Why considering values is so important

Rosemary Dewan

Rosemary Dewan is the CEO of the Human Values Foundation which promotes the importance of teaching human values in schools. Since 1995 it has been providing practical, cross-curricular programmes for personal development and behaviour management, integrating SMSC, PSHE education, Citizenship, PLTS and SEAL.

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Website: www.humanvaluesfoundation.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

When we understand how something works, we can manage it better and are more likely to use it to good effect. The same is true of values, which impact every aspect of our lives but so often we are not consciously aware of their significance.

Shared values

Take, for example, identifying what makes you “click” with someone. Start by considering what it is that you have in common and what it is that enables you to enjoy each other’s company and want to work together. How does the “clicking” manifest in terms of:

  • you, as an INDIVIDUAL – how you think, feel and behave?
  • your RELATIONSHIP with that person and others?
  • how you and that person fit into, contribute to and impact SOCIETY?
  • your part as a steward of the ENVIRONMENT and the world at large?

The more we share values – what we treasure, qualities that appeal, standards, priorities that are important to us - the more likely we are to make positive connections and be energised – and the same applies to our places of work. There especially, the more our personal values align with those of the organisation, the more motivated and fulfilled we feel and conversely, the greater the divergence, the more frustrated we tend to be, sometimes to the point of resigning.

Values underpinning thinking, decision making and behaviour

As children and young people ponder about the wide range of matters and issues that are covered under, for instance, the umbrellas of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education and Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development, they need to feel confident that they are being authentic and consistent. As they grow up, they benefit from consciously and actively developing a bedrock of meaningful values and parameters on which to base their thinking, their decisions and ultimately, how they choose to behave.

When values education is an explicit, integral part of the school curriculum, in a safe and supportive environment, during lessons, be they history, geography, art, music, physical education, religious education, languages, sciences or any other learning opportunity, children and young people begin to appreciate how values have shaped every aspect of the past and how they can use them to create the future they want to experience. Participants begin to experiment with and deliberately choose principles by which they will live their lives. They gradually gain a greater understanding of what works well for themselves and others and what undermines their sparkle and performance. They acquire skills, competencies and ethics on which they can draw in real-life situations and increasingly they feel capable of realising their maximum potential. The process affords extensive opportunities to explore, practise and adopt values that help them with their lifestyle choices and develop a personal, well thought through and effective code of conduct. They also become aware of the very damaging effects on individuals, their families and friends and the reputation of organisations when people fail to conduct themselves in accordance with widely held values.

The relevance of this part of their personal development can be appreciated when you spend a moment reflecting on the values that you consciously or unconsciously applied when making decisions about your own:

1. Career
2. Education
3. Finances
4. Health
5. Home
6. Leisure / Recreation
7. Personal development
8. Relationships
9. Social life
10. Use of time

Some of the driving values may have been positive, such as being of service, excellence, integrity, compassion and wellbeing. However, many people succumb to negative or fear-based values, such as manipulation, impatience, aggression, distrust, materialism and greed. Often decisions stem from surrounding influences and cultures.

For many children and young people today, it takes considerable courage to break away from powerful conditioning that is not serving them well. This is where good, systematic values education can be a key ingredient. It affords opportunities for putting heads together and supporting one another. By degrees, individuals feel more empowered and as their understanding and confidence grow, they are better able to strive to develop personal qualities, master capabilities and maximise their talents so that they continuously set and achieve rewarding goals.

Personal Values Assessment (PVA)

If you would like to find out about yourself, as determined by your chosen values, why not go to www.valuescentre.com/pva and complete a very short questionnaire? It’s free and you will receive a brief emailed report that might surprise you!

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