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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Values.  We live by them and flourish by them.  Whether we acknowledge them or not, all of our choices are driven by what we value and what we don't value.

Our values exist in a prioritized system.  When we give a higher priority to one value than another, that value holds more weight in our decision making processes and  hence the choices we perceive and make.  Consider for example the values of family and the honesty.  Which is a higher priority to you?

Whichever you thought of in response to this question, consider this predicament: someone of authority (e.g., police) comes to your door looking for someone in your family.  That person is hiding in your house.  How do you respond?  Do you give them up or lie?  Is this consistent with how you answered the first question, re: which is a higher priority to you -- family or honesty?

So it would be beneficial to be able to explicitly identify the values that you hold and explicitly state their priority.  There are many books to help you do this, the best of which is What Matters Most: The Power of Living Your Values.

Another factor that relates to our values is character.  Our values are driven by our character.  Consider, if one stronger character strength is humor, we value laughter, we value teasing, we value seeing other people smile.

I am not sure if our values influence our character or if our character influences our values.  But they seem intrinsically tied together.  So knowing your character is an important factor in identifying your values and making better choices.

A few weeks ago I discovered the VIA Character Survey (  I was impressed with what I read about the survey and was most interested in confirming what I thought were my top 5 character strengths.  Be warned: the survey promises to do this for free and it does but then offers you the opportunity to purchase an 18-page detailed report at the end (well worth it I might add -- I indeed purchased my individual report). I was not surprised at some of my characteristics and surprised at others.  The assessment does require rigorous honesty -- the only person you "fake out" is yourself by not answering the questions how you really are but by how you want to be and how you want others to see you.  And the assessment is long -- like a little less than 300 questions long.  But your progress is saved incrementally so you don't have to answer all the questions in one sitting.

How well do you live by your values?  Do you just float through and make your choices based on what is below the surface and not what you explicitly know?   Or do you know your values?  Here is a test for you to take:  write down what your top 5 values are in rank priority on a sheet a paper.  Now ask your best friend (or spouse or children or all) to do the same to do the same -- don't show them your paper.  Now exchange sheets.  Where do they match up?  What does this tell you?