What Happened to Values-Based Decision Making?
By: Morgan Irvin, Managing Director Park City Family Office
Over the last few decades, it has become increasingly evident that a majority of the population isn’t living life according to their core values. It is likely they have failed to identify what their core values are and may not even know what a core value is.
When asked what a meaningful life looks like, many people will provide responses that include having money, freedom, a vacation home, or ski trips to Aspen. The idea that material possessions reflective of success are in any way correlated to a meaningful life has contributed to what we believe is a disenfranchised, lost, and uninspired generation.
Values-Based Decision Making
Values-based decision making means understanding what is most important to you and then incorporating this into your life. When you are living your life by your values – you are at your happiest self. Making values-based decisions removes much of the stress and pressure of making decisions “in the moment.”
Benjamin Franklin addressed values-based decisions when he said, “We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value systems we have selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make . . . .”
So how do we get back on track? How do we bring values back into the conversation?
Discover Core Values
When a decision feels uncomfortable, identify what value it is rubbing up against and why. The bottom line, your gut will tell you what is value-based for you.
When your values are well defined, fully understood by all, and emphasized regularly, decisions are made easily.
Make a List
To identify your values, consider a meaningful moment that stands out. Now, go in the opposite direction; consider a time when you got angry, frustrated, or upset. Next, What’s most important in your life? Beyond your basic human needs, what must you have in your life to experience fulfillment?
Knowing what to say yes to, when to say yes, and what decision to make when times get tough.
Family Offices and Values-Based Decision Making
A majority of family offices sit down with the families they serve and ask them to identify the five most important values they live by. 99% of people return a perplexed stare and are completely unable to articulate who they are.
This leads us to ask the question, “how do you know where you’re going if you don’t know who you are or where you came from”? We then ask, “what would you say, if we told you, we could help you make every single decision in your life a meaningful one, and the right one, no matter how hard or simple the circumstance?” When we know what lenses we should be looking through, decisions can be met with clarity.
Before we engage in meaningful discussions with the families we work with, we first work to identify what is meaningful to them. While some families believe that courage, determination, and excellence are guiding lights in their lives, others will tell us that compassion, humor, and empathy drive them. Neither being better or worse than the other, each combined set of beliefs would lead to drastically different ideas of a “meaningful life”.
If we can begin to help the families we work with to understand that knowing our core values are important because they drive our actions thereby motivating our goals, one can start to understand what they’re striving for. Once our families realize that their goals help shape the priorities in their life and can be guides for decision making, we can work with our families to identify a true meaning of success and meaningful life.
If we can find our way back to value-based decision making, sliding our core values (i.e. compassion, health, humor, dedication) in front of decisions and life’s choices as a lens, we believe that families can then start to embark on a truly meaningful life.