Determining Values

Do Four Things Guide for Discerning Values and Priorities

Most people have good hearts and want to use those hearts when confronted with solvable problems. We offer simple steps (Do Four Things) that move toward recognizable positive change. Individual people and cultures improve when solving problems together.

The first Four Things step, which involves contemplation or prayer (or both), involves simply using values we hold in a positive way. Here we offer simple steps toward understanding our individual values, and how to sort through our values to help decisions and change. This exercise only takes approximately fifteen minutes (not counting the rest period(s)), but it’s worth the effort to discover your highest values.

To recognize and understand our values, we must first recognize and understand what a value is:

Definition of a Value

“A value is a concept of the desirable that influences our selected behavior.”
-R.L. Fulford, Ph.D.

Using Dr. Fulford’s definition of a value, some of our most important values come to mind, such as: success, or strength, or power, or kindness, or love, or stability. But, we all do have multiple sets of values, but those values are not all equal. We prefer some values over others. Some of our values come to the surface in certain situations. We have some tangible values, say, feeling full (in a good way),  compared to something more elusive, perhaps, joy.

So, sit down, grab a pad (paper or electronic), and write down ten or twelve values. Don’t fuss too much over the order, or how you think of your values, right now. Once you have ten (or more) values written down, put the pad down and leave it for at least an hour; even better (if possible) set your list aside for a full morning, or full afternoon, or overnight. Your busy mind, now that you’ve started thinking about your values, will work hard, even while you’re not looking, and may come up with additions to your list. After several hours, or overnight, look at your list of values. Then select (this will be hard) your seven most prized values. Put a check, or a plus, next to your seven best (or favored) values—ones you prize.

If you found narrowing your list to seven a struggle, that’s good; it shows you have an active mind and consider many aspects or angles. If you narrowed your list of values to seven quickly, and without problem, good! Shows you’re firm and aware of your values.

Take your list of seven values and use them to ponder two very different life experiences: 


1)    Think of a time when events, people, and things in your life were wonderfully good (or comfortable). Remember that time, place, and people. Then look over your list of seven values and decide which values in that pleasant setting seemed most important (and present) for you. Narrow your list to three values. Next,

 
2)    Think of a time when events, people, and things in your life were awfully challenging (or uncomfortable). Remember that time, place, and people. Then look over your list of seven values and decide which values in that disturbing setting seemed most important (and present) for you. Narrow your list to three values.


If, during your pondering and selecting, you think of a value that better fits either of the situations, feel free to add additional values to the mix; however, still narrow down to three values per situation.


Now you’ve narrowed your selected list of seven values down to three—twice. In both cases considering completely different vantage points. (Note, it’s ok if you have duplicate values noted on both lists. Now, ask this question: Over the course of a typical month, is my life more wonderful/comfortable, or more challenging/uncomfortable?

If you answer that a typical month is a coin-flip between the good and bad, then then think about your most recent full month and ask the same question: Over the course of last month, was my life more wonderful/comfortable, or more challenging/uncomfortable?

Finally, take the three values you discerned from your selection of a type of month, and ask if (of the three values) you prize any of those values more highly than the other two.

Now, you’ve sifted and considered your values. Congratulations! You can use these three primary values as a guide in all parts of your doing the Four Things. If you try to decide about focus points during Thing One (contemplation or prayer), one or more of your noted values may help focus your breathing, mind, or heart. When wording your letter, during Thing Two, you may discover a key value which may help you when deciding how to express some of your feeling or thoughts. Purchasing items will, no doubt, offer many decision points; knowing your key values may help in making decisions during Thing Three. Finally, as you track, evaluate, and extend your simple first steps during Thing Four, you can use your prime values to help make further decisions that move you (and others) toward a better, brighter, future.