Getting Clear About Values

Having clarity about our values is really important.

Here are some tips Russ Harris gave at a recent Happiness Trap workshop. I found them really useful – I hope you do too!

1. Values are ‘desired qualities of behaviour’. They are about who we want to be in the world. What sort of employee, manager, co-worker, friend, partner etc.

2. Values are not goals. Goals can be achieved whereas values are moment to moment choices. In this moment now, I can be curious but I can never achieve ‘curious’.

3. Values are not rules.  They are qualities we choose freely. As soon as we start to feel we have to follow a value, it loses all it’s vitality. It stops being a value and starts to be a rule. In vital workplaces, people are happy to sign up for the organisational values. In workplaces lacking vitality, staff members follow the organisational ‘values’ because they will get into trouble if they don’t.

4. Values are about my behaviour not what I want to get from others.  In a recent moving post, Rob gave an example of a ‘value’ that lacked vitality:

‘I value my family, for the love and support they offer me.’

Rob wrote about the importance of exploring the feelings underneath this statement to get to something a little more vital. He made an important point. I would also like to add that this ‘value’ is actually a statement of a want or need. And mixing values and needs is problematic. What if my family get preoccupied with their own problems and don’t give me the support I need? Do I then stop valuing them? Whereas, if I can convert this statement into a quality of my own behaviour then it becomes completely in my control.  Each moment I can choose to act on the value or not. Perhaps it is:

‘I value my family. I show this by being affectionate and caring in my interactions with them’

This means that values can be incredibly empowering. They are about how I choose to behave. They aren’t dependent on how others respond to me.  I do need to add a rider here, values need to be flexible. The context determines which values I act upon in any given moment. With a bullying boss, I may choose to act on my values around assertiveness and justice. With an unhappy client, I may choose to act on my values around kindness and compassion. But because it is always about me, I have the power to choose.

13 thoughts on “Getting Clear About Values

  1. I finished reading the Happiness Trap yesterday. And those values are a tricky thing IMO…which is how I ended up here. Needed a few more points of view.

    I particularly like how you clarified point 3 – Values are not rules. That’s something I’ll need to put on a sticky note, because I have a feeling I’ll turn them into rules if I start focusing on them too much.

  2. Hi Rachel. I really enjoyed your article about Getting Clear about Values. It is so important to know what’s really important to us isn’t it? I have linked to you today from I hope you will visit and enjoy the post.

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