Character Values

Character values are who you want to be and how you want to conduct yourself. Examples could be “kindness to all humans”, “abundant generosity”, etc.

The foundation of every human are Character Values – a non-negotiable set of rules for how you make decisions. They are critical to every step of finding/building relationships and community, choosing how to spend your time and money, and what your long-term and short-term goals will be.

Character values are not something you aspire to have or pick out of thin air because they sound nice. These are values that you already value and are core to who you are. However, you may not have identified and been able to articulate what they are up to this point.

Character Values Exercise

The following exercise will help you in determining your character values. If you are single, sit down with someone you respect and who cares about you. Then use the following three questions and 10-step process below to discover your Character Values.

  1. IDENTIFY MODEL INDIVIDUALS – Identify at least three current or past relationships you believe are model individuals.
  2. IDENTIFY STORIES – For each individual, ask them to think about one story that brings to life what makes that person different.
  3. SHARE – Share your story about each individual in as much detail as possible with someone else. The person you’re sharing this with will capture key words, phrases, and core values that they hear.
  4. COLLECT RESPONSES – Collect the terms and phrases captured by the participants onto a whiteboard, easel pad or Post-It Notes. 
  5. GROUP DISCUSSION – Group the terms and phrases from all three questions into like-minded concepts and determine as a group the exact wording of each the potential Character Value. Do not eliminate any potential Character Values at this point.
  6. CHARACTER VALUES TEST – Next, vet the following character values with the below Character Values Best Practices.
  7. SELECT TOP CHARACTER VALUES – Determine the final list of prospective Character Values based on those items that received 100% “yes” responses from everyone in the family.
  8. NARROW LIST – If the list is greater than six Character Values, consider narrowing it down through discussion.
  9. START USING CHARACTER VALUES – This final list is your “draft” version of the Character Values. Immediately start using the draft Character Values to make decisions. After 3-6 months, reconvene the original group and determine if any changes or edits need to be made to the draft Character Values based on their experience.


 Try to keep the number of Character Values to a manageable number that can easily be remembered.
 Avoid using single word or vague terms like “Quality” that may be open to interpretation.
 When possible, use terms that are part of the ‘vocabulary’ of your person/family. If family members say it all the time at home, it may be a good candidate for a Character Value. For example, “I’ve got your back.”
 Avoid using Character Values that are simply expected of any human being. For example, “Don’t steal.”
 Be cautious about selecting a Character Value that is not alive in your life/family today. It’s important that Character Values are authentic, not aspirational.

 YES  NO Would you want to continue to stand for this Character Value 100 years into the future, no matter what changes occur in the outside world?

 YES  NO Would you want to hold this Character Value, even if at some point in time it becomes unpopular or society penalizes you for living this character value?

 YES  NO Would you change jobs before giving up this Character Value?