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“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave 'em all over everything you do.” Elvis Presley

I love this statement for various reasons – it is fun and catchy but also has a considerable amount of meaning which is worth unpacking when thinking about the subject of values.

At heart, the word “value” describes what it says on the tin – something of worth or something that is valuable. First thoughts may land on a diamond ring, a precious painting or a brand new Maserati (insert your own thoughts!) but most of us would probably agree that expense is only one possible contributory factor to the word “value.” Value for the individual may not be anything of great expense; it may be the simple rose picked from the garden, the gift of something left by a loved one, a note or a card – all of these might derive their value from the person or the way in which is was given. The definition of Value is therefore elevated to another level.

Moving on to the more abstract, how does the word “Values” apply to the way in which we do life and the choices that may therefore be necessary?

What defines a value in this sense and how can I recognise it?

Our values are unique

Returning to Elvis’s quote, the first thing I notice is the comparison between the uniqueness of fingerprints with our values. As we know, fingerprints are one of the few things about us a human beings which are entirely unique to us. No- one person has the same set of fingerprints – hence the usefulness in forensic application in the taking of fingerprints when searching for a certain person. At first glance, I can recognize a set of fingerprints for what it is – its only when I stop and take time to examine that I realise each print is not identical. I would like to suggest that this is the same when faced with sets of values that define our own lives. At a first glance they can look similar – it’s only on further explanation that we find that each individual will have its own set of values underpinning the life that they lead – fascinating!

Values are often hidden

What is core to me will not be core to someone else. Our values that are most central to us are known as our “Core values” – those things that can be found deep down in our inner most being. They run deep and are not necessarily seen or even known by ourselves in their entirety. Values can often surface when entering into a clash with another value which conflicts the way we believe or act..

Our values inevitably are based on our background, our beliefs, our personality, identity and character; they will be shaped by our upbringing, our society, culture, time and time in which we live. Sometimes our values arise out of a sense of lack or injustice. All of these hidden elements serve to bring about the person we are. They are working away in the background whether we like it or not!

I have been attending and practicing Pilates for many years now! I love it. I first started attending an Osteopath due to a long term back injury. When he could do no more, the Osteopath said the best thing I could do would be to attend a Pilates class. As many will know, one of the key principles in Pilates is based on strengthening the core and positioning the body in such a way that everything lines up thus causing the abdomen to be the power house from which everything else functions – lifting a leg has to be done in alignment with the core and breathing helps to make this happen. I can honestly say that by focusing on my core strength, the rest of my body and movement have been corrected and I am able to life in a sustainable way for my body.

So it is with our core values – by concentrating on that which is most central to who we are, our lives become lined up with the central strengths and enable us to function with confidence and a way that is true to ourselves. If we know who we are, we will know what works for us and what we might be looking for in different environments.

Living with a lack of awareness can produce an inexplicable dissonance in life, maybe with family life or your work environment.

If I am in an environment at work where my effort goes unnoticed and I am constantly overlooked, if prolonged that will lead to a dissonance in my value that every person is to be acknowledged, seen and heard as a valuable individual. Similarly if I see this happening with someone else, my value system is going to become challenged. I can recognise this and seek to challenge or put in support mechanisms. However if this persists, I am likely to find myself experiencing a range of negative emotions which will affect the way in which I see myself and others and ultimately if left unchecked, may have a physical effect on my body, given that our emotions are integral to our bodies.

As one who has experienced this firsthand, looking back, I wish I had been clearer on my values in order to be able to preserve my own dignity and enable me to make wise choices.

Values in the family

What about my family: what are my core values here?

Is it kindness, honour, fairness, a good education, gratitude, helpfulness, forgiveness, acceptance? There are so many noteworthy values that matter but at the end of the day there will be some that will matter more than others to us. How for example do we honour each family member in our household – from the youngest to the oldest? How do I as a parent model these values?

As children develop, it can be helpful to discuss the things that matter to us. Some families draw up child friendly charters – this can be in the form of making a collage, or having things that matter to each child written down.

They can be a great discussion point to return to and even evaluate as children grow older. Place the charter in the kitchen or by the front door for all to see.

Values in the workplace

In a work setting, it can be helpful to consider the culture: is this an organisation whose values I can broadly subscribe to. How do the values work themselves out at every level, from the head teacher/CEO to the occasional worker?

Is this a culture of honour or conversely one of shame and fear? Does this organisation honour equality in all aspect as well as diversity in the workplace? If so, how does this work in practice?

If our values do not match with the values, vision or mission of an organization, it can be difficult to be as motivated as one might like to be in participating to the fullest and in line with we are as individuals.

In a school setting, a good leader will know that the culture of the establishment, is defined by its values - values are always present, whether clearly defined or lurking beneath the surface. How an organisation is led is inevitably defined by those who are leading and modelling; Kindness, respect and forgiveness shown consistently bring about the same values at every level and the impact flows from one to another. Conversely stress at a high level or perfectionism will also filter through the whole system, affecting the wellbeing and performance of all concerned. What a privilege then to consider the powerful impact Values and culture can have in affecting the happiness and performance of all concerned.

Identifying our values or those of our family or organisation is a significant step on the way to improving our wellbeing, choices and actions.

In order to do this, it is important for us to identify our core values – this can be done in various ways.

1. Take some paper and list at least 20 values you can think of (or download the free values template at the end of the blog)

2. It can be do this with a partner or good friend

3. When you have done this, take some time to identify 5 values that are most important to you.

4. Talk to someone about these – why are they important? How do you know? Where do they manifest themselves? Are you happy with the choices you are making in life so that there is integrity with your values? Is there anything you need to change? How can you do this?

In conclusion, values are at the heart of life and also at the heart of coaching. By identifying and living according to our core values, we have a guiding compass to enable and empower us in the many situations of life we have to navigate. My hope is that this initial investigation will encourage you to explore further.

Identifying your values is a significant step on the way to improving our wellbeing and choices.

If you would like Coaching to help you realise your values in order to empower you to be "the best you," please get in touch on my website for a free 20 minute consultation.

values list
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