I would assert that our beliefs and actions involve values. Yesterday I wrote a blog with the headline “Values Underly Our Beliefs and Actions.” A friend got on my case about how it was very one-sided, partisan, myopic, and very unlikely to change anyone’s mind. That’s probably fair. I might be accused of having a terrible case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Most good Americans who follow news probably do. In fact, I replied to my friend that there are probably very few “independents” out there in the sense that they haven’t decided what their political beliefs are or if they think Trump is a madman or a white knight. Folks who don’t get the threat that Trump poses to this country (and the planet, and the future of the planet) (or who think we all just need to chill for 2-6 years until he is done) in my opinion either misunderstand the threat or aren’t paying attention. However, I did realize that even though I couldn’t probably write a toned-down version of that very blog, I could write a similar blog that steers clear of politics. Ideally, I could make points that were agreed with by 90% of readers. Let’s see how I do.
Our beliefs and actions involve values. That is, the same person with different values and beliefs would have different choices and take different actions. I say have different choices because to the degree that determinism is correct, we don’t have as much leway to make choices as we wish we did. That is a tangent, however.
What we value is almost synonymous with what we believe. It might take a sharper thinker than me to tease that apart. But like the terms morality and ethics, it’s not crucial that the average person parse it that carefully.
What does it mean to value something? What are values? It’s pretty much what you think it means; our values are those things and principles and beliefs and goods that we cherish, uphold, pursue, and identify with. You, not your mom or your pastor or your friends or your husband. Your values are yours. How you got them is a deep and challenging issue.
Abundance Acceptance Accountability Achievement Advancement Adventure Advocacy Ambition Appreciation Attractiveness Autonomy Balance Being the Best Benevolence Boldness Brilliance Calmness Caring Challenge Charity Cheerfulness Cleverness Community Commitment Compassion Cooperation Collaboration Consistency Contribution Creativity Credibility Curiosity Daring Decisiveness Dedication Dependability Diversity Empathy Encouragement Enthusiasm Ethics Excellence Expressiveness FairnessFamily Friendships Flexibility Freedom Fun Generosity Grace Growth Flexibility Happiness Health Honesty Humility Humor Inclusiveness Independence Individuality Innovation Inspiration Intelligence Intuition Joy Kindness Knowledge Leadership Learning Love Loyalty Making a Difference Mindfulness Motivation Optimism Open-Mindedness Originality Passion Performance Personal Development Proactive Professionalism Quality Recognition Risk-taking Safety Security Service Spirituality Stability Peace Perfection Playfulness Popularity Power Preparedness Proactivity Professionalism Punctuality Recognition Relationships Reliability Resilience Resourcefulness Responsibility Responsiveness Security Self-Control Selflessness Simplicity Stability Success Teamwork Thankfulness Thoughtfulness Traditionalism Trustworthiness Understanding Uniqueness Usefulness Versatility Vision Warmth Wealth Well-Being Wisdom.
I of course like wisdom. I also see there are 26 other values I term values of the wise. They are:
- Knowledge, Wisdom and Education
Education leads to knowledge, yet wisdom is only found within.
- Respect, Tolerance and Modesty
You have nothing to lose by giving respect – and much to gain.
- Fulfillment, Meaning and Optimism
Fulfillment and meaning make life worth living.
- Humor, Lightheartedness and Acceptance of the Absurd
Humor can soften the lines that divide us.
- Creativity, Ingenuity and Vision
See what is not readily apparent to the naked mind.
- Dedication, Responsibility and Will
Strive to live your life at its highest potential.
- Honor, Integrity and Morality
Decide what the right thing to do is, and then do it.
- Liberty and Peace
Freedom and peace are two of the highest states of humankind. There is no alternative for those who really understand what these ideas are about.
- Kindness, Magnanimity and Altruism
Believe in the possibility that we can rise to unimagined heights.
- Self Confidence and Self Worth
Make as high an appraisal of your self as you truly can.
- Development, Progressivism and Integration
Change is inevitable. It is wisdom that fosters development and progress.
- Passion, Willingness to Risk and Self Awareness
Tune in to yourself, know what you feel, and take the risk.
- Strength and Courage
Living by your ideals requires that strength and courage be your allies.
- Truth and Justice
A better understanding of what is true can assist us in deciding what is just.
Beliefs and actions involve values. That is, those things we value and the beliefs we hold lead to our behavior and our actions. Consider a person who is totally into winning. They value winning. They dream of winning. They want few things more than to win. It means a lot to them. They don’t feel good or even complete unless they are competing – and winning. Okay I said I wouldn’t bring Donald Trump into this blog, but he is emblematic of the value of winning. Others include your professional coaches, your CEOs, and your chessmasters. If you’ve seen the movie Talledega Nights, you know the phrase “If you ain’t first, you’re last!”
You can see, then, how that value will underly that person’s choices, lifestyle, actions, feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and so on. What you see – the behavior – is reflecting the value.
Here is a graphic that illustrates the idea that beliefs and actions involve values:
Beliefs and actions involve values. So, someone who wants to lose weight must value fitness, being thin, personal growth, and appearance. If something isn’t connected up, there is no way their behaviors will be able to be brought into line. This is also a reason why substance abuse and other addictive/compulsive behaviors are hard to quit because, after all, we value the feelings the drug provides and we chase the high. One’s life can become totally wrapped up in the value of feeling good again.
If one wants to be more successful in something, realize that is a value they hold. If you are trying for a world record, you value mastery and success and specialness and attention. One who loves money values it because of what it can buy them, not because dollars are great (e.g., they crave attention, dominance, safety, superiority, control, and so on). Often, especially with certain types of values, one can see that a person’s value system is more or less external, or internal. Extrinsic vs. intrinsic would be a better way to phrase it.
When one asks you a question about meaning, they are inquiring about what you value and how you perceive yourself, your life, and your actions. Often, folks spend inordinate amounts of time trying to be something they’re not, aiming to please others (even long-dead others), or trying to prevent folks from seeing what they really do value.
In sum, behavior is never random. It is always due to something, and for those of us who believe in free will, it seems clear that our beliefs and actions involve values. We have choices, indeed, and our values steer us around – especially to the degree we are unconscious about them. The idea of core values has been a thing for a while now in corporate and personal growth circles. Spend time determining what you value, and your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, actions, and behaviors will be less of a mystery, and more within your conscious control. Aim for what you want to be, and take steps accordingly. Ω
Learn more about your values by taking the assessment I call the Top Values Tool
beliefs and actions involve values