A Deeper Look at Values

Since I’ll be mentioning the subject of values, both individual and family values, on this website, I’ve included below a few words of explanation.  In these pages I give (1) an example of a values conflict between two people, (2) a short definition of what a value actually is, (3) a list of questions to ask yourself that I hope will help you clarify your values, and (4) a list of ideas, behaviors, and concepts that actually are values.

This list is by no means complete; there are surely some I’ve missed.  But, it should get you started thinking not only about your own list of values, but also the values of those you live with, work with and socialize with.   I think its interesting stuff.

Also, if you have a value that’s not on my list, please let me know and I’ll include it.

Thanks for reading.


As Tom put on his coat to go to work that morning, Paula said: “You know, last night’s conversation hasn’t ended, at least not for me. We need to talk.” “You can talk all you want, but I’m not going to look at other jobs; I like the one I’ve got.” “Tom, we need more income; your job doesn’t bring in enough.” “It would be plenty if you didn’t spend every dime you get your hands on for clothes and house junk.” “You mean, it would be enough if you didn’t insist on both kids going to private schools and taking lessons in everything they can think of.” Tom said, “I want the kids to have those opportunities. I guess you don’t feel the same way.” “No, I don’t. I believe in the public school system. I came up that way and I’ve been successful.” Tom cut in, “I see we don’t value the same things.” Paula responded, “Maybe we don’t.”

In his last remark, Tom put his finger on the cause of the argument between them: each valued different things. So, you might ask, exactly what are values?

Simply, a value is defined by what you’ll spend your personal resources on: your time, your money and/or your energy. Your values show in your behavior and in what you own.

Maybe you already know what you want to own; what you like to do and how you want to behave.

If you don’t know, though, the list of possible values below will help you recognize what you are already acting out.  Choose those qualities, actions and things that define you.  If you need other ways to clarify your values, you can ask yourself how you feel about everyday decisions you must make.  Some possible questions for you are listed below. Your values will show up in your answers.

  1. Is career advancement important to me? Will I spend my time, energy and money on it?
  2. Do I want to own a home?
  3. If so, how do I want to furnish my home, simply or extravagantly?
  4. Do I want order and organization in my home or doesn’t clutter bother me?
  5. Do I want to have children?  Or not.
  6. Do I believe in raising children strictly or leniently?
  7. Do I like an active social life with friends or do I like my free time with only family? Or, do I like to be alone?
  8. What activities do I spend my free time on when I’m alone?
  9. Do I know what will make me happy?



Money (income, possessions) Intimacy with others
Competition Respecting Others
Status (social position) Taking care of others less fortunate
Image Relationships
Saving money Children
Sports (any kind, watch or play) Family (original, extended)
Dancing Friends
Board games Fidelity
Music (listen or play) Solitude
Travel Safety
Entertainment (of all kinds) Honesty
Theatre Fairness
Education (personal growth, career, interests) Kindness
Reading Generosity
Privacy Conformity
Animals Independence
Commitment (to people, to action) Freedom
Environment (protecting it) Peace (in family, in world)
Humor Courage
Trust Responsibility
Hard work Self-growth


Have you ever found yourself in a value conflict, having to choose from two things that are both important to you?  For example, you might value both career and time with your children.  You’ll become very aware of how much each means to you if you must allocate how many hours or days to spend on each.

Here are some fairly common personal conflicts. Where do you go on vacation: to Colorado for skiing or to New York for the theatre. How do you keep your pet comfortable while you’re gone? (Several of your values might be in conflict here.) They are either money: what will give the most value (paying a neighbor, paying a kid to dog-sit, paying a kennel) or your pet’s comfort: (what will he like the most).  Which choice will give you peace-of-mind.  Which is most important to me: my value on physical fitness to stay healthy or graduate courses that will help me advance in my job?

You can see, just from these few examples, that situations arise often where you must choose one of your values over another. Knowing yourself makes these choices less confusing and makes you a better partner.


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