I want to consider values and strengths.
Why? Because recently it’s hit home to me that people tend to assume that if something is one of your core values, you must be good at it too. In one event I was running on values, one person said “but value words are strength words. They seem the same to me”.
THAT IS DEFINITELY NOT NECESSARILY THE CASE!
For instance, one of my core values is ‘happiness’. Now as much as I’d love to say I’m good at being happy, that just is not the case all the time. Yes, a good proportion of my time I am happy, and I hope I engender some happiness in others. At the same time, I know I am occasionally unnecessarily grumpy/tetchy – and not just when I’m hungry! In addition, I often remember the 1% negative feedback over all the positive, which certainly detracts from my happiness.
I don’t think I’m the only one who has values in which I’m inconsistent in how good I am at demonstrating them.
So what are strengths? And how do they differ from values? Let’s look at dictionary definitions first. I’ve selected the definitions that relate to how we are using the words in this article. In the New Oxford Dictionary of English the definitions are:
• “strength: a good or beneficial quality or attribute of a person or thing”
• “values: a person’s principles or standards of behaviour: one’s judgement of what is important in life”
And here’s my take on similarities and differences between values and strengths…
The similarities between values and strengths are:
– They create energy
– They can change over time
– They are unique to each individual: they are specific in nature and show themselves in a particular way with each person. Even when two people may have the same named value or strength, how they both apply it will depend on all the other aspects in and outside of themselves
– They are developed from a huge variety of sources
– They can vary in importance (or certainly depth of strength)
– Individual values can support each other, and so can individual strengths
– They have a positive feel/ring to them: and at the same time, for values they can lead to conflict between individuals/groups who hold different values. As for strengths, if over-used may cause difficulties e.g. tenacity becomes stubbornness!
– Two values/strengths can appear to be in conflict: e.g. equality and diversity for values, good at working on own and good at work as part of a team for strengths
– They add something positive to our life when sensitively put into practice: for values I’m talking about non-material benefits, like happiness, health, confidence, strength of purpose, enjoyment … I think strengths can give something positive to our lives when they encouraged to be used, but their impact is less far reaching
Now let’s consider how they differ. For values:
• We aspire to them, want to live by them in our lives
• They can involve rights and responsibilities: values are usually two-way e.g. wanting to give and receive trust. There are no rights or responsibilities linked to strengths in general
• They are generalisations, and exceptions naturally occur. For example, I think ‘trust’ is important: I want to trust people and be trusted by people – at the same time, I recognise that it is appropriate that this doesn’t happen in some circumstances
• They have a positive intention. Even though there can be negative consequences, the value is there for positive reasons (e.g. a whistle blower takes that action because s/he holds some value that leads to that action, even though it may have detrimental consequences to his/her life). There are no intentions, positive or negative, linked to a strength that I have noticed
• They guide our behaviour, thoughts, feelings, communication, decisions, attitudes and the like. For strengths, you may select a particular career because it plays on your strengths, but they don’t act so clearly as a guide.
• A particular voice tone is used: the tone is positive, uplifting and with energy. I don’t think any particular tone is used when speaking about strengths
• They require no external justification. For strengths this is not necessarily true, because sometimes you are asked to explain/demonstrate in what you consider something to be a strength e.g. in a job interview
• They may be chosen by each individual. If you include inherent talents under strengths, that reduces choice. Yet you may also choose to develop a strength e.g. in sport, playing a musical instrument. This difference is less clean cut
So there you are. And I’m guessing that you might like something that helps you work out whether you have in mind a value or a strength!
Here are two questions that can help you. Ask yourself:
“Is this something I aspire to, aim to be like?” (if ‘yes’ then it’s a value)
“Is this something I consider I really good at doing?” (if ‘yes’ then it’s a strength).
I’d love to know your thoughts/experiences around beliefs and values. DO tell me.
All the best