written by Nathan Vanderpool
What do you mean by "value/values"?
People have deeply different ideas about the words "value" and "values". Before going deeper into the Human Systems design method, you'll need clear definitions. Outline your current understandings so you can ask the right questions later. It's ok to have multiple and/or contradictory ideas. Even if you just have a vague notion, it's useful to write it down!
Brain-dump/stream of consciousness: What does "value" mean? What does "values" mean?
Hint: you may have lots of concepts about values: corporate values, money and expensive things, moral virtue, etc... Write down everything that comes to mind.
What are 🌳 personal values in Human Systems?
Imagine you are at a party and a warm feeling flows up in your chest as you admire how the host is treating everyone as though they were a part of her family. A few minutes later, a conversation with a stranger sends a racing tingle of curiosity down your spine, inspiring you to approach your life in a bold, new way. This is what it's like to experience a personal value. It makes your heart sing. It can make your body relax and feel electric at the same time. It feels a lot like the experience of love. By contrast, if outcomes or expectations are crowding out your values, you're likely to experience the moment as empty and/or meaningless.
That might sound pretty woo-woo, but what happens if you play the tape back in slow-motion?
When you see the host attending to her guests, you think "Wow... what a great way to treat people!" This doesn't happen in words. Just like in the guided meditation in the previous section, your experience of a personal value is already there when you make sense of what is happening around you. In your conversation with a stranger, you recognize (again, probably non-verbally), "Ah.... that would be an amazing way to approach things!" And when you feel like you have to be fake-polite in order to meet expectations and fit in to the group, the replay shows you dying inside just a little.
There are so many choices you could make as you move through the world. Personal values guide your attention down a path, and make the most inherently worthwhile choices stand out.
But seeing what the experience of a personal value is like doesn't help you with design. You need to capture the experience by turning it into an awareness-guiding phrase.
When people talk about values, they often use fuzzy concepts like honesty, kindness, authenticity, and compassion. Those words can (and do) mean different things to different people. But here are some examples of what an awareness-guiding value looks like:
- honesty: speak about whatever is alive in your body as well as the needs, fears, and desires that that indicates
- kindness: support others in discovering and enacting their best understanding of self-care
- authenticity: approach your day with slow sincerity, calm and concerned about how to best respond to the moment
- compassion: approach other people's faults in a way that is deeply mindful of your own imperfections, and how you often fail to meet your own standards or even make good sense
Remember: values look quite different, depending on the person who holds them. These awareness-guiding versions of honesty, kindness, authenticity, and compassion are just mine. And I also have other related 🌳 Personal Values if you dig around a bit.
In the next section, I'll show you how a single personal value (Honesty) looks very different in different people.