[This was originally published in 2010 as an article in the The Values Journal. The Values Journal seems to have vanished from the web so I decided to republish it as an eZine.]
The values we hold as a priority are sourced in our worldview. As the diagram below shows, many things shape our worldview.
Of all the influences, a significant emotive event (emotion), has perhaps the most dramatic impact on one's worldview. For example, when I was 46 (I'm 67 now), my 43 year old brother John was told he had cancer--twelve weeks later he was dead! Like myself, John had a wife and two young boys. John had spend the past few years putting study ahead of most everything else, and had recently graduated with his Masters Degree. In other words, just as John was ready to start being there with his family after having sacrificed so much in order to get his degree, he was taken from us. How did this significant emotive event impact on my worldview? Well as you can imagine, I began seeing how fragile life was and realised I too may die any day. The way my worldview changed is summed up nicely by the following two quotes:
"One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure its worth watching." [anon.]
"People in the West are always getting ready to live." [Chinese proverb]
It was time for me to start living!
When the Collective Worldview of People in Society Changes, Society's Priority Values Change
For the past 22 years, the Minessence Group have been monitoring people's priority values. Following September 11, 2001 we observed a global shift in priority values. That the shift which occurred was so dramatic, meant September 11 was a global significant emotive event which had resulted in a global collective worldview change. The charts below show the shifts in value priorities which occurred as a result of these worldviews changes:
Following September 11 people placed significantly higher priority on Self-Preservation and Security than anytime in the ten years before the event. A shift in people's worldview to one of fear and uncertainty would explain the increased priority on Self-Preservation and Security. Interestingly, in 2006, people's Self-Preservation and Security priorities returned to their pre-September 11 levels suggesting people were no longer "buying" the politically driven worldview of fear.
September 11 seems to have caused an irreversible change in people's worldview. Initially, the priority people were placing on Family/Belonging values was significantly higher than anytime before September 11. This is possibly explained by people turning to family, and relationships with others, to give them the security and certainty in life which September 11 temporarily took away from them. However, since the start of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008, people began reducing their priority on family and friends, once again turning to the demands of the organization. Though on this latter point, since September 11, people have been placing a higher priority on Self-Actualisation values. This would suggest they are seeking, not just any work, but work which makes their life meaningful.
Despite my analysis, I must stress that, from looking at person's value priorities one cannot tell what is going on inside a their head--that would be mind reading. However, knowing people's priority values gives you a very powerful tool to guide the questions you ask.
"The hallmark of a good leader is the quality of the questions they ask." [Brian Hall]
Paul Chippendale, Director of the Minessence Group, has for the past 27 years specialised in developing technologies to support people working with values for personal, couple, team, organisational and societal development. He is the author of several books and academic papers, a Blogger, publisher, researcher, software engineer and keen athlete.