It’s the season of New Year’s Resolutions. Perhaps prodded by optimism or guilt we decide to undertake a worthy project for the New Year: loosing weight, taking up exercise, learning French, being nicer to our in-laws.
I’ve got more than a few candidates for New Year’s Resolutions things I should, or could do, but rather than throw a dice or stick a pin in the list I decided to explore what is important to me. I thought that if I could get a clearer picture of my values then I would be able to make to make good choices for my New Year Resolutions and decisions in general.
Values or what we consider important are powerful influences on our lives.
Because they are associated with worth, meaning and desire, values are a primary source of motivation in people’s lives. When people’s values are met or matched, they feel a sense of satisfaction, harmony or rapport. When their values are not met, people often feel dissatisfied, incongruent or violated.
Goals are the tangible expression of our values. For example if one of our values is health then we will be motivated to maintain an exercise program or diet so that we experience that value.
There are a huge range of possible values, health, justice, peace of mind, excitement, honesty etc, etc. We collect them over our lives consciously or unconsciously. The constellation of values we live by are unique to us.
If we are lucky we get a set of values that mesh well together and help lead us to happy and fulfilled lives. If not, there are three ways in which our system of values may not be serving us.
- Unconscious values: For most of us our values are out of our awareness. In effect we are being drawn to certain behaviours and making decisions on values we don’t know exist.
- Out of date values: Many of our values were established during our early childhood, we may have absorbed them from our caregivers or through our experience of education. They may be hopelessly out of date yet still exerting an influence.
- Out of order values: Values exist in a hierarchy the values at the top of hierarchy will dominate over the values lower down. For example if you value your safety over excitement then you are unlikely to drive at 70 mph in thick fog. The ranking and relative importance of these values may be out of date and almost certainly out of awareness. So we may end up ‘supporting’ a value that is way past it’s sell by date.
So how can you find out what your system of values is? One way (there are many) is based on an exercise from the book NLP The New Technology of Achievement by Steve Andreas and Charles Faulkner.
- Think of some goals, interests, loves and desires.
Make a list of some of the goals you are pursuing now. For each of them in turn look into the future and imagine that the goals have been fulfilled.
Pick what seem to be the most important 3, 4 or 5 of those goals from your list
- Determine your values and principles
In whatever way you find enjoyable hold the successful fulfillment of that goal has been realised. In your imagination step into that scene, noticing what you see, hear and feel.
Do this for each goal in turn, as you experience it ask yourself: What do I value about this goal?The answer may be one or more values. Make a note of each one. Use the words that come to mind to describe the values.
- List your values and principles
Make a combined list of your values and principles. From the rough list there may be items that are common across your different goals. There may also be goals that seem quite similar, if there is a word or phrase that sums them up feel free to use that.
Note: You may need some time to complete this exercise, it’s not the kind of thing that can be rushed off in a couple of minutes
One of my goals for 2009 is to be a part of more NLP and EFT trainings. I chose this goal as one of the examples for the exercise.
Here are my answers (in no particular order) to the question “What do I value about this goal?”:
- To help people help themselves
- Help people be able to help others
- Enjoyment of learning
- Enjoyment of teaching
- Having fun
- To do some good in the world
That’s a small part of the overall list of what’s important to me.
In the next article in this series ‘Sorting the wheat from the chaff‘ I’ll explore how to sort the list into the order of their importance, how to identify and resolve conflicts of values and how to find out which values really belong to us.