Understanding how your Values impact the choices that you make

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Quick summary: In this context I will use the word ‘values’ as having the following definition – a ‘value’ is an emotional state or character attribute that you desire to live within or to be defined by; If you value feeling in control you will make behavioral choices that you believe will lead you to acquiring the relevant emotional disposition… if you value being defined as independent you will make decisions that you believe will assist you in displaying that attribute. By understanding our values we can get a better understanding of what is driving us to engage in certain behavioral patterns. As we gain a greater understanding of our values we can free ourselves to either change an ‘outdated’ or otherwise unwanted value, or we can come up with new behaviors that will help us to arrive at the desired value with fewer consequences. Often times we find that we are stuck in a pattern of behaviors that are not helping us to achieve a desired value.

So how does a person go about finding their values?

I am going to offer a few different ways for you to come up with your values… many people will have different answers to the different sets of questions… this means that there might be a difference in the values that are currently dictating your life and the values that you currently view to be most desirable or rather the values that you would like to be driving your actions.

Outdated Values – many of us have values that are left over from our youth that still dictate our behaviors.

  • Often people will find that they no longer wish to be dictated by that outdated value.
  • It is not to say that that value is not important, instead the value does not need to affect a person in all aspects of their life. (Ex. You could still value independence without it influencing the majority of your interactions with people)
  • Example: teenagers commonly desire to be viewed as independent… once an adult actually is independent this value can be disruptive in that it can encourage a person to be stubborn and un-accepting of assistance.
  • Example 2: a person who grew up with abusive parents might value control and safety, this value might encourage them to be hyper vigilant and overly precautious even when their adult life is relatively secure, structured and safe… altering this value could have a positive affect on anxiety.

 

Unwanted values – many of us carry values that were forced on us or that we were manipulated into carrying.

  • Some of us carry values that we believe ‘we have to’ have that could have been suggested be the community, a religion, our family, our schooling, or the media etc.
  • You have the freedom to choose your own values and often dropping unwanted values will relieve inner moral conflict.
  • Example: the media manipulates people into carrying values pertaining to body image, as such many people find themselves desiring a body that is unhealthy… they value ‘skinny’ and they believe that being so will make them feel ‘beautiful’.
  • Example 2: politicians commonly manipulate values pertaining to patriotism (on both sides); they define what behaviors make you a patriot and then manipulate you into wanting to engage in those behaviors (I am in no way saying that being patriotic is negative… I am stating that politicians have manipulated the definition of what it means to be a patriot… for example, it is often suggested that you must value xenophobia or nationalism in order to display patriotism.)

 

Undesired behaviors aimed at achieving desired values – Many of us have a value that could be better met with a different behavior that might have fewer negative consequences.

  • Once you have isolated your values you can investigate how successfully your chosen behaviors are at assisting you in realizing, or living within, that value.
  • Sometimes you intend for a behavior to encourage a relevant emotion and it does not do so. (Ex you watch TV at night to feel rested but it ends up making you feel more anxious.)
  • Sometimes you intend for a behavior to display an attribute and it actually displays the opposite attribute. (Ex. you try to be a leader of peace and you end up bringing more destruction.)
  • Example: some people go home, pour a cocktail and turn on the TV to meet the ‘less stressed’ value… it is possible that this behavior does not reduce stress in the long run… this behavior could even be causing some of the stress.

 

Technique to Isolate your Values

1.)Investigating and identifying your most frequent behaviors.

 

Section 1 behaviors.) What are the behaviors that you engage in with the greatest frequency? If you were to video tape yourself for a week what behaviors would you see yourself engaging in with the greatest frequency.

 

  • Make sure that the behaviors that you list require some degree of choice and are not simply a basic need for survival… examples: drinking water is a basic need and drinking $3 bottled water is a choice, sleeping is a need and napping on the couch is a choice, eating is a need and where and what you eat is a choice, spending time with your children is a need and engaging in organized or paid for activities is a choice, going to work is a need and what you do and how you spend your time can be a choice.
  • Try and be specific, instead of saying ‘eating’ you could say, “preparing food in creative and artistic ways” or “visiting fast-food restaurants and ordering comfort food.”
  • Write down your answers…

examples: taking the kids to sports, going to McDonalds with the kids, running at the gym, running at the park, meditating at home, having my after work martini, drinking wine watching a sitcom, getting drunk at the bar, playing the guitar in the basement, filling out forms at work, talking with my wife on the phone, watching the 10 o’clock news in bed etc.

 

Section 1 values.) Identifying the values related to those behaviors which you engage in with the greatest frequency. For each of your written down answers you will now write an emotion or an attribute next to it. You may have only an emotion or only one attribute or you may have both.

 

What emotions are you trying to feel by engaging in that activity? (One behavior – one emotion)

Examples: comforted, relaxed, nurtured, free, happy, proud, sexy, peaceful, powerful, in control etc.

 

What character attribute are you trying to display by engaging in that activity? (One behavior – on attribute)

Examples: independent, intelligent, a good parent, a good Christian, responsible, diligent worker, competent, adequate, Manly, feminine, fashionable, in tune with cultural norms, elegant, sophisticated etc.

 

2.) Identifying your favorite or most desirable behaviors and activities.

 

Section 2 behaviors.) What behaviors are most important to you? What behaviors would you like to engage in with great frequency? There can be overlap with you previous answers, but you can simply write down the value that you already discovered for repeats.

  • Again, be specific and write down your answers.

 

Section 2 values.) Identifying the values related to those behaviors which you desire to engage in with the greatest frequency. For each of your written down answers you will now write an emotion or an attribute next to it .you may have only an emotion or only an attribute or you may have both.

 

What emotions are you trying to feel by engaging in that activity? (One behavior – one emotion)

Examples: comforted, relaxed, nurtured, free, happy, proud, sexy, peaceful, powerful, in control etc.

 

What character attribute are you trying to display by engaging in that activity? (One behavior – on attribute)

Examples: independent, intelligent, a good parent, a good Christian, responsible, diligent worker, competent, adequate, Manly, feminine, fashionable, in tune with cultural norms, elegant, sophisticated etc.

 

3.)Identifying what you subjectively believe to be your most important values.

 

Section 3 values.) What emotional dispositions (what feelings) and what character attributes are most important to you? What emotions would you like to feel with great frequency and what attributes would you like to define who you are?

  • Write down your answers.

 

Section 3 behaviors.) What behaviors could you engage in to meet your section 3 values?

  • Again, be specific and write down your answers.

 

Compare and contrast your values in section 1 to your values in both section 2 and section 3.

  • Are there any unwanted values?

 

  • Are there any outdated values?

 

  • How much overlap is there? (lots of overlap generally means that you are living by the values that you would like to live by.)

 

Now compare your behaviors in section 1 with your behaviors in section 2 and 3.

  • Which behaviors can be changed?

 

  • Which behaviors could be increased?

 

  • Which behaviors could be eliminated?

 

  • What new behaviors will better meet your values?

 

  • Is there lots of overlap? (lots of overlap can mean that your current behaviors are helping you to meet your values)

 

Pick your most important values that you have isolated from this process.

 

List the behaviors (new and already written down) that you will engage in so that you can live within those values.

 

With this insight embrace your freedom to choose what values will drive your actions… and embrace your freedom to choose the behaviors which will best meet your values.

 

 

 

 

 

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