Getting started to work with your values from the perspective of the brain

At work, your colleague has a problem with her boss. She asks you to be a mediator. What would you do? Perhaps you think, “No way. The problems with her boss are not my problem. I have a hard enough time as it is.” Or perhaps you think, “Yes, I’m going to help her because I think it’s important to assist people.” It’s also possible that you’ll shrug your shoulders disparagingly and just get on with what you’re doing. If you don’t know your values adequately, there is a chance that you are acting unconsciously from your emotions or conditioning. And perhaps not values-driven. 

If you know your values well, you can respond values-driven. If you know your values well, you can make decisions more easily. Then you know what you stand for. That’s why it’s very important to know your values well and learn to act following them. 

What are values?

A value is something that you find important now, something you mentally need! Your values are the things that matter in your life. It expresses in a stenographic way what motivates you. Your values should become the source of your decision-making. Values are a tremendously powerful source of motivation! Values-driven action is the best antidote to ego-driven action.

Values and Goals

You are working daily to achieve your goals. You can achieve your goals in very different ways. And how you realize your goals, with what ideals and motives, this is what values are about. Gandhi wanted independence for India; an essential value for Gandhi was nonviolence. He wanted to bring India to be an independent country in a nonviolent way. This independence struggle would have looked completely different had he had a different value.

Values and our old behavior

If you do not live according to your values, you may live by the day’s issues, showing victimization and procrastination. When you live by your values, you experience better memory, better focus, and more productivity.

You are being lived

Knowledge of the brain and neuropsychology indicates that you mainly react unconsciously following the habits you have learned and made your own over time. You can say that you live by all your habits. If you exhibit certain behavior for a long time, it becomes your habit. This consequence is due to neuroplasticity.


Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change, be trained, adapt, make new connections and use certain connections less. Neuroplasticity can have disadvantages and advantages. The disadvantage is that it means you have learned the less effective habits. The big advantage is that you can change and learn new habits. Working from values when you learn new habits, offers very many opportunities. By training behavior that comes from your values, you can easily master new behavior: behavior that suits you.

What are your values?

If you want to develop behavior that suits you, it is very important to know your values. That is why we made a list with 70 values that can help you know your values. Click here to download this list.

Next, look at this list and explore which values are important to you. The first time you go through this list, you may have many. Go through these values again and name the five most important ones.

What do you stand for?

You have now formulated five important values for yourself. Unfortunately, a value by itself does not achieve much. Values are too abstract for that. To apply values in your life, you need to make them practical.

Making Values Practical

It is important to let your value live by using it in your decision-making. With a value comes certain behaviors. By thinking about what behavior goes with each value, you can make this new value-driven behavior your own by practicing it a lot. That is the effect of neuroplasticity.

Suppose you have chosen the value respect. Behavior that might fit this is, “At every meeting, I shake hands.” Or, “I let everyone speak.”

This change is accompanied by stress. The brain does not like change. Therefore, it will be accompanied by stress in the beginning. Letting go of the old behavior can be experienced by the brain as stress. You will experience discomfort as a result. I see many people stop because of this discomfort. However, it is better to continue for a while and simply recognize this discomfort as the brain’s reaction to change. And there is good news.

The more you practice, the more motivated you become

The more you try, the more motivated you become. If you practice only a little bit, if you try only a little bit, then only a small amount of substances are released, very little real change takes place. The opposite is also true: if you do your best and practice a lot, then the number of substances will increase, and great lasting changes will occur. These substances, like serotonin and dopamine, are going to make you feel good. Ergo, recognize your stress, and start practicing the new behavior.

In conclusion

A very effective method of living more in harmony with yourself is to act following your values. Because of neuroplasticity, it is possible to master new behaviors that fit your values.

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