One of the things you have to do when navigating the murky waters of finding out who you are is understanding that there’s a difference between your values, beliefs, and rules. While the three are different from each other, they are also very much related and come together to form you. They kinda sit on top of each other with values forming the base of the structure, beliefs sitting on top of them and rules at the top of the pile. It may seem a little confusing to look at it like this but let me explain:
Values are principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life. Values are the why, the raison d’etre to your life. Values differ from person to person and most people have multiple values; they tell you what you hold important. Family is an example of a value, as is success or integrity. I’ll explain the importance of understanding in a minute. Allow me to explain how beliefs and rules differ from values.
Belief explains how things work
Beliefs explain how things work, in relation to the things we hold important (values). Someone may have a value that makes family important and a corresponding belief would be something like family comes first. So, this person would believe that family comes before anything else they hold important, sometimes even themselves. Another good example from the aforementioned value is how a person may believe success is achieved through hard work.
Rules determine how we act
Rules, based on what we value and how things work, inform how we act in relation to achieving our values. Rules can usually be found as blanket statements or in the words we say to ourselves. The family values person would say something like, “I make sure my family is taken care of first.” Or the success value person saying, “I will work hard every day.” What you have is a 3-tier cake with the bottom layer holding up the second layer which holds the top layer
Here is where it gets tricky; you can have conflicts. You can have conflicts within the tiers or you have conflicts across the tiers. Let’s say our success-minded person and family-minded person were actually one person. They happen to have a pressing work assignment and at the same time are needed by their family. Does the family get taken care of first or must hard work be done?
That’s an example of a conflict within the Rules tier. To see an across-tier conflict, let’s take away the Rule that I says, “I must work hard” and replace it with, “My hard work never seems to pay off.” Now you have a person who values success, believes hard work is the way to achieve it but has rule that states that their hard work never pays off. That’s a real mess right there.
So that’s why it important to audit your values, beliefs, and rules. Who knows how many different conflicts you could have swimming around in your head, the brain is 73% water after all.
You do this by listing each of the three tiers. I would recommend working on each tier in different sessions, this will really bring to light how different things can be. Once you have all three tiers on their own lists, start to look for links and conflicts within and between the tiers. Just as you can have items that conflict with each other, you can also have items that complement each other.
Finally, embrace that you are a work in progress and you will change as you grow. Family values mean different things to a teen, an adult in their 20s and a parent in their 40s.
Life changes and life will change you.
As you gain and, God forbid, lose people in life you learn different things and may adjust accordingly. So, this exercise should be done more than once. Once a year should be good for most people and I like to do it around my birthday.
I hope this got you thinking about some things and you will do an audit of your values, beliefs and rules.
Written by Fiona Davis