We have touched on values only once before when we discussed insomnia and non-restorative sleep (article can be found here). It mentioned how when suffering with a health condition we can lose sight of some of our values, which in itself can contribute to a feeling of frustration. The authors recommended we re-discover our values, so we can stay aligned, almost using them as our behavioural compass.
What Are Values?
Values are principles, qualities, or entities that are intrinsically valuable or desirable,
or simply put:
one’s judgement of what is important in life
But I am not a believer in having rigid rules in life, we need flexible thinking to be happy and fulfilled. This ties in with a fantastic book called Emotional Agility whereby the author discusses values nt as riles supposed to govern us, but as qualities of purposeful action that we can bring to may aspects of life. Values serve as a kind of psychological eel to keep you steady. Identifying what matters to you, gives you a priceless source of continuity.
Why Are They Important?
From a practitioner perspective research has shown that:
Understanding a person’s core values provides insight about how values may act as motivators for behavior change.
Rokeach’s pioneering work showed that values are predictive of behavior.
Exploring values via MI can help individuals: 1) define their ideal self; 2) stimulate motivation for change by focusing on inconsistencies between the actual and the ideal self; 3) reduce ambivalence about behavior change, and 4) increase confidence in the ability to change.
Values interconnect and have consequences. In a study it was found that:
Participants’ holistic explanations of “health” as a value revealed the connection of health to other values. With good health it becomes possible to realize other values deemed important. Being healthy allows (1) independence, the ability to meet one’s own needs (2) strength, to maintain the demands of daily function, (3) the ability to do God’s will and serve God to the fullest, (4) spending quality time with family, and (5) helpfulness to others
Because they are associated with worth, meaning and desire, values are primary source of a clients internal motivation.
In Emotional Agility the author says characteristic of values are:
- They guide you rather than constrain you
- They allow you to get closer to the way you want to live your life
- They bring you freedom from social comparisons
- They foster self-acceptance, which is crucial for mental health
Exploring Your Values
First off we need to establish what our values are and then we can drill down further in to them. An easy way to explore what your values are is to ask questions such as:
- What matters to you?
- What do you want your life to be about?
You will likely find their you have levels of values. I once said peace was a value of mine, and it is, but I found it more useful to understand that this was one of my highest values. It was ultimately a consequence of living the life I have chosen, their were other values that I needed to fulfil to be able to achieve this ultimate value.
Other values may compete against each other and this can cause a level unease in our lives.
According to the Neurological Levels model, in order for deeper structures to reach the tangible environment in the form of concrete behaviours, they must be linked to more specific cognitive processes and capabilities through beliefs.
In order for a particular value to become operational, this system of beliefs must be specified to a certain degree. For a value such as professionalism to be enacted behaviourally, for example, one must build beliefs about what professionalism is (the definition); how you know it is being enacted (the evidence); what causes it; and what it leads to (its consequences). These beliefs are as significant as the value itself in determining how people will act.
So we encourage you to explore your values. If success is a value of yours:
- How do you define success?
- How will you know it is being enacted?
- What causes success?
- What are the consequences of success?
A values list can be found here.
In a book entitled From Coach To Awakener Robert Dilts takes us through a Value Audit Worksheet. I have included this below.
Values Audit Worksheet
- Identify a core value that is important for you to establish or strengthen. Write down the value you want to strengthen in the space marked Value below to complete the value statement.
- For each of the prompt words, read your value statement, add the prompt words and complete the sentence, answering the question listed below the blank space.
- When you are finished, read your answers all together and notice what has changed and been strengthened.
Value: ________________ is important and desirable.
(what is a core value that is important for you to establish or strengthen?)
because I ________________
(Why is it desirable and appropriate to have this as a value?)
therefore I ________________
(What is a behavioural consequence of having this value?)
whenever I ________________
(What is a key situation or condition relating to this value?)
so that I ________________
(What is the positive purpose of this value?)
if I ________________
(What constraints or results rate to this value?)
although I ________________
(What alternatives or constraints are there with respect to this value?)
in the same way that I ________________
(What is a similar value that you already have?)
Knowing our values clearly supports us in our health journey. Feeling aligned with our values (and thus acting in alignment with our values), brings a sense of congruence, coherence and flow that is so important for optimal health. I think the points about mental health and avoiding social comparison are so important. So may of use are comparing ourselves to others, judging our lives and successes to others, beating ourselves up over how inadequacies or set backs. What I often find is, when this is explored, more times than not my client doesn’t actually want the thing they are comparing themselves to. They just weren’t clear about what it was they did want, they weren’t aligned with their values and their future.
One of the most powerful things you can do, in fact one of things you owe it to yourself to do is to sit down, alone or with your loved one, and establish what it is you want, who you want to be, what you want your day to look like, how you want to behave, who you want to be with. Ultimately…how do you want to show up in this world?