When you go through life, and particularly as you make decisions, there’s a good chance your values and beliefs help guide you. Have you ever stopped to think what formed those personal principles? Keep reading to learn more about that, plus how you can tell if it’s time to re-evaluate the things you value and believe in.
What’s the Difference Between the Two?
You may think a value and a belief are basically the same thing, but that’s not correct. Whereas a value is universally related to the experience of being human, a belief is something we assume to be true. Beliefs arise from things we’re taught, and values are based on things we need. Although the two are different, they both play roles in defining parts of your life.
Things That May Impact Your Values and Beliefs
Social scientists say there are numerous things that impact what people believe and value. They have performed studies that indicate the brain processes narratives found in famous stories, allowing us to find meaning in them that may turn into things we believe or value. For example, by repeatedly hearing the story of “The Tortoise and the Hare” as children, we may grow up believing it’s better to do slow and steady work than to rush through things.
Indeed, the things we learn from our parents might assist in developing our values and beliefs, as can cultural norms. Researchers have discovered cultural norms partially dictate how we see the world, the ways we process information and our preferred learning styles. Although there are many shared concepts between people of the same culture, there are also highly individualized aspects for each person within a cultural group.
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A teacher who has a few international students from the same country in her classroom must not automatically assume those learners share the same values and beliefs, but they may celebrate the same holidays and practice a single religion — and religion is another thing potentially contributing to what you believe in and value.
Loving others is a concept frequently brought up in Christianity within the New Testament. If you were raised as a Christian, you may believe that by loving others, you’re continuing Christ’s work on Earth.
Since the Bible also has many stories about how Jesus interacted with the outcasts of society, you may value opportunities to be around the homeless population, abuse victims or other marginalized groups because you think serving them is a way to actively live out Christian principles.
Now that we’ve looked at what values and beliefs are, and what factors encourage them to form, let’s examine why it’s important to carefully evaluate what you place value on and believe. Put simply, these components of your character may not be static as you progress through life.
Age May Affect Values
If you think for a moment, it shouldn’t be too hard to understand that the things you value could differ depending on your age. In adulthood, you may take pride in being as productive as possible for the purpose of advancing your career. But, when you were younger, you might have preferred to have lazy days with friends to the point that your parents had to prod you to get things done.
A study of 36,000 Brazilian adults found participants were more likely to value excitement when they were young versus when they got older. Also, in middle and early adulthood, forming a families was a primary concern. Before and after child-rearing responsibilities came into play, respondents reported placing more value on other parts of life, such as work-related duties.
With the results of that research in mind, don’t feel ashamed if you suddenly realize you place more value on your family than your career compared to other stages in your life. It’s important to remember the various things that can affect your values and to understand your values may not be exactly the same as those as the people you know.
When the Things You Believe or Value Become Harmful
Some people find a great deal of comfort and stability in their accumulated value systems and belief structures. There are some instances, though, where both could limit you from living your best life.
Perhaps your parents placed a great deal of value on continuing the family law business by sending you to school to become a lawyer. Unfortunately, you don’t have the slightest interest in legal matters. Therefore, subscribing to that value they possess might have a negative effect on your personal aspirations.
Scientists also know that people who have strong spiritual beliefs tend to be generally healthier. However, if they also have negative spiritual beliefs, such as think they are ill because God is punishing them, those viewpoints could make them sicker.
Stripping Away What You Know
It’s smart to take time to weigh the pros and cons of all the things you value and believe. If you notice those things have made your life worse than it was in the past, it’s probably time to gradually move away from the principles that may have been encoded in your brain for decades, and try to identify the things that are currently most important to you.
Temporarily casting aside things you have been taught by your family, culture, friends and colleagues over time can be extremely scary and make you feel you’re not sure of anything. However, if you’re patient with yourself through the process and understand doubts are natural as you re-evaluate things, you’ll likely emerge with a much stronger set of values and beliefs that is especially pertinent to this phase of your life.