Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Values and Meaning – What Is Important and Why?

In the business world, values and mission statements have been discussed for a long time already – although in many cases they have been more like just plain words and a part of the company image, than actually guiding operators of action. If we, however, really give them some actual focus, they can have a huge significance in our lives, especially in a long run.
Very few of us have considered these things on our own personal level, though. This is a pity, since values and meanings play a remarkable role when it comes to achieving personal success and happiness.
“Knowing what your values are is excellent, because happiness comes from living your values every single day, regardless of how close or far away your goals may seem to be.” - Paul McKenna

Consideration of this subject is good to start by asking yourself: “what is important to me?” – and wait for the answer. As you ask yourself this question, you will probably get a small list of values like money, love, happiness, success, kids, work etc. These first values are usually more or less obvious and therefore we should not necessarily settle for them only.
We should go and examine this first list a little deeper. You can do this by asking yourself: “what is important to me about money?” or “why is love important to me?” and so on. Ask these questions regarding every value on your list.
Now you probably start to get some different kind of answers, like “with money I can feed my family,” “with money I can improve my quality of life,” “being loved makes me happy,” “having someone to love means that I care for other people” or perhaps something similar or maybe something totally different.
You can continue asking these “what is important to me about…?” and “why is (X) important to me?” questions for quite a long time per value. This way we can very often reveal some deeper values that are, in fact, more important to us than the values that first come to our mind.
After you have listed a total of about six to ten values, it is important to put them into an order of importance. This can be achieved by comparing the values in pairs.
So, take the first two values on your list and ask yourself, which one is more important? After you know the answer to that, take the one that is more important to you and make the same comparison to the third value on your list. For example, if the first two values on your list are money and love, ask yourself first: “which one is more important to me, money or love?” Let’s say that you find love to be more important of those two and the third value on your list is happiness, you then ask yourself: “which one is more important to me, love or happiness?” Again, take the more important value from these two and make the comparison between that and the fourth value on your list.
Go through your whole list of values this way, all the way down to the last value. Whatever value “wins” the last comparison, is your most important value. Write it down on a new list as your Number 1 Value and strike it out from your original list.
Now go through the comparisons again with the rest of the values on your list. Whatever value “wins” this round is your second most important value. Write it down on the new list as your Number 2 Value and strike it out from your original list. Keep on working this way until you have put all your values into a value hierarchy.
Next it is time to examine your value hierarchy a bit closer. Are there any value conflicts present? A value conflict may be born when one value, in one way or another, prevents the fulfillment of another value. For example, let’s say that you have “freedom” as your Number 1 Value and “family” as your Number 2 Value. Now, in some level, you might feel that having a family prevents you from achieving the freedom in life that you desire and that might be a remarkable value conflict for you.
Value conflicts are quite common and they can significantly prevent us from achieving the success and happiness we desire. A value conflict can in fact very well be the key issue there.
Another thing to look for is if there are any values in your hierarchy that are based on avoidance of something. This is important because if there are values that are based on avoiding something, it means that your focus is then on the negative, and every time you focus on something that you don’t want, you’ll feel bad (you can read more about this subject in my blog article "Feeling Bad vs. Feeling Good."). For example, if the importance of family is based on your avoidance of being lonely, it means that at least part of your focus on family gives you, in fact, bad feelings.
What has been explained above, is a rather simple way of finding out what is important to us in life. When we examine the questions long and deep enough, we might find an answer to as big a question as what is the purpose of our life.
Whether you find your purpose of life through defining your value hierarchy or not, it would be quite beneficial for you to write your own mission statement, based on your values. A mission statement is a compressed, one or two sentence long, description of what is most important to you. It could be something like: “My mission in life is to help in a best possible way my children to start their own independent lives and live my own life to the fullest.”
Okay, that might not touch you, but do write your own mission statement!
As I have stated earlier, companies have declared their mission statements for ages already. Microsoft, for example, states that their mission and values are the following: “At Microsoft, our mission and values are to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.” As another example, Nike’s mission statement is “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
So why is finding out our values and mission or purpose in life so important? Values and purpose give us a direction. Without direction and purpose, our life – or in a company’s case, their business – will easily drift to areas that do not bring us satisfaction, not to mention happiness. Values and purpose, along with well-formed goals, will help us keep the right direction in our lives and in our actions. And when we keep moving toward a direction in our life that brings us the most satisfaction and pleasure, then life itself will be worth living.
To bring that business aspect along a bit more, just imagine how it would feel like to work in a company that has a clear direction and that has products or services that really matter?
“Effective mission statements have three qualities in common: passion, purpose and direction.” - Richard Bandler & Garner Thomson

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