Everyday you make many decisions that have a deep impact on your personal or professional life. Most of the times, we tend to make decisions by not knowing what really motivates us towards a particular decision as we focus our attention on what’s important. However, knowing what really drives our decisions is important for an effective decision-making process. Our decisions are largely influenced by personal values. They are our deepest motivations and determine how we go about prioritising our choices and actions throughout our life. And they determine how we perceive any situation either good, bad, right or wrong.
Our values make some choices seem more important than others. For instance, someone who values certainty is less likely to take decisions involving risk. Whereas a person who is ambitious will have a different perspective on the same situation and decides differently. Personal values and decisions thus drive each other and determine the outcomes one achieves. This is the reason we experience a sense of peace and fulfilment when our decisions support our values and experience inner conflict when these values are not met.
You often experience value conflicts while making value-based decisions if you are caught between choices that are of different value. You may come across such value conflicts in situations where doing the right thing is not so obvious or when you have a compelling reason or argument both for and against a certain choice. And at times, choosing between two co-existing values can be confusing and can leave you overwhelmed and unsure of how to move forward in making some of your decisions.
So, what are value conflicts?
When your decisions and beliefs do not support your top values, you likely to experience value conflict. You often experience such conflict when choosing between values like courage and safety, or compassion and honesty, or confidence and integrity, Also, certain of our values get linked to our human needs like need for certainty, growth, identity, significance or connection because of which confusion arises when you have to make a choice between two coexisting values.
For instance, Do you take a bold risk, even though it means you are not assured of your outcome? Do you take care of your own needs, even if it means saying ‘no’ to others or Do you choose certainty and safety or choose growth and purpose ? All of us experience such value conflicts in choosing from what’s right, what’s easy or what would be the most profitable leaving you in a place of indecision or incongruity.
What leads to inner-value conflicts?
Values often complement each other and don’t compete, but when you have to choose between two or more values, one choice may seem more desirable, yet the other might seem more rational and sensible option. Here are some reasons for potential value conflicts
- Not acknowledging your emotions. Your emotions offer guidance on how to live by your values. When you refuse to acknowledge what your emotions are conveying or to consider them as sources of your rational reasoning, you don’t allow them to guide you to consider values required for a situation. For instance, sadness implies values like empathy, compassion and understanding. Confusion challenges you to be curious and humble. Anxiety or depression alerts your to reflect on your priority values like courage and curiosity.
- Social pressure. When our definition of rules, laws or what it means to be a good person, all these things hold no relevance or they are not what other people agree upon, or when our values lead us to do something that will be met with disappointment, we experience inner conflict and confuse with our certainty of making decisions. When you realise your values being contradicted by external expectations and other’s, you will be worried about disapproval or disagreement.
- Seeking others’ approval. Sometimes, we set out to deliberately hide about how we truly feel if we anticipate someone will be upset. Seeking social approval leads to value conflicts if you are not clear and resilient enough to assert your intentions. For instance, in giving valuable feedback, you might hold yourself back to avoid upsetting others or to people please. This leads to making decisions that you might regret later.
- Fear and uncertainty might focus you to value safety and avoid risks. This often limits you to comfort zones, mediocrity and familiarity. As a result, living by your values might seem tough when it comes to choosing between being courageous to open yourself to change or safety where you resist change or risks.
- Biases like black and white thinking, victim mindset or confirmation bias. When you have to make a choice between two extreme options, black and white thinking does not let you consider all the factors that are in between. Interpreting information in a way that confirms your preconceptions instead of seeing it objectively also lead to value conflicts in decision-making.
How to resolve value conflicts in decision-making
Knowing how to make decisions in alignment with your personal values often strengthens your sense of self as opposed to experiencing value conflicts that weaken or fragment your decision-making. Understanding and acknowledging your priority values is essential to make congruent and effective decisions. Here are some ways to resolve potential value conflicts that directly impact your decisions.
Know your value hierarchy
We are motivated towards certain positive emotional states that make certain values more important than others. These are priority values as we always desire to achieve such emotional states and will do more to align with them. Knowing your priority values is important for better value trade-offs and to minimise the unpleasant experiences when two values conflict each other.
For instance, if your top values are perfection and accountability, in that order if you delay a task in wanting to achieve your perfection, there might be no value conflict. This is because when you are striving for your primary value – perfection, it feels acceptable to sacrifice a secondary value like accountability. So it is important to be aware of your priority values.
List your top ten values and establish your value hierarchy. To evaluate whether or not your value hierarchy conflicts with either of your current goals, beliefs or needs, ask yourself, “What is my priority value?” “If I could satisfy one of these, which one would I choose?” “Are there any value conflicts in my current value hierarchy?” If conflict exists, you can change the order of your priority values so to make effective decisions.
Understand your values shift overtime.
Whilst our core values in life are constant, our priority values are always changing as we transition through various stages of life. Therefore, how we priories our values is always susceptible to change. Reflecting on your past decisions helps you better understand what values influenced your past decisions and how they shift over time. What used to be important and what influenced your decision-making process in the past may not be same as the values you have now as you make different decisions.
This is because you are ever-changing and growing and so are the traits that you once used to find valuable may not be of your priority to you now. Also, some of your primary needs motivate the values you have like for instance, long-term certainty leads to values that help you achieve more or strive for significance and growth. Similarly, uncertainty or adversity changes your values to peace, empathy, compassion and safety. Understanding that your values shift overtime makes it easier to resolve value conflicts.
Check whether your needs are in conflict with your actions.
How effectively you can resolve value conflicts depends entirely on how you prioritise values. If you prioritise the need for certainty, then you will be in conflict with actions like taking risks, or to seek out new experiences/opportunities. On the other hand, you prioritise the need for certainty, then you will most likely to conflict with deciding to step too far out of the norm as you would like to keep things stable and predictable. If variety and adventure is what you are prioritising, then sticking to your mundane tasks or daily activities is probably making you come in conflict with your actions.
Therefore it is important to reprioritise your choices following your needs of highest priority. Reflect on how you subconsciously prioritise your needs and values to check if your current choices and decisions are in conflict. When you become aware of how your values satisfy needs of the highest priority, you will save yourself from potential value conflicts while making important decisions.
Questions for self-reflection
What kind of value-based decisions am I currently making and how do they reflect how I prioritise my values?
Is my moving-toward value hierarchy creating any value conflicts? Or is it in alignment with my decisions?
Does my current-value-hierarchy conflicts with any of my decisions?
If conflict exists, how do I rearrange my primary and secondary values?
In what order must I rank my priority values, so they aren’t in conflict with my decisions ?
Based on my current life circumstances, how should I prioritise my values, so they are not in conflict with my needs?
How must I organise my value hierarchy to ensure that there are no conflicts?
Are my current choices or decisions in conflict with how I would like to prioritise my values or needs?
So, how do you prioritise values like honesty, accountability, significance, integrity, compassion, and purpose? Do you give it all and chase your dreams or show integrity by committing to your present job? To be honest or compassionate? No matter what your core values are, or their priority order, there will be value conflicts when it comes choosing between certain options in your day-to-day life. And without striving towards removing potential value conflicts, you won’t be able to see how and why you are making certain decisions or will be able to see the root cause of your indecision. Use the above strategies to resolve your future value conflicts and to make more congruent decisions.