What do you value most?

People have different values (family, success, glory, freedom, duty or even global good) withing different contexts (career, relationships, family or life in general) and based on their values they tend to motivate themselves and act upon them. This also means that their values are not their wishes or goals. As matter of fact they could want or wish something, but in the core they could value something completely different or even contradictory. For example, a person could not be satisfied with their current job (e.g. although they have a good compensation – good salary, they feel like not being creative and not having the possibility to express themselves), so they would like to find something where they could be more creative, yet they wouldn’t take any actions to achieve that. This means that security in a higher value than their ability to be creative and to express themselves. Other example would be that a person feels that health is important and wanting to be healthy, yet to not take any action on a daily basis to exercise or watch out on their nutrition. Obviously their wants are not congruent with their real values. Get the point?

Recently I read several interesting articles from Clare W. Graves and found his major researching contribution about different value systems and the evolution of them. This stuff blew my mind how profound it was. Hence I feel compelled to share it with you.

According to Graves, there are several levels of values and as they evolved each following level was a response to the previous one. Furthermore, the odd number levels (1, 3, 5, …) are more individual oriented, meaning a person values are centered in his own interests, goals and achievements, whereas the even number levels (2, 4, 6, …) are holistic or group oriented, so that the values are focused within the group interests, goals and achievements. Additionally, the odd number levels are more action oriented, whereas the even number levels are oriented towards taking insights and awareness.

Evolution of value levels

  • Level 1. (Existential): In the evolution of values, these are the very primitive values, whereas person’s primary value is to exist/survive on their own. Usually people that live on the street, the homeless, have such values.
  • Level 2. (Animistic): After figuring out that it is hard to survive on their own, people started to group them into groups, whereat one person ended up as the leader of the group. Usually leader of the group defines certain rules which have to be obeyed by the other members of the group. This level mostly corresponds to the TRIBE type values, whereas the person find the world as mystical place and values tradition of their ancestors. The problem with this type of values are the “YOUNG GUNS”, who became sick and tired obeying orders from the leader, which ended up becoming rebelled against him and going and starting their own group. These type evolved to the next value level.
  • Level 3. (Egocentric): The best description of this level values is: the means justify the ends :) People having these values will tend to use other people just for accomplishing their needs (ego-centrism). Many dictators or historical leader like Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Hitler, Saddam or many business person like Donald Trump, Bill Gates or even singers like Madonna have (had) such values. Well, as the person having these values figured out that there will be always some other “YOUNG GUNS”, stronger, coming to challenge and take their position, they started to protect themselves by evolving rule based systems (next level).
  • Level 4. (Apsolutistic): Values of this level are very dichotomic meaning that there is the “right” way and the “wrong” way of doing things. These are based on system of rules (laws). And usually, if you do it the wrong way, you will defray the consequences and be punished. This level feels threatened by the people that have values of level 3 and tends to prevent the system by disabling, removing or putting them in jail. In addition, a person having this values is to be sacrificed for a greater good, honor, because is the right thing to do or for a better afterlife. Many religions are based on such values. Furthermore, people of values level 3 are often using this kind of system for subsisting their intentions to achieve any egocentric goal. Thus, many undeveloped countries have such political leaders which are using the system to control the mass through laws and are basically in the core contributing only to themselves.
  • Level 5. (Multiplistic or materialistic): People that got sick and tired of sacrificing themselves for the after reward, for the retirement or for the afterlife and then this evolved to level 5 values, whereas they went to start a business of their own, to search for the success right not. Capitalism is the typical system that corresponds to this level of values. Unlike the level 3, the persons of level 5 are not egocentric and don’t go against others to use or destroy them. They are more going to take control of their life, of what they find they deserve. This level is typically very materialistically oriented. Also a person of values level 4 often tends to see a person with values level 5 as values level 3. For example an entrepreneur (level 5) who is contributing by having a business of his own, can be seen as suspicious by the government (level 4) and thus they will strive to close his work or put him in jail :) … Many Eastern European countries are trying to switch their system from values level 4 and 3 to values level 5 (democracy, capitalism).
  • Level 6. (Relativistic): This level is response to the materialism of the values level 5. Typical example of this level values are groups or communities that have no leader and are compassionate about everybody’s feelings. For example the FLOWER POWER, the HIPPIES and similar communities are an example of this level values. Often on gatherings/meetings when trying to decide something, first they will try to get everybody’s opinion, before making any decision E.g. “Let see what Marry thinks about it?“, “Ok, now lets see Pete thinks about it?“,  “Oho, I think something’s wrong with Jane, she is sending some bed vibes:) This level values tend to be very controlling in a sense that is expected that everybody likes everybody, so you better like everybody, otherwise you are not part of the group. “Oho, Mike is not eating his brown rise. 8O He is not a part of the group“. The problem with this level is that they hardly or never get to the point of making a decision. So resulted evolving to the next level.
  • Level 7. (Functional): Within this level person figured out that someone has to be a leader. It doesn’t have to be me, but the one coming to that position, better be good at that what is he doing. Persons of this level tent to by functional (it is important that it works) and there is often division between different roles. “Well, I’m good at this, so will do this and you are good at that so you take care of that“. Additionally, sometimes they get to be a little bit edgy when they are aware that they are the ones that are good at that what they do. For example when threatened with something they tend to leave the situation. “I’m outta here, man! I don’t need this!” 8
  • Level 8. (Holistic): A response to the previous level, whereas the planet, people, the universe are seen as a whole. It means that everything is interconnected and there is no need for ego and separation. So people of this level tend to value consciousness and awareness on a global level. An example of a person of this level values would be “The Buddha“. It is important to note that although this level is whole-oriented, it is not very action oriented. It is more oriented on taking insights.
  • Level 9. +: Any other upper levels (9+) are not yet clearly defined, but within level 9 is expected to be more action oriented.

Graves uses spiral dynamics model for the evolution of value systems. He finds that one cycle of this spiral has 6 level and that the level 7 corresponds to the level 1, only that is a more advanced and that it uses the knowledge and experience gained from the previous levels. The same would be with levels 2 and 8; 3 and 9; etc. Of course it is possible to have different values within different contexts like relationship and career.

This model of value systems if often used by many NLP schools of thought. One of these is Chris Howard within his NLP Master Practitioner.

At which level do you fit in? :)

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3 Responses to What do you value most?

  1. Get Happy Life 16-11-2010 at 16:37 #

    My core value is health. This is the only thing I need. If I am healthy, I can fight for greater goals. Nothing in this world can bring you happiness in life unless you are happy. If I need money, I will work for them; if I need friends, I will meet them; if I need education, I will study… but only if I am healthy. This is the only thing I pray for and what I value most.

  2. gjovanov 16-11-2010 at 17:08 #

    Well, you are totally right… Health is the most important value for me too… But within this post I wanted to share different value systems… And these value systems are more like flavors of ice-cream. So there is no right or wrong… You might prefer one over another, but actually they are just evolutionary steps and understanding that these value levels exist in our society, it will help you also to understand and communicate with other people…

  3. Get Happy Life 16-11-2010 at 19:14 #

    Yes in that point of view, this is the first time I see values in life separated in levels. When I was studying about personal development, we never took this approach, but we learnt that they are the core of the personality, the base on which goals and achievements are built.
    Great post!

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