Help Your Teen Determine Their Core Values List

Core Values List

Table of Contents

A seldom-taught life tool that is critical for maximizing your teenager’s potential is defining their personal core values list or beliefs.  This article will help you and your teen understand what personal core values are and how they can select the three most important to them.

Think about your decision-making process and what causes you to get to the desired outcome? Why do you choose one way to do something over another? Whether we realize it or not, our values and personal beliefs are what influence us to come to our conclusion when going through the decision-making process. In this article, they will help your teen do some introspection about their motivations when making decisions. Discovering their personal core values will make a powerful impact on how they live because values provide their brain with guidance for their goals and choices.

John C. Maxwell, a famous leadership author, says,  “Your core values are the deeply held beliefs that authentically describe your soul.”

As your teen discovers their core values, they will be able to define their purpose and set their goals more effectively. With the proper alignment of their core values, purpose, and goals, they will gain a sense of clarity and fulfillment because their motivations, aspirations, and actions will all be working together to improve their life.

What happens when teens have a clear understanding of their core values?

Let me give you a visual. Think of a cutaway image of a tree with a very strong root system that goes deep into the ground. The roots are our values, and a strong root structure will support and feed our purpose in life (which is the trunk of the tree) and will help us develop our goals (which are the branches, leaves, and fruit).

Values support your teen's purpose and goals in life
Personal Core Values support your teen’s purpose and goals in life

As your teen faces life’s inevitable challenges, just as this tree weathers tropical storms, with a strong value system or root system, they will be able to weather severe storms without incurring too much damage.

picture of trees in a storm
Having a personal core values list can help your teen weather life’s storms.

Compare this to a tree with a very shallow root system or a person who doesn’t know or hold true to their values. The tree with a shallow root system will easily topple over when challenged by the storms that invariably come. A young person without clear values will be easily swayed in different directions because they did not discover a purpose or set solid goals.

toppled tree after a storm
Trees that do not have a strong root system will fall over in a severe storm.

In this article, they will learn how to help your teen determine their core values, clarify why these values are important to them and discover how they put their values into action. With the clarity this process provides, your teen will act out of wisdom rather than just chance and impulse when making decisions.

As your teen thinks about their future and creating the best life possible for themself and their future family, ask them what values they need to support this vision?

The clearer they are when defining their values and stating why each one is important to them, the more confident they will be when making decisions. As they get older and wiser, they may change their life’s purpose, and they may want to revisit their values, and that’s OK.  However, if they’re going to make their current vision for their life a reality, they need to clarify what values will support where they want to go.

What are personal core values or beliefs?

Core values are ideas your teen closely identifies with and is willing to pursue and defend. Values govern the way they behave, communicate and interact with others. Think of these values as personal boundaries they set that are non-negotiable as they go through life.

girl jumping knowing she has picked her top core values
Your teen’s personal core values list will provide clarity and confidence.

Values are guiding principles that teens count on to direct their behaviors to feel confident they can make their mark on the world. The core values they select will become the strong foundation for their purpose and goals. Teens will use their core values as a lens through which they evaluate their decisions and actions. If their values align with their desired action, they can continue pursuing that action. If they don’t, your teen needs to pause and reconsider the next step to avoid conflict with their values.

It is important to focus on selecting your core values or beliefs to gain clarity
It is important to help your teen focus on their personal core values list.

Where do teens get their values?

We all have values, whether we realize it or not. Teens’ current values may be strongly influenced by parents, teachers, coaches, friends, or other role models they admire. They’ve been taught specific values that they are following consciously or unconsciously.

family discussing personal core values
Typically teens adopt their family’s core values early in life. Now’s your chance to help them pick their own.

By determining their own personal core values, they will be on their way to realizing their purpose and creating their life goals. They will gain a sense of clarity, confidence, and control knowing that their values, aspirations, and goals are all aligned. This knowledge will also be beneficial as they decide which college major and career path to follow.

One of the significant advantages of this process is that they will be able to rely on this valuable insight with confidence as they create their unique and compelling college application essays, enabling them to stand out from their competition. Click here for a quick 3-minute video that explains how they can make this happen.

core values list alignment provide confidence just like these rocks in formation
Helping your teen get clear on their personal core values list provides confidence.

What core values are not:

Personal core values are not to be confused with goals. They are not the tasks or responsibilities teens are expected to fulfill at school or work. They don’t typically change and don’t depend on where teens go to school or work or their social-economic status. Personal core values, once discovered and embraced, are tested daily. Properly defined personal core values, coupled with an understanding of a teen’s strengths and weaknesses and their purpose and goals, help students maximize their potential.

How do core values differ from goals?

Core values are not “right” or “wrong.” They have no time constraints, are not “one-off” accomplishments, and are unique to each individual. Goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. They are either achieved or not.

Core values are a mental construct, like the horizon. When we look out the window of an airplane as we fly toward the horizon, it becomes clear that the horizon is not our destination, but it keeps us moving in the right direction. Our core values serve the same way; they are not an arrival point but keep us moving in the right direction.  Teens can view goals as the achievements they attain as they keep their life journeys aligned with their values.

Image of quote It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are. – Roy Disney
It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are. – Roy Disney

Teen Core Values List Quiz 

Teen Core Values List Quiz graphic
Completing the Teen Core Values List Quiz will provide valuable insight for making better decisions.

To help your teen determine the personal core values that resonate with them, here is a list of 60 values with definitions. Ask your teen to take a few minutes to scan the list and see which values resonate with them.

  1. Accomplishment: an act or instance of carrying into effect; fulfillment
  2. Accountability: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s  actions
  3. Charity: generosity and helpfulness towards the needy
  4. Commitment: an agreement to do something in the future; a pledge
  5. Community: a social, religious, or occupational, group sharing common interests
  6. Compassion: a feeling of sympathy for those stricken by misfortune, with a desire to alleviate the suffering
  7. Competition: a contest for some prize, honor, or advantage
  8. Conviction: a fixed or firm belief
  9. Creativity: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns or relationships; originality
  10. Decisiveness: displaying no or little hesitation; resolute; determined
  11. Discipline: behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior maintained by training and control
  12. Diversity: the inclusion of different types of people
  13. Effectiveness: producing a purpose; producing the intended or expected result
  14. Efficiency: able to accomplish something with the least waste of time and effort
  15. Excellence: possessing outstanding quality or superior merit; remarkably good
  16. Faith: belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion
  17. Freedom: the power to determine action without restraint
  18. Fun: what provides amusement or enjoyment
  19. Generosity: readiness or liberality in giving
  20. Grace: favor or goodwill; unmerited divine assistance
  21. Gratitude: the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful
  22. Growth: development from a simpler to a more complex stage
  23. Harmony: when people are able to work together
  24. Health: the condition of being sound in body, mind or spirit
  25. Honesty: uprightness and fairness; truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness
  26. Honor: high respect, as for worth, merit or rank
  27. Humility: freedom from pride or arrogance
  28. Imagination: creative ability; ability to face and resolve difficulties; resourcefulness
  29. Independence: freedom from the control, influence, support, or aid of others
  30. Innovation: the introduction of something new
  31. Integrity: firm adherence to a moral code and ethical principles; honesty
  32. Intelligence: capacity for learning, reasoning, and understanding; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.
  33. Justice: righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness
  34. Kindness: having, showing, or proceeding from benevolence; indulgent, considerate, or helpful; humane
  35. Learning: knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study
  36. Love: strong affection for another
  37. Loyalty: faithfulness to commitments or obligations
  38. Optimism: an inclination to believe the most favorable in actions and events
  39. Passion: intense, driving, or conviction
  40. Perseverance: to achieve something despite difficulties or failure
  41. Power: ability to act or produce an effect; authority
  42. Professionalism: the conduct, behavior and attitude of someone in a work or business environment
  43. Prosperity: a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects; good fortune
  44. Purpose: the reason why something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
  45. Quality: character with respect to fineness or degree of excellence
  46. Recognition: special notice or attention; the acknowledgment of achievement, service, merit, etc.
  47. Relationships: a connection, association, or involvement with those you care about
  48. Respect: high regard; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment
  49. Responsibility: the state being answerable or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management
  50. Risk Taking: the willingness to embrace challenges which may be hazardous
  51. Security: freedom from fear and anxiety
  52. Service: contribution to the welfare of others
  53. Spontaneity: arising from a natural impulse or tendency; unplanned
  54. Stability: steadfastness; constancy, as of character or purpose
  55. Success: the accomplishment of one’s goals; the attainment of wealth, position, or honors
  56. Teamwork: work done by several associates with each doing their part
  57. Tolerance: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one’s own
  58. Tradition: an inherited or customary pattern of thought, behavior, or action
  59. Trust: reliance on the integrity, strength, ability of a person or thing; confidence
  60. Wisdom: knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; discernment, or insight

After scanning the list above, have your teen hone their selection by determining where each value stands in their order of priority. To help them with this process, think of their core values or beliefs in the following categories:

Must-Have: This is a personal core value that really resonates with them as very important and non-negotiable. This is a core belief that they are committed to defending. If they have a different value that is important to them that was not mentioned in our list, please add it at this time.

Like-to-Have: This is a core value that is important to them but not as important as the Must-Have values.

Neutral: This is a value for which they have no strong feelings for one way or the other.

Now, take a blank sheet of paper or create a Google Doc and list two headings across the top of the page. Under each heading, they will list the appropriate value.

Must-Have               Like-to-Have

With these options in mind, review the 60 core values above and pick at least seven Must-Have values and at least seven Like-to-Have values.

Everything else needs to be considered a Neutral Value and, by default, does not need to be listed.

Next, they will determine their Primary Values

hand showing 7 primary core values
It is important to help your teen establish their seven primary personal core values list.

Now, your teen will review their two lists and make any adjustments necessary. Again, if they already have a different value that is important to them that was not mentioned in the list, please have them add it to one of their categories.

As they review their list of seven Must-Haves, place them in order of importance to them by numbering each of the values from one to seven, with one being the most important. These will be their seven Primary Values that will help make their future success a reality.

Now it’s time to determine their Core Values List

Important to determine your top 3 primary core values
Important they determine their top 3 primary core values.

Now that they have selected their 7 Primary Values and put them in rank order, they are ready to determine their 3 Core Values. To do this, have them review their list of 7 Primary Values again to ensure they are in the correct order.

Next, simply encourage them to select the top three Primary Values that are most important for accomplishing their vision of the future. These three values will be their 3 Core Values.

Determine the Importance of their Core Values 

Determine the importance of each personal core value
Help your teen determine the importance of each personal core value to them.

Now that they have selected their Core Values, it’s essential to determine the importance of each of these values to them. These Core Values will guide them to take the steps toward creating the future they imagined.

On the same sheet of paper or Google Doc they used to list their Primary Values, create a section to list each of their 3 Core Values. Under each value, they will describe why this value is important to them and how it will affect their thoughts, words, and actions. They shouldn’t overthink this; just explain why that particular value is significant to them in a few words. For example:

“Integrity is important to me because it means being honest and truthful in every part of my life. Integrity will keep my thoughts honest, my words truthful and sincere, and my actions trustworthy.”

“Excellence is important to me because I want to always do my best and produce exceptional work. Excellence will keep my thoughts pure, my words virtuous, and my actions of admirable quality.”

Now, complete the importance of each of the three values. This step helps them validate why that particular value is crucial to their success in life.

How do they deal with roadblocks to their values? 

Every value has a roadblock or obstacle. You need to help your teen overcome them
Every personal core value has a roadblock or obstacle. You need to help your teen overcome them.

In this step, they will address any roadblocks they have relative to each of their Core Values. For each value, add a category called Roadblock/Obstacle below their explanation of why the value is important. List any obstacles or roadblocks that impede them from properly implementing each value. It may be an estranged relationship with a parent that impacts their core value of love. They may be cheating in class, which violates their core value of integrity. They will get the picture. Have them do this for each of their three Core Values.

How do they put their values into action?

Help your teen put their personal core values into action
Help your teen put their personal core values into action.

In order to strengthen each of their Core Values, they need to put in place a specific Value Action Plan. First, they need to determine what they are doing now that they will Continue doing to strengthen each core value?  Next, decide what they will Start doing relative to each value to ensure success for that value? And finally, determine what they need to Stop doing relative to each value for them to fully implement that value as part of their future success? For example:

Value 1 is Integrity

Importance: Integrity is important to me because it means being honest and truthful in every part of my life. Integrity will keep my thoughts real, my words genuine and sincere, and my actions trustworthy. Integrity is essential for success in school, building a career, and establishing a strong family. Others will know they can rely on me.

Continue Doing: Do what I say I will do.

Start Doing: Be more deliberate and sincere about the activities I choose.

Stop Doing: Overcommitting so that I don’t complete what I say I will do.

Value 2 is Love 

Importance: Love is important to me because it is essential for happiness in current and future family relationships and friendships. Love will keep my thoughts kind, my words positive, and my actions appreciative. I want my family and friends to know that I love them.

Continue Doing: Tell everyone in my family that I love them daily.

Start Doing: Visit my Grandmother more often and let her know that I love her.

Stop Doing: Stop myself from getting angry and saying something I later regret to my parents.

Now, they will go back to their sheet for each value, and under the answer for Roadblocks, add three more headings: Continue Doing, Start Doing, and Stop Doing. Enter their answer below each heading for all three values.

How can their Core Values List guide their Decision Making?

Now that they fully understand the importance of their Core Values, let’s see how they can put their values to work!

As they make decisions in everyday life they will consider the impact their values have on their actions. To accomplish this, they will just follow this vetting process for each decision. In the beginning, it may seem a bit unnatural, but as they practice this process, it will become more instinctive.

For example:

Question: Should I attend Northwestern University in Chicago?

1st Core Value: Intelligence

  • Will going to Northwestern University satisfy my need for intellectual challenge?

Answer: Yes, this school offers a great learning experience where I can be stretched.

Decision: Continue

2nd Core Value: Excellence

  • Will going to Northwestern University support my desire for excellence?

Answer: Yes, this school is highly selective and accordingly ranked.

Decision: Continue

3rd Core Value: Relationships

  • Will going to Northwestern University support my relationships?

Answer: Yes, my family only lives 3 hours from Chicago, and I will make new friends when I’m there, so this works great!.

Decision: Continue

Let’s take another example:

Question: I have been invited to a party tonight, should I go?

1st Core Value: Creativity

  • Will going to the party be fun and supportive of my creativity?

Answer: Yes, parties at this friend’s house are always unique and fun!

Decision: Continue

2nd Core Value: Risk-Taking

  • Is this a risk-taking activity?

Answer: No relevance to this value, as parents will be present.

Decision: Continue

3rd Core Value: Discipline

  • Do I have more important things I should be doing instead of going to this party?

Answer: Yes, I have an important test first thing in the morning which I’m not ready for.

Decision: Stop

The key is to ensure that they will make a decision after they test the decision against each of their Core Values, not just one! 

Each decision your teen makes needs to pass all three core values for best results
Each decision your teen makes needs to pass all three core values for best results and alignment.


Congratulations! You have accomplished a ton in this article! If properly applied, your teen has the ability to determine the Core Values that support them in their quest to live their best life with a purpose! While this article was written for you the parent, we have found that students tend to “resist” content that was written for their “Parents”. We get that! To help you, we have created  the article below that shares the same concepts directed to students alone. Feel free to share the following link with them The ultimate guide to determine your personal core values -2023 .

Once your teen completes this exercise, they will be able to easily describe their Core Values to others, and they also know the vital role their values play when making decisions and taking actions. Now, they will be able to use their values as they create compelling college applications and scholarship essays that help them stand out from their competition. If they want to get a head start on their competition, click here to learn more about our self-discovery courses.

If you would like access to our FREE Guide for Teen College Success click here.

If you find what we’ve shared is helpful to you and would like to get on a free quick call please schedule a zoom appointment at here

If you found this post helpful, or you’d like to learn more about determining core values, please send me an email at greg@collegeflightplan.com. We are passionate about giving young people the tools they need to succeed in school and life!


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