Understanding Values and how they shape our lives

I received a number of emails from readers about this new series and as a result will be addressing a few of the questions raised before proceeding in more depth. Here are the questions:

  1. What is a value?
  2. How are values formed?
  3. Can a value be negative?
  4. Can we change our values?
  5. Why would we want to change our values?

These are excellent questions and very worthy of the time needed to answer them. I’ll take each question and give you my take on an answer. It would be great to hear more from you too.

What is a value?

A value is what is most important to you and would be elicited by asking a question in a particular context. For example;

“What is important to you about how you live your life?”

Such a question is likely to elicit your core beliefs about the way you interact with the world. You could also ask this question in relation to a particular context such as:

“What is important to you about your job?”


“What is important to you about your significant love relationship?”

Sometimes all or some of your core beliefs will appear in all contexts. For some contexts you may have very specific values that don’t make your top ten anywhere else.

How are values formed?

This on the one hand is the six million dollar question but on the other hand really straight forward. In my opinion our values are largely a matter nurture rather than nature. We will often replicate the values of the people we encountered growing up, primarily our parents and main caregivers.

Okay, yes it’s about the parents again!

Sometimes we will also develop values that are the opposite of those we grew up around. This will be because in some way they were unsatisfying in terms of meeting our needs however the development of polar opposite values is a sign that they sprang from the same source. They were a reaction to our environment.

Values can also evolve in response to life events. For example, many people develop new values when they become parents. Major life events can also create a realignment of values, I’ll talk more of this in later blogs.

Next week I will explore the question of “negative” values and values conflicts before discussing how values can be changed.


About Melody @ GWizlearning

Melody spent fourteen years gathering experience of the business world working in banking, telecommunications and the public sector before co-founding The GWiz Learning Partnership in 1993. Melody has a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, a degree in Psychology and a diploma in Psychotherapy. She is an NLP Master Trainer which allows her to run NLP Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Trainer Training courses certified by the Positive School of Intrinsic Neuro-Linguistc Psychology. She is also a qualified Myers Briggs practitioner and EI practitioner and added to all this is five years Transactional Analysis training, meaning she is able to help organisations access the hidden potential in their staff. She is also in demand for her work in transforming average or even troubled teams into high performers. Melody is a visiting lecturer at University of East London, teaching "Wellbeing and Positive Psychology" to undergraduates. Additionally, she is a member of the CIPD and is ILM accredited. Melody's interests are many and varied. She has a keen interest in personal development, canine and wolf psychology, conservation, movies and running. She also enjoys western horse riding, walking the GWiz dogs, nature watching and stage combat (particularly sword fighting).
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2 Responses to Understanding Values and how they shape our lives

  1. Alison Palmer says:

    Hello Melody

    This is really interesting and reminded me of a question relating to values which was addressed by Meredith Belbin at a symposium I attended a year or so ago.

    The question asked was around whether a person’s Belbin team role could be connected to their values. Dr Belbin’s response was that there was no connection and that values were formed from a person’s social origins/nurture whereas a team role was genetic. He talked about the ‘tribal’ differences between groups of people and the importance of this in relation to their values.

    He thought that people often confused a team role change with a change of values, where in fact the team role may remain the same and the values change. The example he gave was of Al Gore, who remained a ‘shaper’ even though his values changed and he became concerned with environmental issues rather than politics.

    It’s a really interesting subject – thanks for sharing in your post.

    Best wishes Alison

    Alison Palmer Service Development Team

    Tel: 0300 300 4464 Ext. 74464


    • Hello Alison

      I really like this point and it adds to the discussion in a really useful way. I’d not thought about team roles so it is great to add in more data as I know a lot of people are familiar with this model.

      Do add more as you think of it :0)

      Merry Christmas


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