Values are a set of standards you have for life. They are the things you believe are most important to you and to the way you live, work and play. Some people would even say that values are priorities that show you how to spend your time most effectively.
Values can also be described as labels that you give to specific words to help represent your emotional experiences; originating from states of pain and pleasure. These emotional experiences are often organized into a hierarchy of sorts that helps outline your priorities for life, and for living that life.
Values are the measures you use to figure out whether or not your life is turning out the way you had imagined. Therefore values act like a compass that helps you stay on track and focused on the most important things in your life.
All this is very important, because when “what you do” and “how you behave” is consistent with your values, then life feels good, you feel good, and everything seems perfect with the world. However, when what you do and how you behave is not aligned with your highest values (priorities for life) then that is when things begin feeling somewhat uncomfortable and painful. You feel unfulfilled, dissatisfied and maybe just downright miserable, and you probably don’t even realize why you’re feeling this way.
Your values determine what you focus on, how you perceive reality, how you evaluate things, and what you will or won’t do; which essentially comes down to your behavior and the actions you take each day. Therefore if your values are not in sync with your daily decisions, choices and actions, then you will tend to feel miserable, unfulfilled and unsatisfied with your life.
There are two types of values that are worth exploring. Both of these types influence your daily choices and decisions. The first set of values are known as moving-toward values, and the second set of values are known as moving-away values.
- Moving-Toward Values: These are pleasure-inducing values. They are values/states that you find pleasurable and want to move towards. In fact, you want to experience these values all of the time. For instance you might pursue love, passion, health, comfort, adventure, security, freedom, success, etc. These values make you feel good, however they are not equal. And you will therefore pursue some of them at the expense of others, especially if value conflicts exist.
- Moving-Away Values: These are pain-inducing values. They are values/states that you will do almost anything to avoid experiencing. For instance you might avoid loneliness, humiliation, guilt, depression, frustration, anger, rejection, criticism, etc. All of these are intense states, and in many cases they will provide you with a stronger “motivating force” than most of your moving-toward values. And this is of particular significance when it comes to finding the right balance in life.
All of your moving-toward and moving-away values are constructed into a hierarchy of sorts that dictates the choices and decisions you will make each day. You therefore have on one side of the spectrum a hierarchy for your moving-toward values. These are the things that bring you pleasure. And on the opposite end of the spectrum you have a hierarchy for your moving-away values. These are the things that bring you pain. Now of course you might not be consciously aware of this hierarchy of values, however it’s certainly there. It’s evident in the decisions you make and the actions you take.
Values can also be subdivided into means and ends values. Means values are tangible values such as family and money. While ends values are emotional values such as love and security.
Means values are things that you may “want to have”. Ends values are the resulting emotional states you desire to experience. So for instance you might value family, however what you really want is love. In another example you might value money, however what you really want is security or freedom. Your family gives you the love you desire, and the money you earn gives you the security and freedom you want.
Both values are legitimate values, however it’s important that you always look for the ends-values while exploring your value hierarchy. Your ends-values are the things you really want as a result of acquiring the tangible things that you think you want.
- Read more: Transforming Personal Values