful way to define the values that make you better.

Why Defining Your Values Might be the Most Valuable Thing You Can do to Prepare for Next Year

One of the reasons more people prefer thinking about goals and resolutions rather than values is because they’re more concrete and measurable. How do you measure things like selflessness, intentionality, generosity, friendship, and love? The application isn’t as easy as working out three times a week.

However, doing the hard work of defining your values can make a huge difference. When you take time to define the things you value most, you’re able to answer questions like:

  • Does this opportunity truly align with who I want to be?
  • How should I respond to this person based on my values?
  • How can I approach my work differently today?

When you take time to define the things you value most, you’re able to more easily answer life’s daily questions.


Whether you like it or not, these are the questions you will ask at some point next year. Your values can shape how you respond. They become the plumb line for evaluating big decisions. They shape how you interact with people and approach each day.

While the new year is a popular time to set goals and make new resolutions about how you’re going to live differently, defining your values might be the most valuable exercise this year. I hope these three questions can help.

I’d love to know: What are some of your personal values?

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash
Defining your personal values might be the most valuable thing you can do to prepare for next year. Here are three thoughtful questions to help.