The Value of Knowing your Values

The Value of Knowing your Values

🎙️ Podcast

About the episode

In this episode, I explore the value of knowing your personal values.

There are 5 benefits: clarity, confidence, conviction, convincing communication, and conflict resolution.


  • Values provide clarity: they help you make decisions and see if you're on the right course
  • Values boost self-confidence and reduces stress.
  • Values protect you from corrupting influences of your environment.
  • Values make you a more convincing communicator: the help you (re)frame the debate and stell powerful stories.
  • Values facilitate conflict resolution by going deeper than conflicting positions and interests in better understanding your 'why' and that of the other side.

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Episode transcript

AI transcription, with some human edits

00:00 Introduction: The Value of Knowing Your Values
02:13 Benefit 1: Clarity
05:54 Benefit 2: Confidence
09:23 Benefit 3: Conviction
15:01 Benefit 4: Convincing communication
20:22 Benefit 5: Conflict resolution

Daniel (00:01.07)
What is the value of knowing your values exactly? You've probably heard that you should know your personal values. You know, it's really important to know your personal values. I find that often though it remains vague. Why exactly? What does it give me? What are the benefits?

And I'm recording this short podcast episode today because over the past few weeks, by looking into research, by talking with especially one of my last podcast guests, a professor of neuroscience, Ian Robertson, I began to see that there's not just one major benefit, there are actually five really important benefits to knowing your values. So the value of knowing your values, it's not just one thing, it's five things. And I've seen actually, and I've tried to simplify it in such a way that we're talking about five C's here.

Every benefit starts with a C. So let's start with the first one.

Benefit 1: Clarity

The first benefit of knowing your values, I think is the clearest one, and it's exactly that, it's clarity. So knowing your values gives you clarity. The typical metaphor of a personal value is that of a compass. Now a compass gives you a sense of direction, it doesn't spell out exactly where to go, but it certainly can give you a sense of, well, I shouldn't go this way, I should go the opposite way. And that's what values give you.

Daniel (01:47.47)
And you can use these values as a guide for the big decisions you need to make, the big life decisions, the big policy decisions, the big decisions you need to make in politics. But you can also do them on a more regular basis. And so a fantastic ritual here is to think and look back at your day or look back at your week and ask yourself, how have I lived my values today? How have I lived my values

this week or how have I lived up to my values? And you can even score yourself or you can just reflect on that question. And the great thing about that is it's independent of the results that you've gotten today or independent of the results or the goal that you've set for yourself this week, you can still make an assessment on, well, despite this not going as well as I thought, despite not getting that particular outcome, I can say that I still lived up to my values as I went through the week. And so that can give you a sense of clarity that you're on the right course or what the right course is for you to ask yourself that question. How would I live my value if I decided to go to the left and not to the right?

So clarity is one. And if you want to read a book that I can recommend here is Practical wisdom by Barry Schwartz, the inventor or the person who coined the term the 'Paradox of Choice'. He's most well known for that concept, but he wrote this book where he goes back to Aristotle's concept of practical wisdom and values come into that concept because he says wisdom is all about making a decision being able to make a judgment call

And a judgment call is incorporating all of these different inputs. And on the one hand, it's your personal values, but on the other hand, it's also the specifics of a particular situation and context. And wisdom and making a wise decision is about really confronting the situation and making a judgment call on that. The opposite of a wise judgment would be an automatism, right? If this happens, then I do that.

Daniel (04:08.718)
For some things in life that is really helpful, but we wouldn't call that a wise choice or wisdom. Wisdom is really bringing all of these details together and really merging on the one hand the values, the principles, but then also the specifics of the situation. So clarity is the first benefit of knowing your value.

Benefit 2: Confidence

The second benefit of knowing your value is confidence. Knowing your values can give you a boost in self -confidence. And there is a particular exercise here that has been researched and it's called self -affirmation. The idea is that you bring to mind all the thoughts and feelings associated with your values. So if you have a particular value that is, for example, deep meaningful relationships. Now,

If you bring to mind when in your life you've experienced that, all the thoughts associated with that, but also, and that's really important, the feelings associated with that, that changes something in your brain. I don't want to go into the specifics, but I can point out a book to you, and it's called How Confidence Works. And in my previous episode, I talked with Ian Robertson, the author of this book. He's a professor of neuroscience at Trinity College Dublin. And the idea with this exercise of self -affirmation essentially is when you feel that you are uncertain in a situation, when you feel that you are stressed, or when you feel that you are under attack, or a particular part of you, your ego is under attack in a situation. Often those are the situations where we just react.

We don't respond, we just react. There is an impulse there. And often when we feel attacked personally, you know, our ego just lashes out and we react in a way that probably later on when we get a chance to take a deep breath, we will probably regret. So the difference here is going into those situations where you know this could come up before going into those situations to do this exercise, to bring up those...

Daniel (06:29.538):
feelings and thoughts associated with your core values. What it does is it reduces your anxiety, it increases your mood and ultimately you're not stuck with a defensive mode, but it allows you to be more proactive and action oriented. And it's actually something in the exercise in the book, How Confidence Works is described on page 140. If you want to go there,

And it's actually something that the US Senator Elizabeth Warren has also talked about. It's that What she said is that knowing what defines you, irrespective of what other people think, it helps you cope with setbacks, it helps you be proactive and look at opportunities. And what defines you is to a large extent exactly that, your personal values. So...

There you go, second value. Be more confident in a situation. Don't lash out, don't feel attacked necessarily, but be proactive and feel that you can act in a situation.

Benefit 3: Conviction

The third benefit of knowing your values is conviction.

And conviction is all about the idea that especially when you go into a new field, when you go into politics, you have certain things that are important to you. Now, what we also know is that once you are in that new field, and especially in politics, and especially with your succeeding, you have success under your belt. And in politics, that also comes with power, even small amounts of power, all of that can have a corrupting influence on you.

We know this from research. So it can make you less empathetic, it can make you more focused on your own goals, it can make you neglect risks, neglect those people who are saying contradictory, giving you contradictory evidence, all of these things that are

Well, very helpful for you to just run ahead and build on your power, but probably not in every situation allow you to make the best decision.

So conviction here is all about an immunity shot or it's about a corrective for you to knowing your values allows you to protect you at least from those corrupting influences, Right?

to not have your measures and your yardsticks corrupted and changed in a way that you don't recognize.

Benefit 4: Convincing communication

The fourth benefit of knowing your values has to do with communication and it's becoming a more convincing communicator. And there are two aspects to this, two ways in which knowing your values really helps you communicate better. The first one has to do with the concept of framing. Now, framing is all about knowing what the foundation is, knowing what the foundational value system is of what you're talking about.

So at the surface, you might be talking about a specific policy issue, about the facts that speak for that policy issue, the stats and so on. But underlying that policy issue is always a question of why are we doing this? What are we hoping to express or achieve with this policy issue? And underlying that are usually value systems. Well, you're doing this particular policy because you hope to achieve more justice, more equity, more security... whatever your value system is.

Now, the big insight of framing is that you need to know both your value system and the value system of the other side. The big mistake you can make is adopting the same language at the surface level that your opponents are using, because that surface level communication often is an expression of their value system. So if you start using the same words, the same expressions of your opponent, your opponent who might have a totally different value system from yours, you're also buying into their value system. In simple terms and probably not as elegantly expressed, that's the idea of framing. Now on the flip side, if you know your own values, you can communicate in a more powerful way. You can perhaps speak to new audiences that might not be sharing your particular...

Knowing your values helps you (re-)frame the political debate

the words that you're using, the policies that you're suggesting, but that may buy into the same values. And so find the right words that express those values and that that's easier said than done. But if you're curious about this idea of framing and how values and knowing about the values that are nothing more really than your frames for a debate.

But if you're curious about understanding a bit better how framing works, And if you're curious about how framing works and what values have to do with it, then I really suggest the book, 'Don't Think of an Elephant.'

The second reason why knowing your values is helpful. The second reason why knowing your values helps you become a better communicator is because it helps you tell better stories. In fact, storytelling is all about conveying your values. It's also conveying your emotions, but those emotions usually come because we have either successfully lived up to a value of ours and we feel ... that those positive emotions associated with that, or on a negative side, because an important value of ours was disrespected. And that's why we feel either angry or frustrated or sad about something. And you can express all of that in stories. So if you wonder about how do I tell a story, well, yes, there is a lot of information out there on what the structure of a story is and so on.

But what is helpful to keep in mind that at the end of the day is you are telling a story about something very specific in your life that expresses a value. And knowing your values will allow you to tell stories where you convey yourself a little bit better. You're not then talking about what you did last year and the year before that and all your credentials and what is important to you and so on. You are expressing a story that conveys to other people what is really important to you, your values.

Knowing your values helps you become a better storyteller

Benefit 5: Conflict resolution

And the fifth and last reason why I think knowing your values is important and helpful is because it allows you to resolve conflicts or at least shift perspective in conflicts. Now, when we try to resolve a conflict, sometimes we are stuck at the level of what is my position? What is their position? What's my interest here? What's their interest? Hey, what's my policy recommendation? What's their policy recommendation? And there seems to be an incompatibility at that level.

Now, if we use the iceberg metaphor, and we dig a little bit deeper on each side, on our side and their side, what we will find is that underneath the position, there is a belief system and perhaps underneath the belief system, there is a value. So understanding that on both sides, understanding why is it that they want to achieve that? Why is it they want to have this particular policy?

At some point when you ask those kinds of questions, you get to, well, it is because they think that doing that will help them achieve more equity in this particular field. And so equity would probably be their value. If you understand the value, that gives you a bit more flexibility to find for alternative positions and perhaps to see there is actually an overlap between our value and theirs. And, you know, it just gives us more ideas of of what we could do at the surface.

And so those are the five benefits that I've seen over the last few weeks of exactly why should you find out and know deeply what your values are? And so they have to do with clarity, yes, and probably that's the one that is, yeah, it is most obvious to us.

  • A value helps you make decisions and get more clarity. It's that compass.
  • But it's also a way to be more self -confident, knowing your values, affirming them gives your ego a sense of protection. And studies show that boosts your mood, it reduces your stress. So in the moment, you can be less defensive and more proactive.
  • It is a conviction that you bring into a new field, a sense of protection against corrupting influences of your environment, sticking with those core convictions.
  • It helps you communicate better by being able to frame and reframe the debate in terms of your values, but then also to tell stories, to express your values more powerfully.
  • And finally, to resolve conflict, to not be stuck on the level of 'this is what they want', 'this is what I want', but to go a bit deeper to understand why is it they want this and why is it that I want this particular thing.

So I hope this has been helpful. I'll probably dive more into this and also share a little bit more about how is it that you can actually explore these and the different ways to uncover your values and I'll be sharing more about that. I hope you liked it. Let me know what you think. As always, feedback is really appreciated.