What are values?
Values are a shorthand method of describing what is important to us individually or collectively (as an organisation, community or nation) at any given moment in time.
They are ‘shorthand’ because the concepts that values represent can usually be captured in one word or a short phrase. For example, honesty, openness, compassion, long-term perspective and human rights can all be considered as values. Values are universal because they transcend contexts. Beliefs, on the other hand, are contextual—they are culturally defined. From a societal perspective, we can say that values unite and beliefs separate.
What I am also suggesting, because our values represent what is important to us at any given moment in time, is that our values are not fixed. The values that are important to you at this particular moment in your life are a reflection of the stage of psychological development you have reached and your ability to get, have or experience what you value in your current life conditions. We always value what is missing from our lives and what we feel we cannot live without.
Not all our values change as we grow older. There are some values that we hold dear throughout our lives. For example, some people will always have honesty as one of their core values. Others give more importance to honesty once they reach middle age. They begin to recognize that honesty is an important component of integrity, and integrity brings many benefits; not the least of which is that it is significant enabler of trust. Trust facilitates personal and business interactions and enables us more easily to meet our needs. As soon as people recognise this linkage between honesty, integrity and trust, honesty will begin to have a higher priority in their value rankings.
A good way to begin reading this book is to carry out your own personal values assessment by going to www.valuescentre.com/pva. You will be asked to pick your top ten personal values. When you have completed this short survey, you will receive a Personal Values Report by email within a few minutes. Read the report, do the exercises, and then turn to the pages of this book that discuss your values. This may give you a different perspective and added insights into the values you have chosen.
Another way of using this book is to choose a different page number every day and read about the value on that page.
If you are facing a difficult decision or situation you can allow your intuition to guide you to open the book to a particular page and see how the value you have found can inform you about what you need to do.
Putting this book together has been a mammoth task for Patrik Somers. I would like to congratulate him on this initiative and thank all the contributors.
Richard Barrett (FRSA) is an author, speaker and social commentator on the evolution of human values in business and society. He is the Founder and Chairman of the Barrett Values Centre and an internationally recognized thought leader on values, culture, leadership and consciousness.