Written by therapist Treshana Lewis
Values are defined as, “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important or beneficial in life” (Google), and as Elvis Presley once said, “Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.”
Values help us to determine life priorities and are an influential part of the decision-making process. For example, a person who values wealth might choose a high earning career over a passion-based career. A person who values family might be more intentional about safekeeping the time dedicated to their family. As a therapist, I’ve noticed that one of the greatest inhibitors to joy, peace, and contentment is a life that is not aligned with one’s values.
Development of Values
Values are often inherited or influenced by the following:
- Family: Throughout childhood, most people develop or formulate a standard for what is desirable, good, bad, important, or inessential. This standard is often based on the values held by parents or family members. Family relational dynamics, parenting styles, judgments, opinions, and behaviors are all components of the values commonly held by individuals.
- Individual experiences: As we encounter different life experiences, our values are often solidified, adjusted or transformed. Life experiences such as personal challenges or injustices, education, and successes, are influential in the formation of values.
- Religion and/or culture: Religious and cultural customs, traditions, rituals and beliefs all shape the nature of our values.
- Community: Values are usually not held in isolation; they are most likely shared by many people who live together in a community.
- Political leaders: This component of value formation sometimes gets overlooked. The beliefs, statutes, and standards held and implemented by political leaders may have an impact on individuals regardless of their culture, life experiences, community, upbringing, and religion.
Why are they important?
Since our values are an influential part in helping us prioritize our life and make decisions, insecure or undefined value systems can lead to interpersonal conflict and life dilemmas. This is especially true in crucial life decisions such as marriage, romantic relationships, caring for an ill family member, finances, decisions regarding children, where to live or estate planning.
Types of Values
Though Faith manifests itself differently in the lives of people, at its core, it speaks to the belief in a higher power or spiritual deity. This influences how individuals attain fulfillment, their moral compass, and lifestyle habits. Faith values include but are not limited to gratitude, joy, love, tranquility, wisdom, grace, and kindness.
These types of values help individuals find what they want in a job. It helps individuals identify an environment in which they will feel most satisfied. In order to thrive professionally, it is especially important to understand these values and ensure your employer and/or field of work aligns. Examples of work values are: community, innovation, teamwork, individuality, prestige, and stability.
Personal values support individuals in defining what they desire out of life. These values assist individuals in experiencing happiness, satisfaction, and wholeness. Some will consider these values the guiding principles of an individual’s life. Examples of personal values are: family life, friendship, popularity, nature/the environment, and health.
Status values are things such as achievement, pedigree, success, luxury, and prestige. You may enjoy or value the status of owning a luxury car, wearing custom designed clothing, and being connected to individuals. For some, status values provide a sense of significance and pleasure to their lives.
Character values are the values associated with aiding someone in being a good person. These tend to be the values that remain when one loses things such as status. In addition, character values are beneficial for maintaining and sustaining healthy relationships. Examples of character values include: integrity, commitment, honesty, loyalty, and respect.
It is important to note that the types of values are not limited to the ones listed above. Values around health, relationships, the environment, and recreation are all important to living an abundant, contented life.
Uncovering My Values
Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to uncover your values.
- What’s most important to me?
- What brings me joy?
- What do I feel passionate about?
- What am I most angered by?
- What do I view as an injustice?
- What do I treasure most about my experience with my family of origin, culture, and/or religion?
- What did my mother and father value and instill in me?
- What philanthropic cause do I feel aligned to? Why?
- What could I not see myself living without?
- What is one thing I would change about my upbringing?
- What do I believe the world needs more of?
- Where do I find hope?
- What political figure do I respect most?
- Whose character do I strive to emulate? What are their character traits?
- What type of environments, places, things, or people make me feel safe? Why?
Uncovering, understanding, and clarifying our values can be hard, but with the right support systems around you, it is more than possible. If you would like some assistance with value formation, please give us a call to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors who would be happy to help you.