Values is a much referenced idea but what exactly are values and what difference does understanding them make to someone's life? While there are many definitions of values, I use the following: Personal values are an internal set of standards that each of us expects ourselves, and others, to live up to. These standards are sufficiently worthwhile to us that we spend extra time and effort behaving in ways that uphold them.

Some typical values include: respect, fairness, honesty, and ambition; but an individual's actual values are by no means restricted to the predictable. Even though many of us are not explicitly aware of what our values are, it is important to recognize that we all have personal values and that those values inform how we view the world.

Intuitively, an individual who isn't explicitly aware of his or her values may find it difficult to navigate their world, be it their internal or external world or both.

Impact on Internal World

Going back to the definition of personal values, by not being explicitly aware of what his or her values are, it is hard for them to know exactly what they expect of themselves. In turn, this can lead to making decisions and behaving in ways that don't uphold their values, causing uneasiness and internal turmoil. Looking at an example, Carla values respect but isn't explicitly aware of this. She finds herself regularly putting down people she feels are incompetent. Whenever she finds herself in this situation, she feels really bad afterwards but doesn't really know why. Carla is behaving inconsistently with her value of respect, which causes her to feel terrible about her behavior without understanding the cause.

Impact on External World

In relation to our interactions with others, we unconsciously filter the world through our own values. Again, going back to our definition of personal values, we all have values but we don't all have the same values. This means that we filter other people's behavior and actions through our values, even though they might not share that value. In Carla's case, she values respect so if someone else, who happens to value perfection, is constantly looking for updates (because they want to ensure the task will be done properly), Carla is likely to see this as disrespectful of her ability to complete the task. This may well generate conflict between these two people, without either party understanding the cause.

By an individual becoming explicitly aware of their own personal values, he or she is better able to minimize these negative impacts in their live. By behaving in ways that uphold, rather than upset, their values, they reduce their inner turmoil. By recognizing the filters they use to evaluate the world around them, they are better able to spot situations where they are applying these filters, make the necessary adjustments to see the world more clearly and, in turn, reducing the likelihood of conflict arising.

Author's Bio: 

Irial O'Farrell is an experienced executive coach, trainer and author. She is fascinated by what makes people and companies perform and works with clients to enable them to become the best leaders and organizations they can be.

She has worked extensively with clients on their values, be they personal or company, and has written the book Values-Not Just for the Office Wall Plaque: How Personal and Company Values Intersect to provide greater insight into what values are, how they work and why they're important for business.