Back to Back Issues Page
Insights: Values
August 05, 2008


“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.”

- Ayn Rand (1905 - 1982)

On Saturday I went to watch my teenage son playing football for our local club team. The team’s been on something of a roll lately with four wins on the trot – and they’re now in with a shout of promotion to the super league next year.

The team is a real mixed bag with eleven or so kids from very different backgrounds coming together each week to do club duty in honour of the ‘beautiful game’.

Though I’m a rugby lover I have to admit that I get real enjoyment – and a degree of fascination – from watching the kids play soccer each week. The coach, Klaus, is an extremely likable man with German ancestry – so as you can imagine, discipline is something well instilled in our boys.

Sadly, I can’t say that about every other team they play against.

In Saturday’s match, won 2-0 by Klaus’s charges, the opposing team coach stood on the sidelines regularly berating the referee for his ‘apalling decisions’. As it became clear that his boys were heading for a loss, his demeanour towards the referee became steadily more demonstrative and his language more abusive.

As the losing team trouped off the field at the final whistle I heard their coach mutter an unsavoury comment about the ref’s values, integrity – in his opinion – was not one of them!

I immediately saw this verbal assault on the poor ref for what it was – a clear case of ‘projection’ as we call it in coaching parlance.

Projection is nothing more than a self-defense mechanism. It can involve criticizing another for a trait or behaviour that you possess but don’t like – thus conveniently allowing you to deflect the problem elsewhere and feel better about it – at least in the short-term!

As I reflected on the opposing coach’s unprofessional and un coach-like attitude, I wondered whether he had ever bothered to explore his own value system and hierarchy?

I remembered my own sense of surprise when my personal life coach, Sharon Frith, had first asked me to write down my values and prioritise them.

“I’ll need to think about that,” I said. “Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever given a great deal of thought to it.”

My surprise stemmed from the fact that I was actually well acquainted with the concept of values. Having been a team leader for most of my corporate life I knew, full well, the benefit that determining a collective vision and values set could have on team motivation and morale.

I had spent many hours of my working life in team workshops debating team values. Ironically though, I had seldom, if ever, taken the time out to reflect deeply on my own personal values!

And I would venture a guess that this pretty much sums up the situation for the large majority of people in this world.

Yet values play a vital role in shaping our lives; determining how we will react to situations, what we will seek to avoid, with whom we will form relationships and what it is that will have real meaning for us.

Values can be described as beliefs, attributes and behavioural characteristics we hold as being most dear and special in our lives.

The ability to help someone uncover and understand their values – and potential conflicts in their values - is another example of a simple, yet extraordinarily powerful tool, in the life coach’s standard kit.

Some values, often called ‘core values’, don’t change easily and can be held for life. Other values change more frequently as what we want and need from life changes. Values act as our internal guidance systems - we judge whether something is right or wrong, good or bad, in accordance with whether it aligns with our values or not.

In my experience of working with people and values, the following three points are worth sharing:

  • Firstly, very often, what people say are their values are in truth not their values but what they think is more socially or ethically acceptable to others.

    When asked, someone might claim that their highest value is a “happy family life”. When asked where they derive their inspiration, where they spend most of their time, energy, effort, and focus however, they might answer “my work”. In such a case career, not happy family life, is high on that person’s value list.

    A happy family life is what they think they ‘should’ be pursuing not what they actually choose to pursue! This mismatch between what someone thinks are their values and their actual values is the cause of internal consternation and guilt.

  • Secondly, values – particularly those that tend to change over time – are often the attributes or characteristics that someone sees as being most absent from their life (which explains why they would direct substantial effort and focus to achieving those attributes).

    For example, being financially wealthy is a value often associated with people who feel they don’t have enough money. The really wealthy are unlikely to list ‘being wealthy’ as a top value.

  • And finally, the main reason that people don’t achieve value driven goals that they set is because there is conflict in their values.

    To explain the last point it is necessary to introduce the concept of what we, at New Insights, call a ‘moving-away-from value’. I guess you could also call it an ‘anti-value’ because it represents the antithesis of my earlier description of a value; it is something that a person seeks to avoid at all costs.

    Let’s take an example.

    Verity is a talented artist whose highest value is ‘distinctiveness’. She yearns to distinguish herself and her paintings; to gain accolades from the public for her radical departure from accepted artistic convention. Yet, despite good intentions, another year goes by and she finds herself no closer to achieving her prized goal of staging a major international exhibition of her works.

    The reason for her failure to move towards her goal is to be found in her moving-away-from values, one of which is ‘rejection’. Her deep-seated fear of rejection is in conflict with her desire for distinctiveness and it is this conflict that causes her to sabotage her own efforts to make the arrangements necessary to make the exhibition, that would showcase her unusual works, a reality.

By understanding your true values and ‘anti-values’ – and the hierarchy that you apply to them – you can learn a tremendous amount about yourself. You can also learn the secret to making real progress on achieving your goals

So, do yourself a favour. Allocate a little of your precious time to exploring your value system.

Better still, get yourself a life coach – someone who is trained to help uncover your values and eradicate the conflicts that may exist. And, even better still, if you’d like to pursue a life of personal freedom, confidence and growth – and then impart your new-found learnings and skills with others in a rewarding and fulfilling new part-time or full-time career, then why not join the growing group of New Insights trainee life coaches?

The New Insights life coach training programme is designed for people who are passionate about developing to their full potential and helping others do the same.
With warm regards


Copyright New Insights Africa. All rights reserved

New Insights Africa Life Coaching Skills Training - Putting an Extraordinary Business within reach of Passionate People.

If you think you are Life Coach material why not study, at your own pace and in your own time, with New Insights Africa? If you have the passion, we have the skills, knowledge and support to offer you. Please visit our website.

If a friend forwarded you this newsletter and you would like to subscribe please click on the link below:

Subscribe to Insights

Back to Back Issues Page