We hear the word “values” a lot these days. It’s usually paired with other words like “Christian values” or “Core values.” But what does is actually mean? What is the difference between a value and a belief?
A value is something we hold intrinsically important from our experienced needs as a human, while a belief is something we hold true based on context, culture, and experiences we’ve faced. So while you may believe that peanut butter and chocolate ice cream is the best ice cream created…well…you would just be TOTALLY RIGHT!
Wait…I got off track there.
If you think that peanut butter and chocolate ice cream is the best ice cream created, that is a belief. Based on your (obviously highly-skilled and discerning) palate, you have decided that it’s far superior to the likes of cookies and cream or mint chocolate chip. Your value, on the other hand, would be that: Because allowing your senses to experience pleasure makes you feel fulfilled and happy, it is important to you.
Like beliefs, values can change. (Maybe when you were younger, you valued your privacy. However, now with a toddler running around, going to the bathroom with the door closed doesn’t seem so important.) Values can also be over-attended or under-attended. (Maybe you thrive on making sure everyone in your family is taken care of, but all that attention on others has made you lose sight of what’s in your bank account and financial future.) And sometimes, your values are running smoothly. (Maybe your daily practice of meditation makes you feel renewed and connected and ready to tackle that job promotion you’ve been eyeing.)
If you’d like to figure out your values and how you are expressing them today, a great resource to do so is http://lifevaluesinventory.org. The questionnaire is free and simply helps you figure out what is important to you right now. It also enables you to prioritize your values and offers thoughts on better expressing them. And feel free to give yourself a “values check-up” in six months to see how you’ve changed.
Values help you be clear on what you want out of life. They are uniquely yours and they matter.