Values are created by the subconscious, the conscious mind and our feelings. To begin the process of creating or declaring a value, we first need to have information presented to us.
HOW VALUES FORM
- We’re presented with information.
- This info then becomes a thought.
- We keep thinking this thought and then it becomes a belief.
- The belief becomes a value.
This can be done consciously, learning new information and pondering it or subconsciously, seeing information presented in a certain way repeatedly until it becomes a belief and eventually a value.
Often values created in the subconscious were formed when we were growing up. Seeing parents be kind to others created our value of kindness in the community. Listening to family members passionately talk about the environment feeds our brains with information. This info then becomes a recurring thought which eventually turns into a belief that is born into a value of protecting the planet. In these cases the subconscious is primed with these values.
But let’s say you were primed with values of white supremacy and you lived in a world that supported this belief that white people are dominant and superior to others. As an adult you start to see the system of white supremacy crack and other POC rise up. Do you hold true to your values of white supremacy even tho it’s getting harder to do or do you learn new information, create new beliefs and thus new values for equality among humans?
The question of how we honour our values has been sitting beside me for a while now. It’s amazing how we can have strong values for something and still act contrary to them.
Sarah grew up eating all kinds of food. In her 20’s she watched some documentaries and read some articles about the food system and learned that a lot of animals are treated badly and suffer their entire existence so that we can consume them. She started to believe that the food system was broken and needed changing. She acquired the value of ‘animal equality’ (animals are equal to humans and should be treated as such).
Now she doesn’t eat any animal products and her value is expressed in her plant based diet. But sometimes Sarah has dinner with her best friends and they all still eat meat and dairy. They have a tradition of going to her friend’s father’s pizza place and ordering the loudest pizza with all the meat toppings. Sarah loves this tradition because the night always turns into a deep dive into their lives and the bonding experience is 100%. It’s the only time all the friends unite and create these magical moments. So what does she do?
Sarah definitely has choices. She can not attend, attend and not eat pizza, attend and try to change the tradition to another plant based restaurant or introduce a different event altogether. Sarah will likely decide what to do based on how strong her value is.
STRONG VALUES: PROS AND CONS
Here walks in the 80/20 rule because life is messy, chaotic and anything but black and white.
After struggling with some values of my own that were in contradiction to the way life was going, I remembered that as long as I’m honouring my values 80% of the time, I’m doing a really great job. Going against the current is really hard. Being an environmental advocate in a world that’s designed to constantly exploit our natural resources for economic gain is no small feat. In this situation I believe no one can be perfect all the time and it’s crazy making to think we can.
But imagine if you had a value that you held strongly and others were trying to get you to act against it, affecting your emotional or physical health. You could feel judged, shamed, attacked and suffer as a result.
We want to honour others’ values and if we’re trying to persuade otherwise then we need to be respectful and continue educating with kindness and compassion. Enough of the right information can change a person’s beliefs and thus their values. So if it’s your objective to have more bikes on the road, reduce home energy consumption, create policy changes, or spread the attraction of plant based diets, remember to do it with kindness and compassion, respecting others values while trying to change them.