Power of Personal Values

20 April, 2011, by Seema Bhatnagar (Edited on 9 March, 2012)

book with berry

It is a common sight to see some people making humiliating, hurting remarks at a drop of a hat and you would also find people who are willing to die for others. Yes, there are negative and positive people in every group. People usually find it difficult to handle negative people, personally, I too have difficulty interacting with such people who consider misbehaviour and hurting others as an acceptable behaviour and do not think twice before making stinging and humiliating remarks at others. The unfortunate part is that such people are everywhere. We may come across such people at work place, on the streets, in schools, in family or as a friend. In fact, quite many of us waste great amount of energy in handling such people.
During my long years of experience I have found that it is difficult to work with such people since they are a constant source of negative energy in the environment which hampers everybody's productivity.

What are personal values?

Each and every free country, developed or developing, in the world has its own constitution which defines a set of values and laws for a good governance and welfare of a country. The openness and closeness of any country can be determined by the fundamental rights provided in the constitution.

There is no school/university which offers a course or degree which can help you to develop your personal values. You develop these from your upbringing and immediate environment where you interact regularly. Your role models in life mainly your parents, siblings and teachers play a pivotal role in shaping up personal values, once you become an adult, life experiences and learning adds to your personal values.

All successful organizations have their own core values which they expect employees to adhere. The success of an organization completely depends on the degree with which the values are followed. If there is a gap between values and action, an organization will not be able to progress. For example, if organization does not pay attention to care for customers or clients, it will soon lose them.

Similarly, for an individual, personal values are nothing but a set of core thinking, fundamental beliefs, which governs his/her behaviour and responses.

Exploring this topic further with reference to religion, Hindu Scriptures which are classified as Shruti and Smritis. Shruti means which is heard and this refers to the Vedas which form the earliest record of Hindu scriptures. There are four Vedas called Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva. Hindu texts other than Shrutis are known as Smritis and these contain Itihasa (history) or the epics like Ramayana and Mahabhratas. Other than these, there are the Puranas and Upnishads.
The essence of all these scriptures reflects the importance of having personal values for an individual. importance of having personal values in society.

Similarly, all religions of the world emphasize the development of self and following personal values to spread peace and harmony in the world.

I am not against or for any religion and for that matter I am not a religious person, but with this I am trying to highlight a fact that how people have realized the importance of personal values since ages.

To give you a clear idea about personal values, here are some examples:
Respect, honesty, courage, creativity, friendliness, ambition, competency, individuality, equality, integrity, service, responsibility, accuracy, dedication, diversity, improvement, enjoyment/fun, loyalty, credibility, innovativeness, teamwork, excellence, accountability, empowerment, quality, efficiency, dignity, collaboration, stewardship, empathy, accomplishment, wisdom, independence, security, challenge, influence, learning, compassion, discipline/order, generosity, persistency, optimism, dependability, flexibility etc.

Each one of us has a different set of personal values which drives us in our life. For example, for some people honesty is a personal value, which means, they strongly believe in honest behaviour and adhere to honest behaviour even in difficult times even if it demands compromising some other aspects, like money, friendship or a personal relationship etc. Each and every action of yours is driven by the personal values you hold.

Every time when I see people jumping a traffic signal, jumping a queue, behaving rude with others, littering public places, it reminds me that such people lacks in personal values and their parents never bothered to correct them. If you are wealthy, highly educated or holding a powerful position but if you do not have personal values then all these titles are meaningless, you are living a hollow life without a solid foundation.

If you want to live an empowered and conscious life then defining personal values is the first and basic step to start with. Think of this as if you are laying a foundation for the tallest building in the world. Here, the tallest building is a metaphor for your strongest and best self.

Power of Personal Values

man climbing peak

"Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe."-Barbara De Angelis

There is no school/university which offers a course or degree which can help you to develop your personal values. You develop these from your upbringing and immediate environment where you interact regularly. Your role models in life mainly your parents, siblings and teachers play a pivotal role in shaping up personal values, once you become an adult, life experiences and learning adds to your personal values.

History is full of great people who stood by their personal values and changed the history thenceforth. The great Indian emperor Ashoka, decided to end the Kalinga war in 230 BC after witnessing the mammoth loss of thousands lives and bloodshed in the battlefield. This experience touched him so deeply that he embraced the Buddhism and adopted the Dharma, which consist of basic virtuous teachings that can be practised by all men regardless of social origins. "Dharma" is derived from a language Sanskrit and it means "Duty".
If you have read autobiographies of great people and leaders, you would find them possessing strong personal values which steered them towards success. For example, M.K Gandhi, he had strong personal values about non-violence and selflessness and he truly adhered to them even in the tough times during his struggle for freedom in India and South Africa. It was only his strong adherence to personal values which could help India to breathe freedom.

Once you imbibe personal values you will start living these in your daily life effortlessly and would occasionally find yourself in great pain if situation demands you to compromise on your values.

It is only the power of personal values which has changed the history and map of the world. I bow my head in reverence for all those people who sacrificed their lives to stand by their values and inspired millions of people.

My Personal Experience

Since my childhood I admired people who are leaders and stood by their values even in tough times and I used to read lot of comics about kings and how they developed their personal values by learning from life experiences. I developed the strength of living my personal values quite late in life. This is because, as a child and then as a teenager one does not have much control over his/her life and one is supposed and expected to live the values of parents at home and teachers in school. During school and college time, sometimes my close friends also influenced my values.
It was only when I entered my profession then I felt the need of having my personal values, but then also my personal values were somehow influenced by what my organization and boss expected me to have as personal values.
Somehow, with lot of conflicts and personal struggle I tried best to live my personal values but deep down there was a constant fear that I would have to face another conflict and will annoy somebody. It was only when I established myself in profession I could live my personal values with more confidence.

Even at the age of 30, I did not have a fair idea what personal values were and how an individual who is always driven by others can afford to have those. The only values which I knew and which I always wanted to follow were honesty and freedom, though I was following other values also but quite implicitly and I was not sure if those were my values. It was only after leaving my job I enriched myself with personal values.

My personal quest to live the best of my potential drove me to have solid personal values in place, which are honesty, courage, freedom, equality, health, creativity, simplicity, authenticity, fairness and creativity and these have become essence of my life and I hold on to them in my day-to-day living.
Defining it once does not mean it will remain like this forever, my personal life experiences and influence of positive people will definitely help me to refine it further. For me, it is a never ending list and will see it growing with every day.

I have found that after defining my own personal values, I do not have to think hard when taking decisions, since it is simply about making a reference to inner guide or framework of values to get the right solution. It has helped me greatly in building integrity and confidence and I am always sure, that whatever the decision I will take, will be personally satisfying and would be in alignment with my inner self. Sometimes, I have to pay a handsome cost for maintaining personal values, but that cost becomes meaningless in comparison to the level of happiness and inner satisfaction I savour.

Time and again, I have realized that once an individual defines personal values, s/he becomes more powerful and can take strong and self-fulfilling decisions. Such individuals maintain a refined sense of righteousness and develop into a more sapient being. Probably, this is a foundation for becoming great personality.

It is extremely unfortunate the many of us live without the knowledge of personal values and keep living life according to values of others. Even parents and teachers who are roles models in society, sometimes even they do not have a clear idea of personal values and they hand over values which they learned from their parents. Interestingly, in several instances, I have seen many youngsters living personal values but some elders behaving irresponsibly.
Irrespective of your age, status, gender, caste or religion you can develop and live your personal values. Whatever roles you are playing in your life, considering it as your responsibility, encourage and spread the knowledge about personal values. If you are a parent, encourage your children to develop and follow personal values without thinking if it complies with your own personal value or not. This would help your child to become more responsible and strong individual in life. If you hold a business, encourage and mentor your employee to define personal values. If you are a manager or leader in capacity, encourage your team member to define values for team collaboration. You would find them more gelled and goal oriented.

How to identify and define personal values?

To get you started on your path of developing personal values, here is an exercise which needs at least one hour of yours. I am sure, if you want to live a great life, investment of one hour is simply an awesome deal. Get a pen and paper and start writing down your thoughts for guidelines given in following sections.


  1. Start observing yourself and identify what were those instances when you struggled hard to adhere to a particular concern.
  2. How many such instances happened in your life when you found yourself fighting for a particular cause?
  3. What people say about your values?
  4. Do you feel inner happiness and serenity after fighting for a particular cause?
  5. Will you be willing to give your life when it comes to adhering to a particular cause?
  6. Define what qualities you admire in others, may be in your best friend, parents, or any great personality who inspire you.


After completing the exercise of identifying, start defining your personal values.
  1. Just jot down all the values without any order, just dump it on a paper sheet.
  2. Identify which is your most important value. A good test would be, will you prefer to die if you are asked to compromise on it. Like, for me, honesty takes highest precedence over all others values.
  3. Try to think one decision which you took in the past, and now try to take the same decision using the personal values defined in the previous step.
  4. Try to think some hypothetical situation, like, if somebody is bullying your friend, what would be your behaviour as recommended by your personal values framework.

Make a list of all values and keep it handy and start reinforcing it every day, until these values becomes your habit.
While defining your personal values, keep it in mind that whatever values you have discovered, carries importance for you and you are not copying somebody's values. These values should be completely in synch with your inner self and you should not feel any discomfort while living it.

The Downside

In this materialistic world where people can go to any height to attain power, money and influence, living personal values comes with a price. Since most people are conditioned to be governed by societal rules, you would find yourself a bit misfit sometimes. On many occasions you would feel yourself as an odd person out and will get to hear name calling and labels from others.

Imagine for a moment, you have a personal core value of fairness and honesty, would you accept the fact that your peer at work is given a promotion because s/he has a good networking with seniors when you know about his/her shoddy work. Your seniors are more driven by the fact that s/he can get the work done while you are more focused in your work and do not gel well with people, does not matter how good is your quality of work. How would you react to this situation? Though it looks so logical from the organization's point of view that you must know how to get the work done and only then you can ask for promotion . But deep down, it does not feel good because sometimes to get the work done people do manipulate others and obviously it is absolutely not honest according to you.

Many big organizations tweak their account books to show low income to save tax or sometimes evade tax while an employee gets a deducted salary. This is a complete manipulation in name of saving tax and is absolutely not honest from employee's perspective.

People in bad relationship or in sucking jobs find it acceptable to compromise on personal freedom and never ever object to it because society puts huge importance on having relationships and good jobs without bothering about quality and other related aspects. Think this situation from an individual's perspective who has a personal value of freedom, s/he would prefer to exit from that relationship or a job rather than dying every moment with suffocation.

Once you imbibe personal values you will start living these in your daily life effortlessly and would occasionally find yourself in great pain if situation demands you to compromise on your values.

In all testing situations, what is the best way to cope, accept or challenge? Well, it is entirely your call, in both the scenarios, it is energy draining and painful, but only such situations would test your adherence to personal values.

Be the change

"Be the change you want to see in the world."-Mahatma Gandhi

Whatever may be the cost, I would strongly urge people to maintain personal values and adhere to them. It will surely be a life changing experience and you will have a whole new perspective of looking at situations and people. You would feel more empowered, courageous and mindful, above all you would find people trusting you more.

It is also a evolutionary aspect of a society and will gradually bring some positive change. Won't you feel good about the fact that your grandchildren will live in a society which is driven by personal values where people behave more responsibly towards each other rather than by the deterrence of law?

Go and get started on laying the foundation for the strongest you and get ready to enjoy an empowered life. Wishing you all the best in the journey of discovering your personal values.

imagehonor the gift
imagePhillie Casablanca

Seema Bhatnagar
, Blogger, Writer, Life Coach and Founder of Abundance Thinkers, site for personal growth and development. Empowering people in achieving and living the best of personal potential.

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