Chapter 18: Value Hierarchies: The Ultimate Judgment of Success

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.” —Abraham Maslow

Each human being has his/her own values and hierarchy. To be happy, we need to follow them. A person for whom family is the most important value, won’t be satisfied without it. Even winning the lottery or having a fast-growing career won’t make up for a lack of family. If two values that are equally important to us are mutually exclusive, we create an internal conflict (like spending time with family and working 12-hour days with business trips). As many of our values are unconscious, it is very important to make our own hierarchy of values.

When we talk about people’s hierarchy of values it is very important to clearly define what this means for them. For example, two people can say that “fun” is at the top of their values. However, one person may understand this to be drugs, parties, and irresponsible behavior, while the other understands “fun” as going to the mountains and climbing. For a third person, “challenge” and “peace” are at the top of the hierarchy, but to him, these words mean climbing in the mountains.

In a business, if we don’t know our employees’ values (so we don’t support them), we can lose them or they may never be fully involved. When properly used, values can change motivation and behavior.

Values are not constant. They change during our lives, sometimes radically, but more often slowly and unconsciously. Once in a while, it is good to review them and adapt them to the current situation.

To feel fulfilled, we need evidence-based procedures. This is fine if they are possible to meet. However, if we believe that being financially stable means a salary of $300,000 per year, most of the time we will be unhappy. There is nothing wrong with having high goals, but it is much better to make them reasonable or at least to set some intermediate targets. To avoid inner conflict, we can change our evidence-based procedures by reframing the experience, our perception, or by manipulating the submodalities.

Actions to take