Focus on Defining Your Values is Critical

Ron McIntyre
7 min readMar 25, 2022

In today’s world, we hear a lot about emotional intelligence and how it can affect our careers and lives to better ourselves and others. However, it begins with understanding our values.

“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.” Gene Roddenberry

Your values are those ethical principles that form your internal belief structure or foundation. It defines what you view as good and what is highly important to you. Essentially, they should reflect what you stand for, your viewpoints, and your view on life.

Values define you as a person. They guide you in your personal and business decision-making. They also help demonstrate how to live and act in public and private. They are coupled to your personality traits and how you function alone and with other people. They provide a framework for your social interactions and work with other people.

Many ask if it is possible to outline your value structures. However, few take the time to reflect and understand their impact consciously. Many of our values are inherited. Many have risen from our experiences, subconscious and almost automatically. Many may not indeed be your own.

They amalgamated from what we observed, learned, and felt in childhood and teen years. Experiences, failures, and successes then adapt them as we age.

If our early life was abusive or from an uncaring culture, we might choose to have values that reject the values we assimilated in this period. These tend to be much more consciously determined based on our choices moving forward.

Values determination of others, in my world, are not driven by external evaluation of skin color, culture, or messaging but rather by insight, discussion, and actions observed.

To be solid personal values, they must provide us with an understanding of right and wrong, or in other words, a moral compass. We often refer to them as our internal conscience.

When we allow it to, it will speak to us. It may condemn or praise us. For example, if it bothers you when you don’t tell the truth, your conscience speaks to you. Some refer to this as a guilty conscience. Its role is to act as your judge so you can keep your behaviors aligned to your values.

What are some moral values that can influence your interactions in life?

First and foremost, we have to have a common foundation to build from since all of these can be internalized positively or negatively, depending on the subculture and experiences of the person.

For this article, I am presenting “values” as those behaviors and beliefs that can help us understand respect and care for ourselves and others. They are the principles that allow us to function in a society with some level of peace, order, and cooperation.

There are many; however, your list may include some of the following:

Love, Honesty, Compassion, Communication, Humility, Joyfulness, Trustfulness, Equality, Creativity, Forgiveness, Acceptance, Certainty, Freedom, Kindness, Intellect, Diversity, Generosity, Passion, Inclusion, Patience, Discipline, Respect for life, Resilience, Visionary, Self-control, Courage, Faith, Humility, Family, Growth, Equality, Selflessness, Stability

While many different characteristics can be applied and used as values, we, as humans, work better when we consolidate and simplify the equations. As you begin your journey down this road of discovery, selectively sort down the number to a few core values that you will hold onto even during the hard times of life. If done authentically and honestly, the benefits will compound and influence your life and others and hopefully future generations positively.

How can You Define Your Core Values?

· Always be self-aware, know what you’re doing and why.

Every day you will find yourself in a raft of situations that cause you to react to something you experienced or question another’s actions. Too often, we respond with unconscious, perhaps incorrect, responses. Unconscious values are much like unconscious biases. They usually only pop up when we are forced to react, so being aware of them ahead of time allows us the ability to choose how we respond.

Ideally, you need to step back and review what should be the best thing to do in that situation. Use your mind instead of your instincts to deal with problems. By intentionally choosing the appropriate action to take in the case, it will positively impact you and those around you.

When you act only on your emotions, the response often becomes unreliable. Suppose your values are a byproduct of your thinking ability, logic, and the power of reason, then instincts and impulses can be incorporated in the evaluation.

Likewise, desires can be integrated easily, and the balance can be a very positive outcome. Your actions become part of how you choose to live, not driven by primitive instinct or selfish impulse.

Similarly, when you only focus on your intellect to define your values, there is a chance that they will become sterile and rigid. When this happens, then you begin to lose sight of your humanity.

I have found that personal values develop best as a combination of intellect integrated with some influence by emotions. The combination provides the best of our human nature and allows us the freedom to embrace the future with dignity and grace.

· Always examine your motivation.

Understanding why you do something and act the way you do is advantageous. It is not easy, but it anchors your values to something beyond emotions. It allows your values to become more structured and focused, making them more powerful. Motivations are often masked behind unconscious biases or values, which can misdirect our intention and desire for service and benefit.

Awareness of personal motivation helps strengthen, regulate, or change your behavior.

· You can train your conscience.

Once your values are well thought out and become more focused, you will be able to work on training your conscience. Constantly watch for the red flags that your conscience puts up when it senses wrongdoing, falsehood, or other negative issues. You will become desensitized and eventually ambivalent to these situations by ignoring them.

The conscience provides signs that urge you to correct any mistakes that you may have made. Mistakes provide the best learning scenarios in life. We will never find these being taught by any mentor, school, or guru. So, it behooves you to listen to your conscience for the benefit of all.

· Always examine the options and possible consequences.

Learning to identify your options and potential consequences is critical to the transition from value theory to action. For example, every day, you have the choice to lie or not. You have the choice to act ethically or unethically at work and home. These are some of your options.

Start by weighing the positives and negatives of your options and potential consequences. Knowing right from wrong is only the starting point because you must create a positive action that will benefit yourself and those around you to be successful. It’s vital that you begin to appreciate and understand the benefits of doing right and the possible consequences of doing wrong.

· Learn from your past.

Learn from your past, live in your present, and anticipate your future. We should never live in the past because we will become stale and depressed. As we mentioned before, when you learn from your past mistakes, you create life lessons that can continue to grow.

Why? You will have been in a place where you made a mistake and suffered the consequences and thereby learned from that experience.

Today, we are too eager to blame someone else for our mistakes. It may be our parents, our boss, spouse, or kids. But to grow, you must be willing to accept the consequences of your actions and pay the price.

Part of paying the price understands how you respect yourself and each other in relationships, work, and society. Until you know the necessity of respecting others and balancing selfishness and selflessness, you will struggle with maintaining your values.

Why Is It Important to Have Well-Defined Values?

It is said that social values change with time. We are all imperfect, so value structures may become subjective and open to frequent changes over time if we leave them to float and remain unfocused.

Having well-defined values can help you change your perspective on moral dilemmas when you encounter them and help anchor your life.

On the other hand, when you don’t have well-defined values or values that conflict internally, struggling with moral issues can lead to stress, anxiety, and even helplessness.

● Values can provide you with a path to a sense of self and a career path that will be rewarding.

● Values can increase your self-confidence while helping you declutter your mind, desires, and selfishness.

● Values allow you to make choices when you are forced into difficult situations that will occur. At the same time, they will enable you to make better choices that provide for better outcomes.

● Values will allow you to define and articulate your purpose in life much better. They will also empower your ability to find happiness and contentment with life.

What matters are your values — when you become successful, will you disregard selected values such as courage and perseverance, which helped get you where you are now? The answer lies within you.

But remember that a strong person possesses deep-rooted moral values that don’t shift on a whim. Values help us define and use choice in our lives for improvement. Reaction and survival modes limit choice.

Ron McIntyre

Ron McIntyre is a Leadership Anthropologist, Author, and Consultant, who, in semi-retirement, is looking to help people who really want to make a difference.