Values can and do change. They are shaped by our lived experiences, changing and evolving as we age, gain experience and are exposed to new situations.
A variety of factors can impact our values, including age, family, friends, culture, media, education, career, peer groups, and social movements. Each of these factors can and do shape, mold and change our individual values over the course of a lifetime.
Evolution is natural and this applies to values, too. Though many of our core values remain stable over time, shifts in thinking and therefore in values can occur based upon historical events, culture, experience, and the life stages through which we all must pass.
Historical Events and Values
The time frames in which we were born and live impact our values. Historical events, economic climates and technological trends can each dramatically impact values not only during adolescent years, but also throughout our lifetime. People who grew up during the same eras often share similar values.
People raised during the Great Depression, for example, may well have placed more emphasis on minimizing waste, while focusing on saving money, often giving more attention to the extended family than later, more consumer-oriented generations. Those who have lived through dramatic shifts in government leadership or wars may place greater emphasis on freedom and democracy.
Exposure to such global events or shifts in values may not always impact on a person's values; however, shared values and shifts in values among people who lived during specific time frames or global events are often noticeable.
Cultures and Values
Where we were born and live can and does impact our values. Geography, religion, and cultural background can each impart a set of individual values at birth and throughout our lives. Travel increases our exposure to new cultures and fresh ideas. As we age and gain exposure to new environments and cultures, our value system may automatically shift.
Life Stages and Values
Throughout our lifetime, we pass through a variety of 'life stages': infancy, childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, mid-life and later years/retirement. As we age, our lifestyle changes; friends, relationships and even the environment in which we live all may alter. Each of these changes contribute to shifts or modifications in our value system.
In early adulthood, we are often focused on building our careers and finding our place in society. Demands for achievement, both professionally and personally, may well be substantial during this time frame.
During the mid-life years, emphases on family often takes precedence as children age and are potentially having children of their own. We may be nearing or have reached our peak earning years professionally and are often shifting our focus on preservation rather than accumulation. We may well find ourselves taking fewer risks during this life stage.
As we get older, many of the things that we previously placed importance on become less important. Likewise, things that we did not recognize as important can take on greater relevance, becoming more important over time.
During the later years and in retirement, our focus often shifts to preservation, security, family and legacy planning. These golden years can see a burst of leisure activities, as well as periods of reflection and meditation.
Our perception and our values are influenced and modified during each of these life stages.
Life Experiences and Values
The experiences we pass through influence our values, strengthening, weakening or modifying them. The friendships and relationships we establish, the delights and difficulties we encounter, all play their part in this process.
Religious organizations, professional groups, and other organized shared institutions can increase the importance we place on particular values; sense of community, giving to others, shared connections.
Extrinsic motivations can be strengthened through participation in organized sports during childhood or adolescence and competitive work environments throughout adulthood.
Continued exposure to marketing methods and advertizing can impact on our sense of materialism, lending an enhanced attachment to physical objects and affecting our values.
An over dependence on technology (i.e. smart phones, tablets, computers, television, video games) can weaken the value we place on our connections with others.
Our value systems are not static. They are dynamic. While not all of our fundamental values will see dramatic changes or shifts over the course of our lifetime, life experiences, the environment in which we reside, cultures that we are exposed to and our general course of life can all contribute to shifts in our core values.
Recognizing that our values can and do change, and understanding this process, may well be key to living the balanced, meaningful life that is the birthright of each one of us.
Peter Field is a British psychotherapist. His hypnotherapy Birmingham and London clinics service the entire UK. In addition to 1-2-1 therapy, Peter's unique range of hypnosis downloads and CDs is now available.