Changing Value Hierarchy

Changing someone’s value hierarchy can have huge implications that may not immediately apparent. It is usually best to start by discovering a person’s evidence procedure and changing his perception of whether he is achieving his values before actually changing the ladder of importance.

You can see how this would be valuable in a personal relationship. Suppose a person’s number one value is attraction, number two is honest communication, number three is creativity, and number four is respect. There are two approaches to creating a feeling of satisfaction within this same relationship. One would be to make respect the number one value and make attraction number four. Thereby, you could take an individual who is no longer attracted to his partner and make that feeling less important than his respect for her. As long as he felt he respected her, he would feel his highest need was being fulfilled. A simpler and less radical approach would be to determine his evidence procedure for finding someone attractive. What does he has to see, hear, feel? Then, either change that attraction strategy or have him share with his partner what he needs to have that value fulfilled.

Most of us have some values that conflict. We want to go out and produce great results in the world, and we want to relax on the beach; we want to spend time with our families, and we want to work hard enough to be a success at our jobs. We want security and we want excitement. Some value conflict is inevitable; it lends a certain richness and texture to life. The problem comes when fundamental values pull as in different directions. After reading this article, look at your value hierarchy and evidence procedures to see where the conflicts are. Seeing them clearly is the first step to resolving them.

Values have primacy for societies as well as for individuals. The history of the United States over the past twenty years is a wrenching study in the importance and variability of values. What was the upheaval of the sixties but a cataclysmic example of values in conflict? Suddenly, a huge and vocal segment of society was professing values that clashed radically with those of society as a whole. Many of our country’s most cherished values – patriotism, family, marriage, the work ethic were suddenly being questioned. The result was a period of societal incongruity and turmoil.

There are two main differences between now and then. One is that most of the kids of the sixties have found new and more positive ways to express their values. In the sixties, a person may have felt that freedom meant using drugs and growing long hair. Now, in the eighties, the same person may feel that owning a business and being in control of his life is the most effective way to achieve the same result. The other difference is that our values have changed. When you look at the evolution of American values over the last twenty five years, you don’t really see the victory of values over another. Instead, you see that a different set of values has evolved. In some ways, we’ve gone back to some traditional values about patriotism or family life. In others, we have adopted many of the values of the sixties. We are more tolerant we have different values about the rights of women and minorities, about the nature of productive and satisfying work.

There is a helpful lesson for all of us in what’s evolved. Values change, and people change. The only people who don’t change are those who don’t breathe. So the important thing is to be aware of that flux and to move with it. Remember the example of the people who are stuck on one outcome, only to find it no longer fits their values? A lot of us find ourselves in that situation at different times. The way around it is to attentively and actively recognize our values and the evidence procedures we’ve constructed for them.

We all have to live with some degree of incongruity. That’s part of the ambiguity of being human. Just as societies go through periods of flux like the sixties, people do, too. But if we know what’s happening, we are better able to cope with it and to change what we can. If we feel the incongruity and don’t understand it, we’ll often take inappropriate kinds of actions. We’ll start smoking, or drinking, or whatever we do to handle frustration we don’t understand. So the first step toward dealing with value conflicts is to understand them. The Ultimate Success Formula holds true for values as well as for anything else. You need to know what you want – your primary vales and your value hierarchy. You need to take action. You need to develop the sensory acuity to know what you’re getting. And you need to develop the flexibility to change. If your present behaviors don’t match your values, you need to modify your behaviors to resolve the conflict.

There’s a final point worth considering. Remember, we’re all modeling all the time. Our kids, our employees, and our business associates are always modeling us in different ways. If we want to be effective models, there’s nothing more important than to effect strong values and congruent behavior. Modeling behaviors is important, but values override almost everything else. If you stand for commitment as your life reflects unhappiness and confusion, those who see you as model will link up the idea of commitment with confused unhappiness. If you stand for commitment as your life reflects excitement and joy, you’re providing a congruent model that links up commitment and joy.