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The Values Blog

by Howard Elsey

A lot of our lives revolve around the notion of values, although we are not always conscious of this reality.

Supermarket Values

For example: our weekly supermarket shop. Do you hunt out the two-for-one offers or compare the price per kilogramme or volume between different products or sizes? For you, it is about price and you aren't concerned about quality (perceived or not?). If you said no, is that because you go for brands - the trust you put in their consistency? In other words, are you pricing the value of economics, the sense of being ripped off or the values that attract you to be loyal to a brand?

Picture: Supermarket shopping - Do you shop on price or quality? -

This shows us value in terms of objects’ worth, intrinsically, or as determined by market forces, or what we personally attribute to an object and through our needs. These values are objective or emotional, or a bit of both. To other people, and ourselves, we attach another set of values. The application of "worth" defined by a person's values is different because of a different dimension.

In our lives, we have rules and regulations to keep us within the rails of the general values of society, those elements of how not to behave which makes us feel secure and give a sense of belonging to the like-minded, in the wider sense. Is it acceptable to argue these societal values are embedded deeply in us? My thinking is, they are.

Personal Values

People in public life are expected to act honestly and ethically and without personal interest. They are given rules and are held to account (we hope) if they transgress those rules. Are these values we simply expect of others or ones we believe we also live by? If it's the former how does that reconcile? If we demand public servants to uphold values we don't uphold, then how can we hold them to account? These are personal values after all.

Indeed, I would say societal values and those we expect public servants to uphold, are all personal values. Do you live by the same values? Do you know what your values are? It’s easy to instinctively say yes. But to dig deeper and spell out those values may be tricky, as it was for me. So how do you discover what your values are?

YouTube video: Carole Douillot - Teacher to Transformational Coach & Multipotentiality

Personal coach, Carole Douillot, says you have to ask yourself what is important to you, what do you enjoy doing or would do in a given situation. Next, determine what you derive from those responses and encapsulate those take-outs in one word. (If that is difficult the opposite approach can be taken, e.g., what you dislike doing/avoid doing – See my Simple Step blog.).

Discovering Your Values

An example would be to identify the times when you were happiest, most proud, fulfilled and satisfied. Then ask yourself questions like 'What did you feel like?' when you were most happy/proud/fulfilled? What initiated that feeling – what was stirred in you? Did other people share the happiness/pride/fulfilment? Why was it meaningful? What other factors contributed to those feelings?

The next step is to reduce what may be a few words or a sentence to one word – a value. Words such as accomplishment, nurturing, connectedness, focus, creativity, honesty. A web search for “value words” will provide inspiration if you become stuck.

Another method would be to identify valued connections and/or role models and consider what values they embody and you align with. A friend for loyalty, a family member for kindness or maybe a colleague for listening skills. To validate your choices consider those values you chose over a few days. Be mindful of choices you make, particularly key decisions both at home and work. Then consider if those values you chose are reflected in how you live your life.

The exercise might well come to a lengthy list. So, to get to the core value the list needs whittling down by seeing how they "feel" on you - like a set of clothes - how's the fit? Do they feel comfortable. Do they reflect how you live? Would you defend your choice? And how are they manifested in the important decisions in your life, the way you spend your time and what you strive for?

Values Influence Our Beliefs

What is this approach founded on? It reflects the assertion our values influence our beliefs, which in turn affects our emotions - which drives our thoughts - from which our responses and actions arise. That's the importance of values. They are at the foundation of what we do. It's also important we live our personal values to have a chance of fulfilment. Or to align the way we are driven to act with the aspirations of who we want to be.

To Fly or Not to Fly? That is the question. /

However, where we believe we are, say, environmentally conscious, we may compromise values because of desire. We know we shouldn't fly but we feel the need for a holiday in the sun. We seem to find it easy to justify our variance to seemingly fundamental beliefs and behaviours. When that variance benefits something we desire over our values!

Values - they are important to the core of our identity, what we expect of others with whom we have relationships and those in the wider context of society. Values are behind how we and others act and do. So, I believe we should judge ourselves and act in a way we would expect of others.

Howard Elsey is an innovation practitioner, start-up advisor and mentor and a consultant, interim and an SME in payments and personal data.


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