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A common misconception about values thinking

If someone asked you to list off your top five personal values right now, would you know what they are? Would you be able to accurately and succinctly describe what matters to you most?

While personal values are exactly that, a personal topic, there’s one common misconception about values thinking that we see come up time and time again.

In today’s blog post we’re going to explore personal values in a way that you may have never looked at them before.

Read on for an eye-opening experience.


A common misconception about values thinking.

People often get confused between a belief and a value. They may seem the same on the surface, but when you take a careful look at them, it’s clear that they are related but not twins.

Before you read on, stop and give this some thought.

What would you describe as a belief?

What would you describe as a value?

The difference between a belief and a value is not just semantics. Understanding the differences can lead to a real breakthrough in understanding what defines us.


What is a belief?

A belief is a thought we hold to be true about the world around us. We might believe the world is flat, that people are difficult, or that fish tastes delicious. These are all the thoughts we hold to be true.

Some of our beliefs, known as core beliefs, go a long way to defining our understanding of the world around us and our place in it.

They act as the operating system of sorts, helping us make sense of the world, often in an unconscious way. Beliefs are connected to our intellectual understanding of the world around us.


What are values?

Values, on the other hand, are all about heart; our behaviour, and how we show up. They are the thing that defines what is truly important to us and what we want to prioritise in our life.

Beliefs impact what we think, values impact who we are.

The reason the two often get thrown in the same grouping is they can be closely linked and people often confuse their role.

Let’s say you believe in looking after the environment. You believe global warming is a true and real issue. You believe we aren’t doing enough to look after our planet. You believe we need to do more.

Many people stop there. Their belief impacts what they think, but it doesn’t impact how they act.

Then there are those that not only believe in looking after the environment, but they also value it. Because they value it, it changes their behaviour.

They recycle, they bike to work to save gas emissions, they have a water tank and solar power. It impacts who they are and how they turn up to the world around them.

The reason it can get confusing is very often our core beliefs do impact our values. You believe in the importance of community and you value it too, so you attend the footy game on the weekend to catch up with your mates. If you believe that family is the most important thing to you and you value it so, so you prioritise them and spend time with them whenever you can.

The reason it’s important to differentiate the two is many people kid themselves into thinking because they believe in something, that automatically means they value it.

What’s important is clarity. When we do the work of being clear in our beliefs and also our values, we have a greater capacity for self-awareness.

Beliefs define our understanding of the world. Values define how we want to show up in the world.


Why explore your values in the first place?

If we truly want to define the person we are, the easiest place to start is with our values. Values are the things that define the kind of person we want to be. They are the guides to living a truly fulfilling life that’s unique to us. They are our compass, while beliefs are the map.

Sure, our beliefs can tell us what we think, and what the terrain of the world around us looks like, but values inspire us to navigate that terrain as the person we want to be. And in so doing, they allow us to realise personal growth with far more potency.

I would go so far as to say it’s safer to stay only in the realm of belief, because it allows us to make sense of the world around us without turning that scrutiny inwards, but if we want real personal growth, we have to be willing to explore our values and make some tough calls about who we want to be.

Values are where real personal transformation can take place. Doing this means you are truly showing up to the game called life. Not just understanding it from an intellectual level, but being willing to consider who you are at your best, and being willing to show it in your actions.

What kind of world would it be if we all lived lives in sync with our personal values?


The saddest part of our job.

Wanna know what makes me sad? So many people that I speak to through our work can’t say what their values are. They simply don’t know. Or if they do, they’ll tell you they value 50 different things.

You can’t be 50 different things. And you probably don’t truly, deeply value 50 things. You can only give proper time and attention to a handful of things. What that handful is, is up to you to determine.

How can you clarify your values? Have a read of this blog post for guidance on that.