What are Values and why are they important?
Values are what move us, either towards something, or away from something else. Values motivate and demotivate, and they justify behaviour.
For example someone might say: "I did it because I was angry". Or, "I did it because I was in love. Or. I didn't go the party because I didn't want to hurt her feelings".
Values are organised in hierarchies, with the most abstract ones having the greatest influence. For instance, spirituality is more abstract than family, which in turn is more abstract than money.
There are the two main categories of values. They are:
- Away-from values.
- Towards values.
As these words suggest, Towards values are what you move towards, and 'away-from values' are what you move away from! An away-from value may either prevent the fulfilment of a towards-value or act a "driver" towards fulfilling a towards value. For example 'poverty' as an away-from value may motivate a person towards 'prosperity' or 'money' or it may block the fulfilment of these two values.
Conflict can exist between an 'away-from' and a 'towards value', or between two towards values. This may be experienced as being in two minds about something or as a double bind.
There are two main types of values:
- Ends values
- Means values
A means value will lead you towards the fulfilment of an ends value. Money is a means value which many people believe will bring happiness, an ends value.
As we have said, we have a hierarchy of values, and these may be elicited within contexts at different levels: a person could elicit his/her values in the contexts of life, career, job and sales. Each context will have its own values hierarchy.
Major sources of values are family, friends, religion, school, geography, economics, media and Internet. Some of our most important values are formed in our early years.
Values exert a powerful influence on us. They determine how we relate to our family, or your partner, what products we buy, how we perform our jobs and who we vote for. Values dictate our leisure time activities, interests, what we learn, our religious convictions and so on. The 'generation gap' is a statement about values, and marketing companies spend £millions, on clearly identifying the values of niche target groups, so that they may present a product in a way that the customer / recipient will be receptive to.
How To Elicit Values
The secret to discovering and accurately eliciting your values is to ask intelligent questions and answer them honestly, without interpretation or rationalisation by the conscious mind.
The following list of values, in the context of career, were elicited from a 36 year old man by asking him the question: What is important to you in career?
- Helping people
- Being a good team leader
- Solving problems
- Morality / ethics
- Prosperity / money
- Working in service industry
- Worthwhile causes
- Belief products / service
They were then ranked in order of importance to him as follows:
1. Prosperity / money
6. Helping people
7. Belief in product / service
8. Being a good team leader
9. Worthwhile causes
10. Morality / ethics
11. Solving problems
13. Working in service industry
using the process below.
So, What Is Important To You?
STEP 1: First decide upon a context.
For example: life, relationships, career, family, health, business, prosperity, diet, housing, friends and so on. Then ask the following questions:
STEP 2: Next ask yourself, "What is important about that to me?" Keep asking yourself, "What else is important about this?", until you have about 15-20 responses?
WHAT'S IMPORTANT ABOUT X?
STEP 3: Now ask yourself: "What is REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT about this?"
This is one of your Core Values....
STEP 4: Now rank your values.
To help you rank value X against value Y, you can ask –
"If you were able to have X but not Y, or Y but not X, which would you choose?"
This process will enable you to list your values in order of importance.