Examining Our Values


Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior, one’s judgment of what is important in life. Usually, abstract ideas include things like manners or pride. Still, they can also include behaviors towards events and activities, as well as one’s self or others regarding sportsmanship, intimate relationship, or even personal relationships such as with family or friends.

Our values come from various sources but tend to be based on particular influences over time. These influences may include family, friends, work, education, religion, propaganda, music, television, community culture, or even significant events such as a war or economic crisis.

The best question then becomes what shapes or determines our values. The best answer would be “exactly how you personally interpret and apply the given influence.” An excellent example of this might be how a doctor may tell you that exercise is essential. If you are a younger healthy individual, you may not listen to such an influence because you are currently not affected by not exercising. However, eventually, that influence may become more critical when you begin to feel the symptoms of not exercising.

Once again, your values are the things that you believe are important in your everyday life. For instance, you may have been exposed to the influence of socialism. Still, the power of your economic education, culture, and experience, to the contrary, may be weighted heavier in your mind. The result itself is not the determining factor in your values. Instead, the determining factor is how you receive the information and, ultimately, exactly what you determine it means to you.

Understand that your values will more than likely change over time. Education and experience are the prime reasons for this change. So I would imagine that, generally speaking, this change is a good thing because it would mean that your education and experiences are increasing. That is to say, of course, that your education and experiences are good ones. For instance, a young, uneducated single person will likely act and carry themselves differently than an older, educated parent. We should expect and perhaps invite these changes because it means that we are growing as individuals.

This is not always the case, though. Sometimes the influence may be significant, but it may also harm the individual. For instance, a horrendous murder of a loved one by someone of a different race may influence an individual to a higher degree of prejudice. While irrational, the reality is that the influence was great enough to alter the value. We need to understand that positive growth is not always the case.

On a similar note, and because of this, we need to recognize that our values are not concrete and can change based on a powerful influence. This is important to understand regarding the reliability of another. Additionally, there will be times when we all value something, but our actions do not necessarily reflect this. The decisive may briefly be indecisive. The fitness guru may decide to eat a pizza. The intellectual may make a dumb decision. The tolerant or diverse may be selective. The best friend may turn their back for selfish reasons.

I believe this happens because of something similar to the 80/20 Rule. Not everyone can be 100%, 100% of the time. Nobody is perfect. So perhaps we should expect our current values to be upheld the majority of the time but not expect them 100% of the time. The same goes for others. And once again, expect these values to be refined or completely changed over time, and never expect concrete.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like “The Effects of Bias Affecting Leadership.