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Abold statement to be sure but it comes from 25 years of experience working with human potential as a coach and consultant. I say that Values are Beliefs with a Punch. You know you have bumped up against a personal value when you feel fully alive or, in contrast, you feel fired up or triggered by an event or interaction. My personal and business mission started out as a way to make money and be my own boss, has evolved over 25 years to focus on helping individuals and business to both discover and explore how values underpin everything we do and understanding values is fundamental to creating a sustainable human future.
Values are beliefs with a punch. A more sophisticated definition comes from Richard Barrett:
Values are the ideals that give significance to our lives, that are reflected through the priorities we choose, and that we act on consistently and repeatedly. They are identifiable, measurable, and are experienced through our feelings and imaginations.
Ultimately, values as a concept are universal. It is in the context in which they are expressed is what truly matters. It is your belief in a situation or the behaviors that are expressed around that value is what I argue is all that really matters.
You can find the personal value of Family existing everywhere in the world. It is universal. However, the beliefs and behaviors all depend on the context. The definition of family to one person in North America and the definition to another person in Asia will likely differ because the context and culture are different. That is why I believe our beliefs can divide or hold us back but our values can pull us forward. They run deeper.
If you imagine a group of clergy in a room and you ask them to decide on a set of beliefs, that is impossible. However, if you were to ask them to agree on a set of values, that is possible. That illustrates how values run deeper than our beliefs. They are the roots of our experience.
Personal Values are something that I believe most people say they have but if asked to list them they struggle to really nail down. Much of my business focus on simply providing people and companies tools and resources to discover what their values are.
Values discovery is not as simple and selecting from a list of words that seem like the best choices or what I find many people do is selecting values that they SHOULD have. Whether they live them is a whole other story. I believe this means that values discovery should begin as an independent venture. Free from stigma or ‘responsibility’ of choosing say Family for a single mom when in reality that is not what is up for her right now.
If I know one thing for sure, there is no wrong choice in value selection. The only way to stray is if you select a value that is not truly important for you in an attempt to fall into a cultural norm. You should strive to live your most authentic and unapologetic values-driven life. It is the key to more happiness, fulfillment, and success.
I get this question a lot. It seems a majority of people think your values are a set in stone thing. I do not believe that. I do believe certain values are more consistent than others but a 25 year olds values will (and should) differ from a 62 year olds values. This has lead me to believe our values can fall into three distinct categories.
These are what is up for us today. Short term Personal Values are critical to bringing clarity to what our priorities are to get us to our desired future.
An Example: If you are in a financial pickle, a value of financial stability would be a great choice to gain more clarity around and live more fully. If you moved through the difficult financial time, perhaps financial stability will be less important and a new value could be discovered and explored.
Espoused values are what we want more of but are not necessarily currently living.
A personal example of an espoused value for me is Compassion. I strive to be a compassionate person but the truth is, sometimes I am not compassionate or not to the fullest degree possible. It is a value I am working to adopt and integrate more fully.
These are the most set in stone or consistent values that are always affecting how we live our life. I think they can change and evolve but are usually sourced from early experiences in our lives.
An example for me is Fairness. For as long as I can remember, fairness is something that matters a great deal to me. When I see something or am apart of something that is not fair, I am fully fired up.
Discover and exploration go hand in hand. Coming back to the start of this I said that values are a universal concept and it is the context in which they play out that really matters. Personal values exploration is where you begin to construct the context that the discovered value means to you.
I have encountered many people that stop at the values discovery stage because there is this sense that values are self-explanatory in nature. That could not be further from the truth. We must take it upon ourselves to explore and define what we want a value to ‘look’ like in our life.
Choosing a value is good but the goal is to live a values-driven life. It is the key to more happiness, fulfillment, and success. Values exploration is us painting a picture and it brings the value to life, allowing it to BE in our life.
I am glad you asked. It is my mission to educate and empower people like you to live a values-driven life. I have put together an exercise that contains both a list of Personal Values for you to Discover but also a set of questions to begin to explore and define what your Top 3 values are and what you want them to look like in your life.
It will take you less than 15 minutes to complete and it will have an immediate effect on your life. Values are magical in that sense. As soon as you begin to talk and explore them in yourself, you will see how they underpin EVERYTHING you do.
5 minutes self-assessment delivered to your inbox with insights and analysis into Your Values & what they mean.