Our values serve as our compass

Have you ever used a compass? A compass has a magnetized pointer that shows the direction of magnetic north. You can confidently decide which direction to take after knowing magnetic north. Your values are like a compass. They set a direction and give us choices.

Values help you make decisions when you don’t know what to do. Our values guide our decisions and prioritize our actions. We talk about personal values, family values, societal values, and human values. Values establish the range of choices for our behaviors. They point us in the direction of our worldview or our philosophy of life.

You can tell a lot about a person and their values by looking at only two things. Looking at the daily schedule of someone tells you how they choose to spend their time. Looking at the spending habits of someone tells you how they choose to spend their money. Time and money are two of life’s most common limited resources and how a person decides to use them defines a lot about that person.

Espoused values vs. enacted values

An espoused value is the norm or standard that a person ascribes to in their life. An enacted value defines what a person actually does or their behavior. For example, a person can espouse a value of physical fitness but never enact that value through a program of exercise on a regular basis.

There should be good alignment between a person’s espoused values and enacted values. A hypocrite is a person who says they espouse one thing but does something else. It has been 15 years since the financial scandal and bankruptcy of Enron, the corporate energy giant. The CEO of Enron, Kenneth Lay, was reported to be a Sunday School teacher but led his company into bankruptcy as a result of willful corporate fraud and corruption. There was gross misalignment between espoused and enacted values.

Competing values

A person has literally scores of values that are important to them. The Bible is full of value statements. But sometimes 2 or more values compete with each other. For example, a person places great value on spending time with their family but decides to miss a son’s sporting event because participating in an important educational seminar is considered a higher priority value. It takes a good measure of discernment to make decisions when legitimate values compete.

Core values

Core values are central and unwavering beliefs about life and the way it should be lived out in relationship with others. They define what is right and wrong. They may compete with other values but are never compromised in deciding behaviors.

When the idea of Duck Dynasty was being formulated, Phil Robertson was assured that the Bible could be included in the show. His core value of faith was nonnegotiable. Core values are the foundation of other values and must be well established at the beginning of any venture.

One of the most essential core values of a person or organization is integrity. It is honesty in action. It aligns espoused morality with enacted character. When Truett Cathy opened the first Chick-fil-A restaurant in 1946 he decided to close on Sundays. Despite intense pressure to open, all Chick-fil-A restaurants remain closed on Sundays to this day.

Organizations often display their core values on their websites and train their employees to act in alignment with them. Internal policies and procedures are based on these standards. Externally, customers understand what they can expect in dealing with the organization. This is an important competitive advantage.

Managing stress with core values

Modern day culture is marked by anxiety and tension. Stress can be eliminated or managed by focusing on core values and goals. When difficult choices must be made and competing values cannot be easily satisfied it is reassuring to know that personal faith in God and spiritual principles are the bedrock of our value system. Our value based choices give consistency to our lives over time.

The outcome of a person’s life or an organization operating in the marketplace is very closely linked to their core values and how well they live them out as actionable behaviors. Actions rooted in well defined values always speak louder than words.

What are your core values? How well do you align your behaviors with your espoused core values?

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