First of all, let me start by saying that this isn’t going to be your parent’s lecture about “upholding family values” or your church’s lecture about being righteous…
This is about making better, faster and more efficient decisions with your own personal values and knowing that you’re not going to regret them later on.
This might not be the sexiest topic in the world but it will help you get your life together.
All of your overthinking, anxiety and indecision can generally come back to a lack of understanding of your personal values, so it’s important to understand
Let’s get started…
Types of Personal Values
Firstly, there are two different types of personal values… The first is ethical values and the second is nonethical values.
Ethical Values: Values are the values that we use to determine right from wrong and are values like fairness, justice and equality.
Nonethical Values: Not to be confused with unethical values, these are values that we like or deem personally important like money, status or spirituality.
If only it were as simple as defining the words and being like, “awesome, you got it!” buttttt it’s NEVER that simple…
Even once you understand your personal values, there will literally be THOUSANDS of situations that will put your values to the test and you need to know how to respond to them.
How you handle these challenges will define the person you become and the story that people will tell about you when you’re not around, so get RIDICULOUSLY clear on your values.
Moral Temptations: Ethical vs. Nonethical
First up, let’s talk about right vs. wrong…
Let’s say you’re up for promotion at your pharmaceutical company where you’ll get a huge raise in your income (like we’re talking a 30% pay bonus… HUGE).
You find out that your company lied to the FDA about the results of the tests for one of the new drugs that they just released…
Turns out, people were dying from the drug but they covered it up…
Even if this example doesn’t relate to you, just bear with me for a second…. I just want you to get the idea.
What do you do with that information?
The right thing to do would be to report to authorities to make sure that no one else dies from this drug…
But that would mean that you’d probably have to quit your job, you’d have a harder time finding a new job because now you’re the “tattle tale”, you’ll probably have to testify before a jury anddddd that promotionnnnn…
You start losing sleep over the fact that people are dying over this and you go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth (and back and forth a few more times) and then finally decide that it was only a couple of people that died and that happens in drug trials, right?
So you keep your mouth shut and get your promotion…
Except the names and faces of those “few” people will continue to haunt you until you push it so far into the back of your mind that you can finally forget about it…. and probably push it down with lots of alcohol.
… Or maybe wine, because being a wino is supposed different than being an alcoholic, but it still helps you clear your mind…
… and the spiral downwards continues.
You had the option to do the right thing but you chose not to do it because that promotion was on the line.
This is what’s called a moral temptation… Situations that challenge your ethical values and could be justified by using a nonethical value.
I know that sounds fancy and formal, so let me break it down and make it super simple for you (using the above example)….
You know what the right thing to do is but if you do the right thing (ethical value: integrity), you’re going to have to give up that promotion and job (nonethical value: status and money).
Moral temptations are dangerous if you don’t know how to identify them.Moral temptations are dangerous if you don't know how to identify them. Click To Tweet
This specific situation might not relate to you directly but I wanted to use an example that would get you to understand this concept…
Other moral temptations you might think of are things like blackmail and ransom…
But what about smaller things like plagarism?
Plagarism is taking credit for someone else’s work to elevate your own personal image…
Definitely a moral temptation.
Most of us end up in situations of moral temptations that “aren’t a big deal” and end up killing our integrity one teeny-tiny “no big deal” at a time… And this is why understanding your personal values is so important.Moral temptations kill our integrity one teeny-tiny no-big-deal at a time Click To Tweet
Oh, and you know when politicians get caught cheating or high level execs get caught embezzeling from their companies and you’re like, “how could anyone ever do that?”
Yep… Same thing.
Human nature often sets in in the presence of these situations and if we think it’s not a big deal or that we won’t get caught, we’re INFINITELY more likely to go with the nonethical value.
We are also more likely to satisfy those nonethical values if our basic needs aren’t being met.
I’m not just talking about food, shelter and water… I’m talking about the needs of the personality and the needs of the spirit. I’m not going to get into all of those here because I wrote an entire article about it that you can check out right here:
The bottom line is that understanding your own ethical values will make it easier to avoid situations like this.
While right vs. wrong might seem like a no-brainer, what do you do when you’re stuck in a right vs. right situation?
Ethical Dilemmas: Right vs. Right
How many times have you been in a situation where there were two options that both seemed right and you had no clue what to do?
Say hello to our little friend Ed (aka ethical dilemmas).
Ethical dilemmas are the root of most internal conflict and heated debates with others approximately 99.99999% of the time (that’s a scientific fact, based on my own super legit personal scientific research).Ethical dilemmas are the root of most internal conflict and heated debates. Click To Tweet
Knowing your personal values in an ethical dilemma will literally save you hours of stress, tons of overthinking and mountains of anxiety.
Before we talk about our internal ethical dilemmas, it’s easier to understand when we look at our relationships with other people…
Why We Argue
You know those arguments that we get in on social media or in person that only leaves everyone feeling flustered?
The root of those arguments is a difference of values.
For example, let’s look at abortion…
Yes, we’re getting controversial but I’m not taking sides, so just entertain me for a second.
Outside of the abortion debate, does a woman have a right to choose what to do with her body, yes or no?
I really hope that you said yes.
Does a child have the right to live?
Both of these are right… and on their own, they’re no-brainers…
It’s only when they’re put against each other that the question becomes which is more right.
… and these arguments get so heated because personal values aren’t based on logic or scientific evidence, they’re based on the very foundation of who we are.
In fact, we usually decide on our beliefs and then find facts to validate our beliefs and opinions, rather than seeking facts and then building opinions and beliefs around those facts.
As a result, we feel so strongly about our personal values that it’s nearly impossible to process how someone could see it any other way.
So when someone tries to present a different way of thinking, we fight back because agreeing with them would require us to change our values… and when we change our personal values, it feels like we’re changing who we are as a person.
… and this is why those conversations almost never go over smoothly.
So now that we understand what ethical dilemmas are and how they affect our relationships, let’s chat about our internal ethical dilemmas.
If you’re ready to start putting this into action, I created a free workbook for you that you can get right here:
Internal Ethical Dilemmas
Here are a few different examples of ethical dilemmas that we deal with internally.
Some of these might seem like no-brainers and some of them you might struggle with.
The ones that are easy for you are likely to be your strongest personal values, which is why it was so easy for you to answer.
Truth vs. Loyalty
My favorite example of truth vs. loyalty is mobsters that testify against each other. The mafia is all about “the family” and loyalty… and the people who go against that “sleep with the fishes”.
When someone (or an organization) is doing something wrong, do you stick along for the ride because of loyalty or do you do the right thing?
I remember when I was in 10th grade, I had a girlfriend who was dating this guy who was just the worst person ever… I could never understand what she saw in him, but one day I asked her where she was and she told me she was skipping school to go hang out with him…. again.
She had been skipping school regularly to go hangout with him. Her freshman year, she had been a straight A student… she was now failing every class, so I had two classes with my favorite teacher and I pulled him aside to let him know.
Her butt was in school every day for the rest of the year and she got her grades up.
She still doesn’t know that I told but I don’t regret it.
Am I a snitch?
Yep… and I don’t care. It was worth it.
Individual vs. Community
Well well well, we’re about to get controversial again.
Let’s talk gun control.
Again, I’m not taking sides… but this is exact situation is why that argument gets so heated.
Obviously, there have been way more mass shootings than anyone would’ve liked… so to someone who values community over the individual, it’s going to make logical sense that we need less guns.
On the other hand, someone who values the individual over community is going to see it as their need (or right) to protect themselves.
This argument could be made for rioting, police brutality and a whole bunch of other things.
Are you starting to see how our personal values shape our mindset, society and laws?
Let’s start putting this into action:
Short-Term vs. Long-Term
Since we’re on a roll with controversial topics, we might as well keep going…
Yay for controversial topics.
On a grander scale, the best example that comes to mind is global warming and carbon emissions.
Regardless of where you stand on global warming, you know that we need to take care of our earth… There’s no question about that.
If you value the short term over the long term, you might have a hard time justifying killing off companies that aren’t living up to that standard because of the amount of people who would lose their jobs so you’d rather make sure that doesn’t happen and we can take care of the other issues later.
If you value the long term over the short term, you’ll likely view it from the opposite side.
From your perspective, the long-term is going to come whether we like it or not, so we need to take care of it now before it continues to get worse.
Maybe you don’t really have a stance on global warming, so to drive this whole short term vs long term point home, on a personal level, we’re talking about things like habit building.
If you value the short term, your level of comfort right NOW is more important than what you could possibly gain or lose in the future…
So maybe you’re supposed to be prospecting for new business or going to the gym every morning, but you just can’t find it in you to do them….
orrrrr maybe you have a bad habit that you won’t break because it takes too much work to change.
If the long term is more important to you, then you’ll suffer through them in the short term even when it’s uncomfortable so that you can get through it and reap the rewards on the other side.
Justice vs. Mercy
… andddd another controversial topic.
Two words: Death. penalty.
To some people, justice is more important than mercy.
If this is you, you probably identify with the phrase “an eye for an eye” and are probably in support of punishing people equivalent to their wrongdoings.
On the other hand, if you’re driven by mercy, you’ll likely want to see the threat removed, but you also probably believe in the phrase, “two wrongs don’t make a right”.
By the way, I just want to throw this in here…
We’re always told not to talk about controversial topics but f- that! Let’s talk about them.
There’s an art to doing it so that everyone who participates in the conversation can walk away feeling uplifted rather than frustrated and I’ve outlined all of it in this post for you:
Understanding your personal values is one of the most important things that you can do for yourself and for your relationships.
By knowing your personal values, you can make decisions faster and more efficiently, knowing thta you won’t regret your choice later on because it’s in alignment with your most important values.Knowing your values means you can make decisions faster without regretting it later on. Click To Tweet
Your relationships will improve because you’ll realize that most of their crazy beliefs is just a result of their core values and you’ll learn to accept them for who they are, rather than changing them or trying to prove them wrong.
My three main values are fairness, integrity and growth…
If you want to figure out what your values are, I put together a whole workbook to help you do that that you can download for free right here: