Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Sense of Values


Values are core beliefs which guide and motivate attitudes and behavior. When you value something you want it (or want it to happen). Values are relatively permanent desires. Values are answers to the “why” question. You keep on asking “why” questions until you reach a point where you no longer want something for the sake of something else. At this point you have arrived at a value.

Let’s take an example – I was once teaching a Post Graduate Professional course at a centre of excellence and I asked a student, “Why are you doing this course?”

“To gain qualifications,” he answered.

“Why do you want to gain qualifications?”

“To succeed in my career.”

“Why do you want to succeed in your career?”

“To reach the top.”

“Why do you want to reach the top?”

“To get power.”

“Why do want do you want power?”

“To control people,” he answered.

“Why do you want to control people?”

“I want to control people.”


“I like to control people.”


“Just for the sake of it – I like controlling people,” he said and further why’s elicited similar responses related to control. [Control for the sake of control!]

I realized that control was one of his values and maybe he was a future megalomaniac in the making!

The same line of questioning of persons undergoing higher education may reveal values like knowledge, money, status, standard of living, ambition, achievement, growth, reputation, excellence, fame.

Values are our subjective reactions to the world around us. They guide and mold our options and behavior. Values are developed early in life and are very resistant to change. Values develop out of our direct experiences with people who are important to us, particularly our parents. Values rise not out of what people tell us, but as a result how they behave toward us and others. Remember, there can’t be any “partial” values; for example: you cannot be 50% honest (half-honest) – either you are honest or you are not.

Are you doing you MBA? Keep asking yourself why you are doing it, and you will ultimately arrive at your value.

“Why are you doing your MBA?”
“To learn management.”
“Why do you want to learn management?”
“To get a good job in a top firm as a manager.”
“To make more money.”
“To have a high standard of living.”

The guy I was talking to re-iterated here since standard of living was his value but you can go on and on till you find your value. In one case I was surprised to find conformance as a prime value in a student of MBA – she was doing MBA because everyone else was doing it!

With the rise and predominance of the utility value of education, the most important criterion for ranking B-Schools is the pay-packet their students get and not other factors like the quality of faculty and infrastructure, academic achievements and ambience etc. That’s why there is a rush towards IT and Computer Science as compared to other more interesting and challenging branches of Engineering and Technology – money seems to be the cardinal value amongst students these days! Some do prefer the civil services even after completing their Engineering from premier institutions as, for them, things like status, service, power may be important values.

Is a high salary important to you?
Is it important for your work to involve interacting with people?
Is it important for your work to make a contribution to society?
Is having a prestigious job important for you?

It is most important for you to find out your own values (by the “why” method) to avoid value mismatch. Value mismatch is at the root cause of dilemmas in your life. A conflict between your personal and organizational values may result in ethical dilemmas, while value mismatch between two persons may sow discord and cause stress and turbulence in a relationship.

Your values are possibly the most important thing to consider when you're choosing an occupation. If you don't take your values into account when planning your career, there's a good chance you'll dislike your work and therefore not succeed in it. For example, someone who needs to have autonomy in his work would not be happy in a job where every action is decided by someone else.

It is important to distinguish between values, interests, personality, and skills:
Values: the things that are important to you, like achievement, status, and autonomy
Interests: what you enjoy doing, like reading, taking long walks, eating good food, hanging out with friends
Personality: a person's individual traits, motivational drives, needs, and attitudes
Skills: the activities you are good at, such as writing, computer programming, teaching
Of these, interests, skills and personality can be developed, but values are intrinsic core beliefs inherent within you which you must endeavor to discover by yourself.
Whether it is your work or relationships, value congruence is of paramount importance – your values must be in harmony for the relationship to tick. Value Dissonance due to mismatch between individual values and organizational values can cause great strain and trauma at the workplace.

Even within yourself, in order to avoid inner conflict there must be no confusion about your true values. Remember the saying of Mahatma Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

Dear Reader, sit down in a quiet place all by yourself, introspect, ask yourself the “why” question and find out your own values. First know yourself. Then know others – try to ascertain their values (personal values and organizational values too!). Avoid value-mismatch and value-dissonance to the extent feasible. The mutual harmony in your values should determine your choice of work, activities, relationships, friends and partner.

Is freedom an important value for you? Will the job you are considering (or the person you want to marry) give you enough freedom?

Do you value leisure? Oh, yes! Leisure is not only an important value but also a determinant of character – If you want to know about a man find out how he spends his leisure! It’s true in your case too – If you had a day off what will you do? Read a book, write a story, go hiking outdoors, play your favorite sport, adventure sports, chat with friends, picnic, see a movie, eat your favorite cuisine in a restaurant, or cook it yourself, socialize in your club, spend the day at home with your family, or see TV at home, or just spend the day in glorious solitude enjoying quality time with yourself ? Or would you rather not “waste” your leisure time and spend the day doing something “useful” connected with your work, career or advancement towards “achieving” your “goals”? How you spend your leisure reveals your values too!

Do you value humor, fun, pleasure, food, enjoyment, sex, family life, quality of life, status, money, success, fame, power, prestige, security, nature, loyalty, love, affection, independence, privacy, togetherness, tranquility, adventure, leadership, followership, competition, contentment, creativity – find out for yourself, and in others who you want to relate with – match and harmonize your values, and be happy and fulfilled in your work and your relationships.

Remember, at any important milestone in your life, when you have to make a vital decision, whether you are on the verge of selecting a job or a marriage partner – trust your sense of values!

In conclusion here is a quote from the German Philosopher Friedrich Hegel:

“A man who has work that suits him and a wife, whom he loves, has squared his accounts with life”
Friedrich Hegel


Is good food one of your true values? Try the “why” test [Start with “Why do you eat your favorite delicacy?” and go on and on till you reach your value] and do read my foodie blog at http://foodiekarve.sulekha.com

If you love books and reading, have a look at my biblio blog at http://karve.sulekha.com

[ I wrote this article to clear my writer’s block, and now I’m already thinking about my next short story ]

Dear Reader, do comment and give me your feedback.



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