What Are Core Values?
Let’s start by explaining why core values are so important.
On 3 August 2016 we had Municipal elections in South Africa .
What was fascinating, at least from a Life Coaching and people watching perspective, was how thousands of people that had gotten to know (and often like) each other through social networking over the previous months suddenly interacted with one another.
What took place in the lead up to the election, was nothing short of social networking carnage.
People that had previously been getting on famously were all of a sudden declaring each other idiots, racists etc.
The reality is nothing had changed in the online relationships. Except that is, one crucial thing. Peoples most important core values had risen to the surface for all the world to see.
When you see the core values of an individual you are effectively viewing their identity.
Core values are the things that people will and sometimes do, die for. So bearing that in mind, even though the events were somewhat embarrassing, they were still highly predictable.
Few people have values that are heavily invested in those topics. You may well have an opinion on Life Coaching (or you may not), but I doubt it will be higher up your list of priorities than education, religion, health care.
What Exactly Is A Value?
Wikipedia defines a value system:
“A value system is a set of consistent ethic values (more specifically the personal and cultural values) and measures used for the purpose of ethical or ideological integrity.”
I can’t say I disagree with any of that, but then again, I’m not sure what it really tells us because we are the ones left to define what is ethical and what demonstrates integrity. They’re subjective terms and mean different things to different people based on the values and beliefs they hold.
Have you ever been watching a traditional TV when an advert came on extolling the virtues of a Blue Ray that costs more than your first car?
It’s a frustrating experience because it doesn’t matter what they do or tell you, you’re still looking at a low-def picture and can’t see what they’re trying to demonstrate.
The same goes for values.
When we look at a situation and decide whether it is right or wrong, good or bad, we do so through the filter of the beliefs and values we already hold.
There is no right or wrong values, just values that are right or wrong for the individual
You can argue, “things like murder or rape are always wrong.”
To begin with, murder isn’t really a value because the value would be what the person was looking to achieve through committing the act of murder.
You have opinions on what you believe to be right or wrong and that’s fine, but understand they are based on your beliefs and values and not anything concrete or quantifiable.
They’re purely subjective.
Shakespeare said, “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so”
I don’t think murder is right and I also don’t think lots of others things are right such as stealing, harming others, homophobia or racism, but that’s only my opinion based on my values, it doesn’t necessarily make it so.
Where Do Values Come From?
Your values are determined by outside forces over many years whether you like it or not.
In fact, it’s not unreasonable to say they’re not even really your values, you’ve simply acquired them through exposure.
Value sets are influenced by countless things including your family (or even lack of family), your friends, television, politicians, Church leaders, cultural influences, books you have read, incidents (both positive and negative) you’ve seen or been involved in, the country you were born in, conversations you had and much more.
We all have a tendency, as with beliefs, to look for information to cement the values we already possess and filter out information to the contrary.
However, things can change radically under certain (and often traumatic) circumstances.
When Values Collide:
Have you ever argued with friends or family members about whether its right to give money to homeless people, the conflict in Iraq or morals of somebody of influence whether it be parents, ministers etc.
That will be because you have conflicting values on those subjects.
That’s the reason you simply cannot ever agree on certain topics no matter how much somebody tries to persuade you. Of course, many of us still carry on banging our head against the wall and trying to ram home our point, but all we do is polarise people.
That doesn’t in any way mean you can’t be in a really strong and stable relationship and/or friendship with somebody that has conflicting values. In fact it can often be just the opposite because different values encourage compromise and deeper understanding, if that is, you’re prepared to listen with an open-mind. And yes, open-mindedness is indeed a value.
On the other hand, sometimes it’s wise to know when agreement will never happen.
It’s the ultimate in arrogance to believe we have a handle on what values are right and wrong and others need to understand that. Yet that is how every argument, fight, and war starts out.
“These are my values, they’re better than your values and if you cannot see that, then I am going to force them upon you for being such a dumbass.”
How many wars could be summed up with the above phrase? Probably all of them.
Are All Values Equal?
This is such a tricky question that I almost didn’t include it because I honestly don’t know if I know the answer. I think I do, but it’s really only ‘an’ answer as opposed to ‘the’ answer.
That may be the worlds biggest cop out or it may be a fair and reasonable way of saying everything I’m about to say could be wrong.
I believe there are what can be loosely termed as meta-values (values that sit above other values) and may contain values such as Happiness, ‘Peace’ ‘Love’ and ‘Health’.
For example: if I’m working with a client who declares that their most important value is ‘happiness’ that doesn’t really tell me a lot.
The reality is we all want to be happy so it doesn’t one much insight into a client’s make up or help me coach them.
Similarly, a client wanting to be healthy doesn’t reveal much that I didn’t already know.
However, if a client has a number one core value of ‘kindness’ then that does tell me a lot about them because not every person views kindness as being so important.
It also allows me to remind them that values cut both ways and if we are to avoid internal value conflicts then it’s important not just to be kind to others, but equally to ourselves too.
Hopefully you now have a clearer understanding of what values are and why they are so crucial in developing successful self-development.