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The Power of Personal Values
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by Roy Posner


 

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1. Introduction to Values

A value is a belief, a mission, or a philosophy that is meaningful. Whether we are consciously aware of them or not, every individual has a core set of personal values. Values can range from the commonplace, such as the belief in hard work and punctuality, to the more psychological, such as self-reliance, concern for others, and harmony of purpose.

When we examine the lives of famous people, we often see how personal values guided them, propelling them to the top of their fields. For example, one actor was motivated by his commitment to social justice, which led to important acting roles related to that value that made him world famous. Likewise, a well-known business CEO was motivated by the personal value that technology should be easy to use, which caused his company to spawn a technology revolution. Whatever one's values, when we take them to heart and implement them in the smallest details of our lives, great accomplishment and success are sure to follow.

Just as individuals subscribe to values, so do organizations and institutions. In fact, if we were to examine any company, we would discover that one or more business values was the key to their success. Examples are --

-- Sears' commitment to trusting the customer. [From the 19th century onward, any product could be returned to the company with a money back guarantee, which engendered great trust in both directions, enabling booming sales, and, the great success for the firm that followed.]
-- Apple Computer's belief in the values of solving problems of society. [The company created the IPod player and ITunes online music store to overcome a conflict between those who sought to download copyrighted music for free and the music industry which sought to protect its artists and its revenues.]
-- Marriott's values of systemization and standardization. [The company created a standard model hotel, and then duplicated it hundreds of time around the world, enabling it to grow incredibly fast, and become the leader of its industry.]

Likewise, we see how political parties and politicians subscribe to certain core values -- ranging from helping the poor, easing the burden of the middle class, improving the environment, making government responsive and efficient, engendering loyalty and unity, and so forth.

The key point to keep in mind about values is that implementing them energizes everything concerned with it. For an individual, committing to and applying values releases fresh energies, which always attract success, achievement, and well-being. Likewise, when companies or other institutions adopt values, individuals working at the organization become energized, as do its customers, its products and services, and everyone and everything else associated with that organization.

We can energize our lives by making the full effort to implement the values we subscribe to. Once we identify values that are meaningful to us, we can develop strategies to implement them. When we make the determined effort to implement those strategies, good fortune is sure to follow -- in the form of new opportunities, new sources of revenue and income, and other forms of material and psychological benefit. We may even notice that as we implement values, we experiences instances of "life response" -- where good fortune suddenly comes to us from seemingly out of nowhere, defying our normal perceptions of what is logical and possible.

Below is a list of important personal values culled from years of observing individual achievement and success.

Common Personal Values

Accomplishment, Success

Accountability

Accuracy

Adventure

All for one & one for all

Beauty

Calm, quietude, peace

Challenge

Change

Charity

Cleanliness, orderliness

Collaboration

Commitment

Communication

Community

Competence

Competition

Concern for others

Connection

Content over form

Continuous improvement

Cooperation

Coordination

Creativity

Customer satisfaction

Decisiveness

Determination

Delight of being, joy

Democracy

Discipline

Discovery

Diversity

Dynamism

Ease of Use

Efficiency

Enjoyment

Equality

Excellence

Fairness

Faith

Faithfulness

Family

Family feeling

Flair

Freedom, Liberty

Friendship

Fun

Generosity

Gentleness

Global view

Goodwill

Goodness

Gratitude

Hard work

Happiness

Harmony

Health

Honor

Human-centered

Improvement

Independence

Individuality

Inner peace, calm, quietude

Innovation

Integrity

Intelligence

Intensity

Justice

Kindness

Knowledge

Leadership

Love, Romance

Loyalty

Maximum utilization 
(of time, resources)

Meaning

Merit

Money

Oneness

Openness

Other's point of view, inputs

Patriotism

Peace, Non-violence

Perfection

Personal Growth

Perseverance

Pleasure

Power

Practicality

Preservation

Privacy

Progress

Prosperity, Wealth

Punctuality

Quality of work

Regularity

Reliability

Resourcefulness

Respect for others

Responsiveness

Results-oriented

Rule of Law

Safety

Satisfying others

Security

Self-givingness

Self-reliance

Self-thinking

Sensitivity

Service 
(to others, society)

Simplicity

Skill

Solving Problems

Speed

Spirit, Spirituality in life

Stability

Standardization

Status

Strength
Succeed; A will to-
Success, Achievement

Systemization

Teamwork

Timeliness

Tolerance

Tradition

Tranquility

Trust

Truth

Unity

Variety

Well-being

Wisdom

 

(Also see a list of business values and social values can be implemented in business and society.)


2. Power  of Values to Shape Our Lives

In the mid 1970s, I made a decision to move to California from New York City, where I was raised. Why I did so, and why I made other decisive turns in my life is the subject of this essay. My first thought on the subject is that I took these actions simply because I was motivated to do so. And yet, what really motivates us in life are the things we truly value.

Then what were the values that compelled me to move to California -- in particular to the San Francisco Bay Area -- where I have resided for these last 30 years? Well, it is true that after five years attending college at frigid Syracuse University in upstate New York I was compelled to seek the warmer climes of California. But I could have moved south to Florida or to the Southwestern parts of the US. However, having been raised in the urban/suburban environment of New York City, I valued culture and a certain type of urban sophistication I might not find in those other locales. I also enjoyed being near the water, not only because of its shimmering beauty, but because cities at the edge of the great oceans tend to attract a diversity of people and a richness of culture from around the world.

Though climate, beauty, diversity, and culture influenced my decision, there must have been something more specific that compelled me to move to this region. Looking at it in retrospect, I have concluded that I came to the area because of the existence of Marin County -- the progressive community that lies directly across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Marin County at the time (and still is) was the prosperous land where many of the creative musicians, artists, and thinkers of the 1970s lived. From the articles and reports I had read while living on the East coast, the people who lived in that region were involved with matters that meant a great deal to me -- i.e. aspects of life that I truly valued. And because I deeply believed in those things, I wanted to be near them; to somehow participate in their way of life. And so I headed out to the SF Bay Area in 1975 in earnest -- and never looked back.

But I have still not identified the specific values of the Marinites that compelled me to join them. Let me try to list them for you. For one, the residents were in the vanguard of the changes going in society at the time -- including an appreciation of Eastern culture and spirituality, a concern for the quality of the physical environment, a dissatisfaction with the mindless materialism of modern life, the rejection of conformity of the previous generation, and the development of new forms of music that expressed their new world view. These were the underlying values that drove me to the region. These were the ideals and beliefs that shaped my life at the time, compelling me to venture across country.

Each of us is motivated to move our lives in certain directions. That motivation is determined by the values we subscribe to. Our values are thus the formations and ideations of thought, the distinct formulations of understanding that express what we perceive to be important truths about life. These ideals are then reinforced by our emotions and feelings, which turn those mental perception into a vital passion that we hope to realize in our lives. Whether we actually make the effort to implement them is another matter.

Without values or beliefs, we would be mechanical-like beings, driven here and there by the vicissitudes of life. Without values, we would be creature-like, compelled to action solely by our urges and passions. In this inhuman existence, there would be little consideration for truths we hold dear, let alone implement them to ennoble and enrich our lives. In this reality devoid of values, we would live unconscious lives, without meaning or purpose. On the other hand, when we take to values, we live a purposeful and dynamic existence -- i.e. we become truly human.

This being the case, what are the truths of life, i.e. the personal values that you believe in? What are the cherished ideals and beliefs that have shaped your life; that are motivating and driving your life today? Why not take a little time and come up with a short list, and then consider how each has or currently is shaping your life.

If we think about it, we will see that people relate to personal values in a number of ways. Thoughtful people are continually thinking about those things they cherish and believe in. Powerful people are also motivated and driven to implement them in their lives. In fact, the most successful people are constantly evaluating their values, and are continually driven to turn them into a living reality. For these individuals, values are an inexhaustible source of inner power that energizes them to no end; driving them to the heights of success, while bringing about deep fulfillment in their lives.

Interestingly, not only do values energize us, but when we implement them, it energizes everything they come in contact with! If I apply the value of customer service and delight when I speak with the client, I energize the conversation, which leads to greater response from the person on the other end, who is now motivated to purchase the services I am offering. Also, if I am truly sincere in my belief in customer satisfaction, I create an added value that reinforces and builds on the first one. A combination of values applied to a situation dramatically energizes circumstances, which not only increases the likelihood of success, but turns the interaction into an enjoyable, even thrilling experience. Thus, implementing values have an innate capacity to create more energy, accomplishment, and joy in living.

Values are actually a very special power in the universe. It is one our minds can grasp for the purpose of uplifting life. Values are actually spiritual skills -- a divine gift that comes to us from the infinite Source of things. The highest of principles -- such as Oneness, Love, Beauty, and others -- descend from the heavens, and are reinterpreted as values by our minds. For example, the spiritual principle of Oneness is recognized by our minds as values of cooperation, integration, teamwork, and others. Likewise, the universal principle of Love expresses through values of goodness, selflessness, self-givingness, openness, tolerance, respect for others, and a number of others.

The last twenty-five years has seen an explosion in an interest in values. Tom Peters' book 'In Search of Excellence' started the ball rolling for values in the workplace. Religious leaders speak of family values, nations speak of moral values, spiritual teachers speak of the highest values of gratitude, benevolence, and self-givingness; even self-surrender to the Divine. Values drive us, motivate us, move life, move us forward -- enabling progress even evolution. Values are what enables life to take the Next Step -- whether they drive our own individual lives in a positive direction; improve the economic, social, and cultural conditions of a nation; or move society forward in its never-ending ascending path of progress.

Tolerance, openness, respect for the individual, and teamwork are several great human values, while Oneness, Love, Beauty, and Truth are some of higher spiritual values that they derive from. At certain points, the human and spiritual values come together and blend into one another, expressing through spiritualized human values such as selflessness, self-givingness, and gratitude.

Values are expressions of emotionalized truths that when implemented energize whatever they come in contact with, enabling the greatest positive results with the least effort in the shortest period of time -- whether it is for the individual, a collective, or society as a whole.

Values are the nexus to our future progress. It is the call of the Divine to the minds of men to seek a better life -- to pursue ultimate delight and fulfillment in life.


3. Advanced Thoughts on Values

What is a Value?

Values are psychological objects. Although we cannot see or touch them, they are every bit as real as any physical object. People may dedicate their entire lives or even give up their lives to pursue their values, as so many loyal patriots have done fighting for values of freedom, equality and human rights during the past two centuries.

We all have values that determine our decisions and guide our lives. Those who value their individuality take responsibility, are self-reliant and act with self-respect. Those who value truthfulness cannot bring themselves to tell a lie. Those who value family or friendship sacrifice their personal interests for the good of others. Those who value goodness cannot bring themselves to do something they know is wrong. We express values in our relations with other people when we are loyal, reliable, honest, generous, trusting, trustworthy, feel a sense of responsibility for family, friends, co-workers, our organization, community or country. On a more physical level, we may place great value on cleanliness, punctuality, orderliness, accuracy, quality, and physical perfection in whatever we do.



 

Values, Accomplishment, and our Psychological Energies

Accomplishment in life depends not only on physical energy, but even more on the intensity of psychological energy we are able to bring to our action. Interest, commitment, determination, passion, drive, enthusiasm are some of the ways in which we characterize the intensity of our psychological energy. It turns out that values direct our psychological energies for accomplishment. The scholar with a passion for accuracy will expend enormous energy in the search for facts and the effort to impartially verify them. Once he does so, his work will be relied upon by others and gain a reputation for its veracity. The gymnast or figure skater with a passion for perfection will continue to practice throughout her career to hone her skills, moved by the quest for the value of perfection - that score of perfect 10. The artist, musician, engineer, the chef, the flight attendant, the accountant are all guided by values in the execution of their work and the results they achieve are directly related to the level of values they attain. Thus, we see that Values determine the intensity and flow of our psychological energies.

In the end, the quality of the values we embrace and the intensity of our commitment to them determines the level of our accomplishment in life.


Values as the Highest Psychological Form for Accomplishment

We can see a continuum of psychological forms from data to values.
  • Data are mental facts derived from sense observation.
  • Information is data organized by the physical mind into meaningful relationships.
  • Thoughts are specific conclusions or observations drawn from the information.
  • Ideas are generalized conceptions derived from specific thoughts.
  • Opinions are thoughts which the mind endorses and the ego identifies as its own.
  • Beliefs are ideas which the mind endorses and the mental ego identifies with as true for its life.
  • Attitudes are opinions endorsed and energized by the vital ego.
  • Values are idealized conceptions that are endorsed by the personality.

In terms of accomplishment, thoughts are mental forms of energy which do not necessarily lead to action. Ideas carry the energy of mental understanding. Opinions carry the force of mental conviction. Attitudes carry the vital force of our emotional endorsement. Values carry the power of psychological commitment and determination. Values issue from a deeper or higher center of motivation in our personalities and therefore carry far greater power than our opinions and attitudes.




Origin of Values - from Life and from Spirit

From below, society acquires values through a long process of trial and error experimentation with various approaches to life. Over years and centuries, the collective comes to recognize that certain principles or guidelines are essential for the survival or vital for the growth of the individual and the community. They learn by experience to value these essential principles and pass them on to future generations as cultural guidelines for action. They discover that cleanliness is essential for heath. Punctuality and regularity of action are essential for success in agriculture. Honesty and truthfulness are essential in trade. Loyalty and patriotism are essential for the integrity and defense of the community. Responsibility, generosity and self-sacrifice are the bedrocks of the family.

From above, enlightened individuals directly experienced higher states of spiritual consciousness and perceived self-existent truths of the spiritual reality that manifested the universe. They discovered the essence of what we call God, Spirit or Divinity expresses itself as fundamental spiritual values in the universe such as Freedom, Peace, Truth, Unity, Goodness, Harmony, Beauty, Love, Joy, and Self-Giving. They recognized that the more you strive to live by these values, the higher you rise in consciousness and the more the higher spiritual consciousness enters your being and expresses in your life. The wise perceived that the values derived from life experience are derivative truths and lower expressions of these same higher spiritual values and stepping stones on the ascending stair of evolution. E.g. the human value of tolerance can be said to be a reflection and melding of the spiritual values of Freedom, Goodness, and Harmony; and the value of honesty is honesty is a reflection of the spiritual value of Truth.


4. Example Values

Here are some thoughts on several of the more interesting personal values listed above:

Simplicity
In this time of great complexity and hurry, there is no more important personal value than "simplicity." Taking the time to simplify anything that is overly complex is a very helpful skill in these rapidly accelerating times. Simplifying a work not only streamlines it, but make it more effective and productive, leading to greater results when compared to its former complex arrangement.

Strategies:
-Take any important work or project in your life and come up with at least two ways to simplify it.
-Develop a half dozen ways to simplify your life.

Harmony
Harmony is the coming together of disparate elements for common purpose. It is the moving together of varied or opposing forces, so that they emerge in a higher truth that all can benefit from (not merely a compromised truth). The value of Teamwork is one variation of the value of Harmony, as is the value of Organization. Harmony is such noble and elevated a value that it can be considered a spiritual value.

Strategies:
Make harmony a permanent personal value that you believe in and practice. Over the next few days and weeks notice points of conflict that appear in your work and life and seek to implement a higher truth, or point of view, or action in each situation that can harmonize the opposing ideas, conflicts between people, and other forms of opposition.

(For additional thoughts on harmony, click here.)

Content Over Form
We know the expression "don't judge a book by its cover". It means that is what is inside that is important, not the superficial surface. This expresses in a variety of ways in life. For example, any serious person will judge the truer, deeper meaning of a thing, rather than merely its outer form. A tendency to react to the outer aspect and not its intrinsic value prevents one from getting at the heart, the inherent truth of the matter, taking one away from the full knowledge that would have led to right decisions and actions, and thus great accomplishment and success in life.

It is from the depths of situations and circumstance that you find its essence. For example, if one admires another's social position, instead of their true accomplishment, including the values they subscribe to, you will miss the key to their success, and therefore fail to learn from it. Or, if you are merely evaluating a person from the shallow perspective of their appearance, or quickly coming to a conclusion based on a brief acquaintance, then you also miss the deeper and wider truths behind. If you judge a book by its cover you will never get to know the depths of others, and the true meaning of life's situations.

Strategies:
Consider various circumstances in your life where the outer or surface form is more important to you than its intrinsic content and value. Adjust your attitudes and beliefs accordingly.

Concern for Others
Perhaps the single most powerful way to succeed in life is to have more concern for our fellow human beings.  Normally, we are overwhelmingly concerned about our own selves, driven by our own personal motives and ambitions. However, the happiest people literally lose themselves in the feelings, thoughts, and aspirations of others.

Are you ready to "forget yourself" and be genuinely interested in the welfare of others?  Are you willing to be tolerant and kind to others, listen attentively and silently to their words, be non-judgmental, and open to their opinions and points of view?  If you are, you're an excellent candidate for great success in life, not to mention an ever-increasing personal happiness and joy.

Strategies:
Try a little experiment. When you meet with others, immediately put yourself in their shoes. Think only of what they want. Listen carefully to their thoughts and feelings, and show genuine concern and empathy. Do this for the entire meeting. Now watch how the interaction goes. Watch how the energy level of the other person increases. The other individual becomes more animated and involved.

In addition, if you watch closely, you may notice some interesting things starting to happen. An unthought of point of view or perspective may be raised in the conversation. New ideas or fresh new insights are suddenly revealed. Or, a new interesting idea, project or event might suddenly come out of the discussion. This all happens because you have shifted your concern toward the other person.

(For additional thoughts on concern for others, click here)

Practicality
Often people with great talent, artistic temperament, or other qualities fail to achieve because they are not practical in their thoughts and deeds. For example, when important opportunities come their way, they shun them; or they have a prejudiced view about the value of money, i.e. they shun it. Any attempt on one's part to be more practical will rapidly catapult one from one's current status towards the pinnacle of success.

Strategies:
List two to four ways you have been or are impractical in life. Now make an effort to your ways. keep reaffirming your new approach till it becomes part of your being. If you are not sure if and how you are impractical, why not be brave and ask those who are looking out for your best interests for their opinions.

Integrity, Honesty
Sometimes people don't say what they mean in order to hide something, protect themselves or someone else, or simply because they are trying to deceive in order to gain from circumstance. Do you have any of these traits? If so, why (i.e. where do they come from)? What can you do to overcome these tendencies?  

(For additional thoughts on honesty, click here)

Results-Oriented
Some people do their work to keep busy, occupied, entertained or otherwise pass the time. A key to success and achievement in life is to insure that the activities you are engaged leads to a constructive, useful purpose. Those who value real results from actions they take make far greater use of their time, leading to higher levels of success and achievement in life.

Hard Work
It is universally agreed that hard work is one of the keys to success in life and work. Without it, few can succeed. A person may not be hard working for a number of reasons -- the influence of parents, a lack of energy, a lack of motivation, a bad experience, pure laziness, etc. Consider why you may not be hard working, and then make a determined effort to change the behavior. Keep up the effort over time. Watch how life continually blossoms with good fortune!

(For additional thoughts on hard work, click here[ep]

Continuous Improvement/Progress
One of the most interesting values in life is one's innate desire for continuous improvement. Both individuals and organizations, such as a business, can adopt this value. For example, continuous improvement for an individual might can come in the form of a continuous urge to increase one's knowledge and skills in an area, a desire to improve one's attitudes and temperament, or a desire to do things better or get the best out of things. A company on the other hand can implement the value by continually evaluating and upgrading its procedures, the way it interacts with its customers, the way it treats its employees, and many other ways.

Any value when applied can create a positive response from life. Consider this example where an individual's interest in implementing the values of continuous improvement for her company created a positive result that came out of nowhere.:

I am working in Railway Recruitment Board and in-charge of entire pre-examination work. We have an elaborate procedure for conducting examinations and have to work in so many stages. A week back I was discussing with my Chairman the possibility of candidates giving their examinations electronically, which may also bring down expenditure. But my Chairman was apprehensive and it ended our discussion. But within myself, I strongly believed that it was possible.

After two/three days he called me to say that he has got an invitation from a Foreign based Computer Firm who were launching their new software, and since he was preoccupied he had proposed my name to represent our organization.

When I attended, to my surprise I could learn that the software was all about enabling candidates to give different types of examinations through Computers. I not only enjoyed the program but also could interact and get clarifications on various points of its practical feasibility.

(For more on this extraordinary phenomenon of "life response," click here.)

Respect for the Individual
One of the most significant personal values is to look on every person as a special, unique individual. This form of deep respect for each person has the power of generating good will, great happiness, and great achievement.

-Every time you meet someone listen to their story and show and feel a great interest and respect. Also, see what unique perspective, knowledge, or insight they can offer. Then be totally responsive to their interests. Make this a regular daily habit in life. Ultimately, make this a value that you cherish.


SELF-ANALYSIS:
-Think about two to five values that have shaped your life. If necessary, refer to the list above. Also think about specific ways they have benefited you in your life.

-Now review the list above and consider which one or two new values you would like to implement in your life. Now think about the specific ways you can implement them. Then come up with a detailed action plan (using specific dates for action) to implement the values in your life. Make sure you review your plan down the line to evaluate the progress you are making so far.

-Make your values, including, your new values, the cornerstone of your life. Contemplate them deeply and see that they fill all aspects of your life and being.


Additional Information

 

PERSONAL VALUES

To see additional thoughts and essays on Personal Values, please click here.

 

SOCIETY'S VALUES

-To see additional thoughts and essays on Society's Values, please click here.

-For a list of social values (i.e. values of society) , click here.

 

VALUES IN BUSINESS

-To see additional thoughts and essays on using Values in Business, please click here.

-For a discussion of how values are developed and implemented in the business environment, click here.

 

OTHER

To see how the above values (and related social values) are categorized by spiritual principle, click here

 

 

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