Values describe how we want to behave now and always, and indicate how we want to treat ourselves, those near to us, and the world around us. They help us grow and develop, and create our present and our future. They inspire us, motivate us, and make our lives meaningful. Living by our values means consciously choosing to focus on what matters to us. When the going gets tough, choosing to behave according to our values motivate us and keeps us going.

Eight facts about values


1: Values are global qualities that we desire and follow on an ongoing basis

Values describe how we want to behave on an ongoing basis. Values are our moral compass, our reasons for being, what we want to be remembered for, and what gets us out of bed in the morning. They are global qualities that permeate every aspects of our action. We want and choose to follow them, and do so on an ongoing basis.

2: Values are how we want to behave now and always; goals are what we aim for in the future

Goals are what we want to have, get or achieve in the future. Values are how we want to behave now, for the rest of your life, and every step of the way. Values are ongoing, and goals are something to tick off. Values describe how we want to act on the way to achieving our goal, whether we achieve the goal or not. People who focus only on goals and are constantly aiming to tick another box in the future may end up missing out on the sense of fulfilment and satisfaction that living one's values in the here and now brings.

Compass Pointing North

3: Values apply to self and others

Those values that guide our behaviour to others also guide how we treat ourselves.

4: Values often have to be prioritised

In may situations, competing interests will dictate that we cannot follow all our values all the time. Instead, we choose which values we follow in any given situation. This doesn't mean that other values have disappeared, they are just not at the forefront at this moment. The relative importance of one value against another guides our actions.

5: Values are best held lightly

Values guide our behaviour. We don't want to be obsessed with them, because otherwise they can become like oppressive and restrictive commandments. They are there as a guiding compass on a sea of possibilities, not a rigid railway line with only one direction. Values describe how we want to behave, not how we must behave.

6: Values are freely chosen

We don't have to behave in this way, we simply choose to do so because following those values matters to us.

7: Values don't need to be justified

Values are simply statements of how we wish to behave. It is often impossible to say why we have them, and there is no need to ever justify them in the same way that we don't need to justify our favourite colour.

8: Values serve as standards and criteria

Values are the standards and criteria to help us select an evaluate our actions, events, ourselves, and the people around us.

(after Russ Harris and Shalom Schwartz)