Values and Motivation

According to Webster's Dictionary, values are "principles, qualities or entities that are intrinsically valuable or desirable." The term "value" originally meant "the worth of something," chiefly in the economic sense of exchange value. The use of the term was broadened to include a more philosophic interpretation during the 19th century; under the influence of thinkers and philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche. These philosophers coined the term axiology (from the Greek axios, meaning "worthy") to describe the study of values.

Because they are associated with worth, meaning and desire, values are a primary source of motivation in people's lives. When people's values are met or matched, they feel a sense of satisfaction, harmony, or rapport. When their values are not met, people often feel dissatisfied, incongru-ent, or violated.

As an exploration of your own values, consider for a moment how you would respond to the following questions, "In general, what motivates you?" "What is most important to you?" "What moves you to action, or 'gets you out of bed in the morning?'"

Some possible answers might be:

Success

Praise

Recognition

Responsibility

Pleasure

Love and Acceptance

Achievement

Creativity

Values such as these greatly influence and direct the outcomes that we establish and the choices that we make.

The goals that we set for ourselves are, in fact, the tangible expression of our values. A person who has a goal to "create an effective team," for instance, most likely values "working together with others." A person whose goal is to "increase profits" probably values "financial success." Similarly, a person who has a value of "stability" will set goals that are related to achieving stability in his or her personal or professional life. Such a person will seek different outcomes than a person who values "flexibility," for example. A person who values stability may be content with a 9 to 5 job that has consistent pay and involves well established tasks. A person who values flexibility, on the other hand, may try to find work involving a range of tasks and a variable time schedule.

A person's values will also shape how that individual "punctuates" or gives meaning to his or her perception of a particular situation. This determines which kinds of mental strategies a person selects to approach that situation and, ultimately, that person's actions in that situation. A person who values "safety," for example, will constantly evaluate a situation or activity from whether or not it harbors any potential "danger." A person who values "fun" will assess the same situation or activity seeking opportunities for humor or play.

Values, then, are the basis for motivation and persuasion, and serve as a powerful perceptual filter. When we can connect our future plans and goals to our core values and criteria, those goals become even more compelling. All Sleight of Mouth patterns revolve around using language in order to relate and link various aspects of our experience and maps of the world to core values.

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