Reference Guide: Values

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Module Reference Guide

“Values describe what individuals consider to be important. They represent wants, preferences, desires, likes and dislikes for particular things, conditions or situations. Values describe the things that matter most to an individual, the things that he or she will make sacrifices for in order to obtain. They are one of the crucial keys to understanding behaviour since our actions are strongly influenced by our beliefs, and our beliefs significantly influence our values. Values are used, for example, in comparison processes when people establish standards, judge issues, debate opinions, plan activities, reach decisions, resolve differences, change behavioural patterns, or exert influence.” Posner & Munson 1

Our values are the foundation on which the strategy is grounded and, therefore, the best place to start this programme. Deep reflection on what you truly value and then bringing this into your lived experience will give you the basis on which to make the daily decisions and conscious choices which lead to a more fulfilling life.

“Values are the motive behind purposeful action.” Stephen Mintz 2

A value is a deeply held belief about something that has meaning to you, a principle or standard of behaviour, one’s judgement of what is really important to you in life, and what we hold to be ‘right’ thinking and behaviour. Each of us holds numerous values with varying degrees of importance. What is important to one person may be less important to another. Values describe the personal qualities we embody, which guide our behaviours, decisions and actions, the sort of person we want to be, the manner in which we treat ourselves and others and the interaction with the world around us.

In a way, values are every bit as concrete as the things you can see, touch, hear, taste and smell in the world around you, but they are internal. Whether you are consciously aware of your values or not, they still guide your actions. Values are critical motivators of human behaviour. Big and small choices are made all the time because of the largely unconscious power of our values to guide our decisions. Values are incredibly powerful: we make trade-offs and can even give up everything in pursuit of a value.

Values shape who we are in life. When you know what you value and you nurture and support your values, you can live more consciously in accord with them and become more of who you want to be. Values starved and forgotten cause us to perhaps become less of who we really are. The clarity with which we understand our values and the depth of feeling we have about them is reflected in the energy we put into what we want to manifest in life.

We do more than profess our values and actually practice them when we are clear about what we believe and hold important and when we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts and behaviours align with those beliefs. The more focused we are on what is important to us – what we value – the higher the probability that we will pursue it.

A greater understanding of our values also helps us to recognise the different values of others and to be more open to different ways of doing things.  It can also help us identify quickly the tell-tale signs that they are being trodden on and so take pre-emptive action.

When we learn to live in alignment with our personal values more consciously and consistently, we experience fulfilment. When we don’t, we are incongruent and likely to experience internal tension, which can trigger destructive habits and regressive behaviour. 

Values and beliefs can come from many sources, but most are likely to be the result of those influences which combine to make us who we are.

The importance we give to our values shifts over time based on our life experiences. People change and evolve their values with age, education, wisdom, experience and circumstances; however, values most often shift after a life-changing event or experiences such as birth, marriage, divorce, death, career change, a disaster or an epiphany.

Values are vital to our well-being and are the bedrock on which we stand. When we are consciously aware of our values, they help us to recognise why we are aligned to some people and not to others, why some things suit us but not others, why sometimes we seem to just ‘fit in’ and other times we feel disconnected.

Most of us don’t know our values explicitly. We don’t always recognise what is important to us and how the choices we make affect our outcomes. When we are clear on our values, we can align our decisions and actions to be congruent.