“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ’em all over everything you do” is a quote attributed to Elvis Presley and never a truer word was spoken about values. Nobody is born with values but, through how we were parented, specific incidents and the societal culture we were raised in, we acquire personal values, whether we know it or not. In his quote, Elvis nicely highlights three points about values:
- We all have values, whether we are aware of them or not.
- We all define our values differently.
- We act on our values.
1. We All Have Values
Aside from sociopaths, we all have values, whether we’re aware of them or not. I define Values as “a set of standards that we expect ourselves, and others, to live up to.” Some people are very aware of their personal values. That could be through having a strong sense of self or through observational feedback from others or through exploring them with a life or executive coach.
Others don’t have a clear awareness of their personal values but, like our fingerprints and Covid9, just because we don’t know, or we forget that they exist, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
2. We Define Our Values Differently
There are lots of different values, such as Respect, Integrity, Humility, Efficiency, Inclusiveness, Curiosity. We typically each have about 3-5 core values that we seek to uphold fairly regularly. Some values, such as Respect, Integrity, Honesty, are fairly common values . When working with coaching clients, many identify Respect or Fairness as one of their values. So, for a group of people. their headline value of, let’s say, Respect might be the same but, does that automatically mean each person’s definition of Respect is the same? Elvis’ point is that people’s combination of values and their definitions of those values are all slightly different and, in my experience, I agree with him.
For example, one person might define Respect as “manners”, such as opening and closing doors, following up with Thank You cards, etc. Another person might define Respect as “listening to others’ perspectives” while a third might define Respect as ” respecting others’ needs over own needs i.e, self-respect is less important than respecting others”. The headline value indicates that these 3 individuals all have a value of Respect but their definitions of what that means is very different. Which leads us nicely to…
3. We Act on Our Values
We act off our thoughts and our thoughts bubble up from a combination of our conscience and sub-conscience. If we’re aware of our values and beliefs, our thoughts are more likely to come from our conscience. A lack of awareness results in our thoughts more likely to bubble up from our sub-conscience. Regardless, the important point is that we act off our thoughts, which is what Elvis is referring to when he says “you leave ’em over everything you do.”
We think in terms of what is coherent with our values and beliefs. So, we behave in terms of what is coherent with our values and beliefs. We make decisions in terms of our values and beliefs. We talk in terms of our values and beliefs. We do this whether we are aware of our values or not. Most importantly to our mental health, when we don’t behave consistent with our values, we end up in a state of internal conflict, or intra-personal conflict, as I call it.
Personal Values Summary
To summarise, we all have values, whether we are aware of them or not. We act off our values and, when we don’t, we end up in a state of conflict. We don’t all have the same values and, when we have similar values, we might not define them in the same way. However, we expect ourselves and others to live up to our values. So, if others don’t live up to our values, we may come into conflict with others.
Share your own personal values and how you define them in the comments below. Or share what you think what values might drive the following comments:
- He asked the others did they want to get involved and it’s so unfair, as I’ve been working on the project for weeks.
- And then he just slammed the file on my desk.
- Well, she asked me what I thought of the idea, so I told her and then she got all narky with me.