Explore a list of values and do some exercises to better understand which values matter most to you.
A value can be defined as "an enduring belief upon which a person acts". Values are like attitudes and beliefs in that they have cognitive, emotional, and behavioral parts. But researchers suggest that values are more enduring and long-lasting than either beliefs or attitudes (Limthanakom, Lauffer, Mujtaba, & Murphy Jr, 2008).
The Two Types of Values
There are thought to be two different types of values: instrumental values and terminal values. Some of us prefer one type of value over the other (Allen, Ng, & Wilson, 2002). But we all have both types of values that guide our lives to some extent.
Instrumental values are about desirable ways to act or behave (e.g., honest, responsible, loving).
Terminal values are about desirable end states (e.g., health, freedom, family security; Gibson, Greenwood, & Murphy Jr, 2009).
Why Values Matter
Our values have a big influence on how we act. Acting in ways that go against our values doesn’t make us feel great. So, we generally try to be consistent with our values. In fact, shifting our values in small ways can shift our actions.
For example, one study showed that priming people with achievement values increased their success at completing a puzzle but made them less helpful to the experimenter. The value of achievement led them to act in ways that seemed likely to support achievement. But another study showed that priming people with a benevolence value decreased their success at the puzzle and increased their helpfulness (Maio, Pakizeh, Cheung, & Rees, 2009).
This suggests it can be helpful to get clear on our values. If we know what’s driving us then we’ll better understand why we do the things we do.
What are Your Values?
There are tons of values to choose from. So how do you know which ones yours are? One way to find out is by ranking them from most important to least important. Start by asking yourself if you hold any of the following values. Then for the values that you do have, rank them from most important to least important. (Feel free to add any values you have that are missing from the list).
List of Values
Try to get your list down to your top 3 to 4 values. Also, try to make sure that these values represent different parts of yourself.
Act on Your Values
To make each of your values actionable, add a verb to it. In other words, describe how you will live each of your values.
Pamela (Pami) Parker currently serves as a holistic practitioner, coach and teacher. Her intention is to be a compassionate guide to those who choose to experience a healthier, happier and more peaceful way of life.