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Determining Your Values (S.5, Ep.7)

February 15

Real American Soldier & Son Outdoor
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About This Episode

In this episode, learn how values shape emotions, decisions, and relationships, providing a roadmap for reduced stress, boosted confidence, and thriving connections. Bob Bertsch introduces practical exercises, guiding you through reflections and rapid assessments to uncover and understand your core values.



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Jessica Beckendorf: Defining your core values helps you make decisions in harmony with your personal and social goals and sharing your core values can help deepen your relationships. Hi, everyone. This is Jessica and welcome to this week’s Practicing Connection Practicast, where we highlight a specific practice you can use in your life and work. This week’s practice is defining your core values. It will help you get in touch with your core values, which can reduce stress, boost your confidence, and more. My Practicing Connection co-host, Bob Bertsch, will be guiding us through the practice in a few minutes. First, let’s learn a little bit more about it. Hi Bob, can you start by talking about what are values?

Bob Bertsch: Values are beliefs that we have that have come to represent what is important to us. Shalom Schwartz, who developed the Theory of Basic Values, outlined six main features of values. First, they are beliefs that when activated, arouse our emotions. They refer to desirable goals and motivate us to pursue those goals. They transcend specific contexts and situations. Our attitudes and the norms we choose to follow might change depending on where we are and who we’re with, but our values don’t. Fourth, they serve as standards that guide our actions and our judgment of other people and their actions. This usually happens without us even being consciously aware of it.

Next, we hold our values in an order of importance. Values can come into conflict with each other, and so we organize them in a hierarchy. Again, we might not be aware of that. We don’t typically do that with our other beliefs. They’re values because we organize them in a hierarchy. Finally, the relative importance of multiple values guides our action. According to Schwartz, any attitude or behavior typically has implications for more than one value. That’s what makes up values. In the book Pro-Social, the authors describe values as expressing, “How we want to be as people and the desired qualities we would like our actions to reflect.”

Jessica: That’s a nice way of summarizing it. I think one of the things I’ve heard is that all of us like to go to MSU, making stuff up. I didn’t realize that our values also help determine what we are making up about other people and about our own stories. Thanks so much for sharing that definition. I’m really curious to know more about how values-based action benefits us in our work and maybe even our communities.

Bob: Yes. We aren’t usually conscious of how values are guiding our actions, but becoming aware of our values and the social values of the groups that we participate in can have a lot of benefits. Just taking time to reflect on your values can lower your stress response, possibly because it reminds you of what is important to you. It allows you to focus on what’s important and not get so stressed out about the other stuff. That lower stress response can boost your decision-making and your problem-solving skills. Getting in touch with your values can also increase your motivation for trying something that’s difficult.

The things that are important to you can help you overcome your inner critic. Focusing on those values lets you try new things and stuff that might be hard. Values don’t only operate on that individual level. They also operate at the group level. Shared values guide the actions of a group, just as our values guide our individual actions. When those shared values are known to everyone in the group, they can lower the instances of conflict within the group and help resolve that conflict if it does come up, right? There’s some research that indicates when your individual values align with the values of a group that you’re part of, it can just generally benefit your health and well-being.

Jessica: That’s really interesting. It makes me think about whether we should reassess our values from time to time. Does society and culture and trauma and drama affect our values or change our values in any way?

Bob: To the first question, yes, about the reassessing. Values are beliefs that have become really important to us, right? Like all of our beliefs, they’re going to be affected by our experiences and other outside forces. Big changes in your life can lead you to reassess your values because they are a belief that’s just become really important and so you might have changed a little bit about what you believe. We often hear people talk about their values changing like after a health scare or some kind of traumatic event.

Experiences like those can lead you to think about your values, either revealing a value to you that you may have held without really knowing it, being conscious of it, or just leading you to an entirely new value. Maybe even changing the hierarchy of your values. What is most important to you? Any other belief, your values can be affected, as I said, by outside forces like the people around you and the information you consume, and societal norms. Those societal norms can lead us to think we value something or pressure us to value something.

In the book, Pro-Social, I’ll bring up again, there’s a story about a nurse who initially listed compassion as one of their values. After reflection, they realized they really only wrote that down because nurses are supposed to be compassionate. I’m using finger quotes for podcast listeners there. Nurses we think should be compassionate, so they wrote compassion as one of their values just because it was that societal norm. They can definitely affect that. As a result, we might want to think about what values we think we hold, reassess them, and potentially change our values if we’re led that direction.

Jessica: We shouldn’t ever “should” all over ourselves, right? That’s one of the things that I always tell people in my workshops, don’t “should” all over yourself. Okay, so let’s get into the practice. How can we practice identifying our values?

Bob: Okay, so I’m going to share a couple of practices from the Wellness Society with you today. Both of these practices are available in a values worksheet, and we’re going to put the link to that worksheet in the show notes for this episode. These two practices work well together. My recommendation, do them both, right? We can start with a shorter practice, and this one is called reflecting your values.

The worksheet that I mentioned, you’ll see it has five reflection questions on it. I’m going to share three of those reflection questions with you right now. As I ask each question, just take a couple of beats to think about it. If it’s possible for you to do it right now, jot down some of your initial thoughts. You may want to go back and think a little bit more deeply on these later.

The first question is, what qualities do you most appreciate in others and in yourself and what does that say about what you value? Next, think about this question. What would you do if money and other people’s opinions didn’t matter? Then finally, which events in your life have been the most meaningful to you? Those three questions and the other two questions that you’ll find on the worksheet can help us start to identify what our values are by reflecting back on what’s important to us and where that might lead us in terms of defining and discovering our values.

Okay, so the second practice is called fast values. The first step in this one is to open up on your computer or your phone or print out the list of values from the values worksheet. Unfortunately, I can’t recreate this in audio for you because there’s 93 different values on the list. I’m not going to list them all for you now, but when you get the worksheet from the show notes, open that up or print it out, have it in front of you.

Jessica: We should have hired an auctioneer.

Bob: Right, exactly. They could have got them all in time. Just note, your values don’t have to be included in the list. That list is just there to start to help you brainstorm different values and sort of what’s important to you. You might come up with something that’s not part of the 93 that really resonates with you. That’s absolutely fine.

All right. Now that you’ve got that list of 93 different values in front of you, we’re going to get a timer ready and set it for two minutes. That’s it. Two minutes. That’s why it’s called fast values. Once you’re ready, start your timer and begin reviewing the values on the list. Just quickly place a checkmark next to or write down the ones that stand out to you the most. Don’t overthink it. Go with your gut. We’re looking for your just initial response to those ones that resonate with you.

When the two minutes are up, take that list of values that stood out to you and rank them from most to least important. These values may or may not be your core values. The fast values exercise is just a way to get started thinking about what your values might be. Finally, review both of these exercises. Think about what stood out to you in these exercises, what you wrote down, and use those insights to start to lead you toward your core values.

Here are three questions that might help you think about your core values. What actions have I taken recently that are in line with this value? What actions have I taken recently that are not in line with this value? What actions can I take in the future that would be in line with this value? If you find it difficult to answer these questions for one of your values or you find you’ve taken frequent actions that were not in line with one of your values, you might want to reconsider if that really is one of your core values.

Jessica: Thank you so much, Bob, for bringing us through two practices today. It’s getting two for the price of one today. No, I found them really valuable myself. I went through them myself as you were talking about them, except for the fast values one. I should say I went through one of them and it was, I actually found the answers to my questions really, really interesting. I thought about the three questions for your second activity in just different ways. I’ve done values explorations a number of times in the past, and these are two ways that I have not explored so I’m excited to finish going through them myself. Okay. Yes. Thank you.

Bob: You’re welcome. Thanks for the opportunity.

Jessica: That’s it for this episode. Thanks so much for joining us. We hope you’ll give this practice a try and share your experience in the Practicing Connection LinkedIn group, where people supporting military families practice the skills that empower us to work together so that we can positively impact our communities and help families thrive. You’ll find the link to the group on our website at Connection. We’ll be back next week with a practice for regulating your emotions. Until then, keep practicing.

Announcer: The Practicing Connection podcast is a production of OneOp and is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, and the Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, US Department of Defense, under award numbers 2019-48770-30366 and 2023-48770-41333.

[00:13:08] [END OF AUDIO]


February 15
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