Who Are You at Your Core? (How Values Impact Decision-making)

There’s nothing tastier, in my opinion, than a sweet bite of a ripe peach on a hot summer day. The smell, the juiciness, the texture—they all combine to make the perfect blend of yumminess.

Unless, of course, what’s inside of the peach is off.

Sometimes it’s impossible to know until I take that first bite. Everything on the outside looks great. It feels right—not too soft, not too firm. It has the right color. It smells delicious. I take a giant bite and then…huh?

What a disappointment!

I’ve had that same experience with people. And sometimes, with myself. That’s because we don’t always live up to our (or others’) expectations.

Those expectations are the result of something very important, something that emanates from the very core of who we are—our values.

To live with divine intention you must live the right values

It starts with a general uneasiness—I know something’s wrong but what? Then it becomes a little niggle at the back of my mind. I push it away, but it persists. My uneasiness grows, turns into anxiety. Finally I can’t ignore it anymore. Something I’m doing, or getting ready to do, is not aligned with my values.

Values are those deeply held beliefs or principles that guide your decision-making. They are expressed both internally, in the way you think and perceive things, and externally, through your behaviors. Some values lead to positive outcomes, some to negative ones. But in order to live authentically and intentionally, you must live your values.

There are two types of values: core values (primary) and variable values (secondary). Your primary values rarely change. These values are integral to your self-worth. You cannot live without them. And when you step away from them your conscience lets you know.

An example of a primary value may be your faith in God. While your understanding of what it means to have faith may change over time, your belief about the need to have faith doesn’t.

Secondary values, however, can shift over time as you age, mature and reflect on where you are in your life. As you get older you may place more value on time with your family than you did when you were starting out professionally. Or, you may place less value on the quest to make money. Your desire to please others may be replaced with a desire to surround yourself with genuine, healthy relationships.

Secondary values only exist in the context of your primary values. After all, what’s the point of having secondary values if you don’t know, or live, the primary ones?

How can you know the difference? Take something that you believe is essential. For example, in a romantic relationship that may be a man who shares your spiritual beliefs. You also want a man who is honest and communicates well. Now, remove the first element. Do you still want the relationship even though he possesses some of the qualities you value?

Just like that peach that I bit into, if my core values are not based on the right things, then it doesn’t matter if everything else looks or seems good—something will be off. I might be able to fool people for a while. But over time my actions will reveal to everyone what really matters to me.

You need to know where your values come from before you can purposefully live by them 

Your values are shaped by several factors: upbringing, knowledge, emotion, thought and perception. How you determine them and how you live them is critical because they influence everything—the way you see the world and the way you respond to it. They are the basis for how you make ethical decisions. In turn, your individual values help to shape societal views. As the moral and ethical standards of a society change, so do the laws that govern it. Conversely, as societal values change so do individual ones, if you allow your individual values to be shaped by societal pressure and public opinion.

If you are ambivalent about your values then there’s a greater chance that you will follow the mainstream in accepting what is or is not moral or ethical. Which means, of course, that your thoughts and actions will also be dictated by mainstream opinion.

Are you okay with that?

I’m not. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I always live my values. No one does. That’s why I’ve learned to pay attention to that uneasiness that I occasionally feel. It tells me that I need to take a hard look at what I’m currently doing to make sure it matches up with what I profess to live by.

Few people actually choose their values, but if you want to live a divinely intentional life you must. You cannot simply adopt the values of others’. That’s because they may be carrying you down a path that’s leading you away from where you want to go!

Consider possible sources that may be influencing your values:

  • Your parents
  • Your closest friends
  • Your extended family
  • Your spouse
  • Your church
  • Your colleagues
  • Your peers
  • The Bible
  • Your culture
  • Your community
  • Your sources of entertainment

Knowing what your values are, where they come from and why you have them is foundational. Only then can you determine which ones are primary and which ones are secondary. Which ones you will purposefully allow to influence your decision-making from this point forward, and which ones you will let go of.

Are your choices leading you to…or away…from your values?

Back to that peach. What makes it so yummy, so worth eating, is what’s inside of it! I want what’s inside of me to be delicious too—to God, first and foremost, and to everyone else in my life. That means I have to be very purposeful about my choices. But if I don’t know what I’m basing my choices on, how can I be?

Sometimes our values are right, but the choices we’re making aren’t leading us to them. If that’s the case it may be time to step back and ask yourself some important questions:

  • How do you determine the right values from the wrong ones?
  • If you don’t have the right values, what will happen?
  • Is it enough to just trust whether those values feel right or wrong?
  • How do you know when you need to step back and reevaluate whether your intentional choices are fundamentally sound at the core?
  • What do you do when you realize you’ve been living an intentional life based on the wrong values, or when your choices aren’t leading you to the right ones?

A recent conversation with a client illustrates this. *Jan has been pursuing money her whole career. Money represented stability and security. She grew up with poverty and it was a difficult life. So she determined that being wealthy would be her primary measure of success. She likened it to climbing a mountain. With each purposeful career decision she made, she climbed higher. Her responsibilities grew. Her salary grew. Now she’s at the top of the mountain, but she’s discovered that she doesn’t like the view.

She climbed the wrong mountain.

Even though she was very intentional about it, Jan’s goal of being wealthy didn’t lead her to her core values of stability and security.

Jan’s values weren’t actually at fault. It was her faulty reasoning that money would achieve those things for her that steered her wrong. That’s because you have to also consider the “means” and the “end.”

In Jan’s mind, money equaled stability and security. Now she realizes that’s not true at all—that stability and security come from developing her relationship with God.

Money, however, does give her the means to achieve the end result for other things she values: having the freedom to travel, pursue educational goals and spend time with family, amongst others. Once she realized what her values are, she was able to identify what actions would actually help her live them.

True happiness comes from living your values

Finally, consider just two ways that your values impact your wellbeing:

Your relationships

Picking the right friends, the right spouse, requires more than just sharing common interests. If you don’t know what you really value in a relationship then you’re doomed to keep picking the same kind of person over and over, but expecting a different result—relationship insanity!

Living your values also leads to healthy boundaries, which set the guidelines for the relationship. They identify what you’re willing to accept or not accept.

Your job

Organizations have values too. Those values reflect either the core values of the current leaders or their predecessors. This is important to know when you’re looking to get hired. Does the organization value “timeless traditions”? Is it still running things the way they were done decades ago? Do they believe in top-down administration? Are decisions being made in closed door meetings with very little input from employees? Does the organization foster a culture of trust and openness, or one of fear of retribution, which leads to distrust?  Does it value innovation and collaboration? Is bureaucracy within the organization creating rigidity and limiting the ease and flow of decision-making? Does the organization foster caring and connection and create a sense of loyalty and belonging among employees?

These things are important to know if you want to experience job satisfaction.

You Are Your Values

Values matter! They are the core of who you are, and your core needs to be firm and consistent. It doesn’t change from situation to situation. It isn’t based on how you feel. It doesn’t expose itself to dangerous influences. It remains the same, founded on tried and true principles, found in God’s Word.

So what kind of peach are you? The kind that looks good? Or the kind that tastes good too?


*Name changed to protect privacy

Sources:

  1. https://www.valuescentre.com/mapping-values/values/why-values-are-important
  2. https://www.valuescentre.com/sites/default/files/uploads/2010-07-06/The%20Importance%20of%20Values.pdf
  3. https://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/understanding-your-core-values-in-relationships-no-theyre-not-your-common-interests/
  4. https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Values-and-culture-in-ethical-decision-making.aspx
  5. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/201205/personal-growth-your-values-your-life

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