Values Drive Behaviors

On a holiday a number of years ago to Cozumel I took the opportunity to take some scuba dives. Once acclimated to being underwater I found myself mesmerized by the vast mystery of this “new world!” I have found my deep dive into the world of Core Values to be a similar experience of finding myself in a vast and mysterious world of the sea we humans swim in.

I am distinguishing values from Core Values. You, I and all of us carry an inventory of values with us all the time and over time that inventory can change. For example how cool I thought sideburns and “ducktails” were as a hair style in my high school days, not a particular style I would embrace today. And I think most of us can appreciate the things that carried such importance to us at one time that no longer seem to matter. Why, because values shape our judgments, our opinions and essentially the lens we see the world thru and thru experience our world view changes. A quick look into the political arena, which is probably more than enough for most of us, politicians have long realized that speaking to our values, especially stirring them up, gets a lot more traction than speaking to issues. Our take on the world is driven by values and some of our values can change over time.

Except Core Values! Core Values are resolute, fixed and non-negotiable. They are so transparent to us they usually don’t even occur as values. They occur as how the world should be…” if people were just more respectful (or honest, or fair, or forgiving, etc.), we wouldn’t have these problems!” Core Values, are pretty transparent to us they usually occur, not as a value, but as “the right way to do something”, or the right way to be. After years of working with values and especially Core Values thru hundreds of conversations with groups and individuals we find Core Values to be the invisible shaper of character and behavior.

What are the characteristics of Core Values that distinguish them from other values? We have mentioned they are resolute, fixed and non-negotiable. They are formed at an early age and then evolve as we grow, they are usually limited to three to five values and they shape how we see the world and others. They are the basis for our judgments of things and others and as a result they will create blind spots for us. I have often overlooked poor performance, failure and impracticality from a Core Value of Loyalty. I have often withheld honest feedback, straight talk or needed action out of a value of respect for another’s feelings. After a long history of studying Core Values, I consider them to be the basis of most upsets, disturbed feelings or personal disruptions to which we then assign cause to something else and interact with the wrong source rather than seeing it as a Core Value violation.

So what’s the point here? Our Core Values are not only the shaper of our character and hence our behavior and decisions, they are for the most part invisible to us. We usually know how we feel; we often don’t know why. The more we understand about our Core Values and how they silently lead us, create blind spots and drive our reactions the more leverage we have on making sound decisions and taking effective actions.

To be fair, the discovery process can be lengthy and will occur in stages. Introspection is a good beginning. In the face of upsets, anger, reactions ask yourself “what value just got violated?”. Notice in the answer what values recur often. Who are your role models and what particular quality makes them that? Were there incidents in your early life with high emotional impact and did you make decisions about how you would or would not live your life as a result? What are the things you will most quickly and harshly judge others for or the behaviors you get upset with yourself about? As mentioned it is a layered process, however it gives us a portal to bringing our behaviors in line with our values and a clarity of focus to make highly informed decisions.