Your Hierarchy of Values


Most difficult decisions in life are when our values are in conflict. It is important to recognize the hierarchy of your values. When making difficult decisions, determine which value is most important in that particular situation.

So sometimes decisions are really simple and particularly where our values are not in conflict. So for example, if I have a value around honesty and somebody asks me to lie, and there’s nothing else in play, then it’s very easy for me to make that decision. I go by my values, and I don’t lie. But what often happens in life is that we have to make decisions and choices where we have a conflict of values. So if we use the same example, if I’m in the car with my best friend and she runs a red light and causes an accident and then she asks me to lie for her about running the red light, now I have a conflict of values. If I value her friendship and being faithful to my friends, and I value honesty, so now I have a conflict of values. And most difficult decisions in life are where our values are in conflict. So a way of looking at this is to actually go to our values. So the first thing is we have to actually know what our values are. So knowing what we stand for, what we believe in, what is most important to us, that’s the first thing that I think is really important. The second thing is that in each situation where we have a conflict of values to look at those two values that are in conflict, or more than two and decide, in this situation, which is most important to me. So in that situation I’ve described, I’d have to look at those values and say ok, in this situation, is my value around friendship and faithfulness to my best friend, is it more important than my value of honesty? Now, I can’t answer that for other people but we will all have our own answer to that, in that situation. So there’s where we can use values in a situational way, it’s not that I change my values or that I compromise my values, what it is is that I look at each situation where they are in conflict and I say ok, which one is of higher value here? So I mean, a fun example is, you know, which I use in my book, where a friend who’s going out to party, you know, she’s already bought the dress, the party’s going, she’s standing there saying – and this actually happened to me – do you like this dress? And I’m sitting there thinking, no, I don’t like that dress. However, she’s on her way to the party, she’s already bought the dress, so I have a conflict around two values there. One is I have a strong value around honesty. The other is that I have a strong value around kindness. So in that situation, do I choose to be honest or do I choose to be kind? Now, for me in that situation, I chose to be kind, but for other people, they might still choose that honesty would be the primary value. So that’s what I mean by hierarchy of values.

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