What are your values? Can you clearly articulate them?
Whether or not you can describe your values, they have a huge impact on your life. They influence the decisions you make, your perceptions, and how you respond to things. They can also offer invaluable insight as you both plan for the future and evaluate decisions.
The trouble with identifying your values is…well…identifying your values. Where do you start? It can seem like a pretty amorphous thing to get your brain around.
As luck would have it, you don’t have pull it all out of thin air. A researcher by the name of S.H. Schwartz carried out research with tens of thousands of people in 44 different countries to explore the idea of universal values. The 57 common values he identified are:
- EQUALITY (equal opportunity for all)
- INNER HARMONY (at peace with myself)
- SOCIAL POWER (control over others, dominance)
- PLEASURE (gratification of desires)
- FREEDOM (freedom of action and thought)
- A SPIRITUAL LIFE (emphasis on spiritual not material matters)
- SENSE OF BELONGING (feeling that others care about me)
- SOCIAL ORDER (stability of society)
- AN EXCITING LIFE (stimulating experiences)
- MEANING IN LIFE (a purpose in life)
- POLITENESS (courtesy, good manners)
- WEALTH (material possessions, money)
- NATIONAL SECURITY (protection of my nation from enemies)
- SELF RESPECT (belief in one’s own worth)
- RECIPROCATION OF FAVORS (avoidance of indebtedness)
- CREATIVITY (uniqueness, imagination)
- A WORLD AT PEACE (free of war and conflict)
- RESPECT FOR TRADITION (preservation of time honored customs)
- MATURE LOVE (deep emotional & spiritual intimacy)
- SELF DISCIPLINE (self restraint, resistance to temptation)
- PRIVACY (the right to have a private sphere)
- FAMILY SECURITY (safety for loved ones)
- SOCIAL RECOGNITION (respect, approval by others)
- UNITY WITH NATURE (fitting into nature)
- A VARIED LIFE (filled with challenge, novelty and change)
- WISDOM (a mature understanding of life)
- AUTHORITY (the right to lead or command)
- TRUE FRIENDSHIP (close, supportive friends)
- A WORLD OF BEAUTY (beauty of nature and the arts)
- SOCIAL JUSTICE (correcting injustice, care for the weak)
- INDEPENDENT (self reliant, self sufficient)
- MODERATE (avoiding extremes of feeling & action)
- LOYAL (faithful to my friends, group)
- AMBITIOUS (hard working, aspiring)
- BROADMINDED (tolerant of different ideas and beliefs)
- HUMBLE (modest, self effacing)
- DARING (seeking adventure, risk)
- PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT (preserving nature)
- INFLUENTIAL (having an impact on people and events)
- HONORING OF PARENTS AND ELDERS (showing respect)
- CHOOSING OWN GOALS (selecting own purposes)
- HEALTHY (not being sick physically or mentally)
- CAPABLE (competent, effective, efficient)
- ACCEPTING MY PORTION IN LIFE (submitting to life’s circumstances)
- HONEST (genuine, sincere)
- PRESERVING MY PUBLIC IMAGE (protecting my “face”)
- OBEDIENT (dutiful, meeting obligations)
- INTELLIGENT (logical, thinking)
- HELPFUL (working for the welfare of others)
- ENJOYING LIFE (enjoying food, sex, leisure, etc.)
- DEVOUT (holding to religious faith & belief)
- RESPONSIBLE (dependable, reliable)
- CURIOUS (interested in everything, exploring)
- FORGIVING (willing to pardon others)
- SUCCESSFUL (achieving goals)
- CLEAN (neat, tidy)
- SELF-INDULGENT (doing pleasant things)
(I got these from this site where you can do a personal values self-evaluation.)
Schwartz also boiled those 57 down into ten broad values (“motivational domains”), into which all of those 57 can be grouped.
- Self-Direction. Independent thought and action; choosing, creating, exploring.
- Stimulation. Excitement, novelty, and challenge in life.
- Hedonism. Pleasure and sensuous gratification for oneself.
- Achievement. Personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards.
- Power. Social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources.
- Security. Safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self.
- Conformity. Restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms.
- Tradition. Respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that traditional culture or religion provide the self.
- Benevolence. Preserving and enhancing the welfare of those with whom one is in frequent personal contact (the ‘in-group’).
- Universalism. Understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature.
[Source: Basic Human Values: An Overview]
I first came across this list of values in an excellent book I’m reading, Success with Soul. The authors suggest an exercise that, boiled down, looks like this:
- Pick the top ten values that resonate most for you out of that 57.
- Order those from top to bottom (they describe creating a “values pyramid,” with the most important two or three values at the top, and the remaining values spread between the middle and the bottom of the pyramid.
- See where those values fit in the motivational domains. Identify and rank the motivational domains that show up for you.
It’s a fairly simple exercise that doesn’t require too much digging in and self-exploration. Wen I did it, I found it yielded useful insights and added some clarity.
Take a crack at it and see where it takes you. For me it was equal between “meaning in life” and “freedom.” Self-direction and Universalism were the primary motivational domains.
I would love to hear what you find. What values bubble up to the top for you?
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