How Values Work

Values are energy.

Values are packets of energy usually identified by a single word or phrase, and represented by behaviors. When we perceive or use values language, we trigger that energy in ourselves and in others. Sometimes that energy is positive in its nature, sometimes negative. When it’s positive, we usually call that motivation. When it’s negative we usually call it disrespect. Either way, it can be surprisingly powerful.

We can choose our values.

Values are not like the genetic information we are born with. We are taught what is important, what to value, and how to behave to support those values. But when we find ourselves in new environments, we often modify not only how we behave, but we also might change the priority of what we value. We see this when we compare our private or home lives to our public or work lives. This is not to say we lack integrity by shifting our values at work, only that we choose to prioritize different values depending on the situations we experience. We successfully accommodate these changes because values can be intentionally selected and prioritized. There are thousands of human values; we tend to, choose to focus on a few.

Values link together to make meaning.

Values link together. People simply do not hold just one value at a time. And any given value naturally links and connects to another, or other values. They may be grouped and linked in a variety of ways, but one value will always associate with others. These linkages or groupings may be determined by themes, or by what seems a natural supportive progression where one value provides the awareness and skills needed for a subsequent value. Another way they group is by worldview, or perspective.

We each define our values differently.

The words we use for values are highly ambiguous. The meaning for a value like “Honesty” can seem obviously simple to us, and we are often surprised to find out that other people both define that same value differently, and also behave differently to support it. Of course this quality can be manipulated, and we have seen this in some politicians and advertisers for many years. So to avoid a lot of confusion, as a general practice, we need to be asking the question, “What do you mean by that?” in a non-confrontational way. Otherwise mis-communication is highly likely.

Valuing it does not necessarily mean we can do it -- but we can practice.

Values motivate our behaviors, but they do not guarantee skills or competencies. So we can think that Financial Success is extremely important, but we may lack the skills to achieve that success, and find that we need training in managing finances. When we lack supporting skills for a value, and still think it is important, it acts as a future objective, and aspiration, perhaps something that is a part of the vision we have of ourselves in the future.


The Values Perspective survey can help you identify your basic core perspective as well as your top priority values.