Decision Chain Element - Clear Values

Videos on Values:

Clear Values: What we really care about

Values are what we care about – wants, needs, likes, and dislikes. They cause us to prefer the consequences of one alternative decision over another. 

Frequently, we find decisions difficult to make because none of the alternative actions can satisfy all our values. Such decisions involve trade-offs to define which value is more important in the instance. For example, in choosing a job, we might trade off salary with how much we like the position and how it contributes to the community. Or, in buying a used car, we might trade off saving money with paying for a warranty. 

Too often, people make poor decisions by overemphasizing the short term (e.g., buy it now because it’s cheap) and underemphasizing the long-term (e.g., too much credit card debt). Further, we may forget to consider a value that is really important, such as how our decision will affect those we care about. Another point to consider is that sometimes we don’t really know what we truly want. Our values may be in transition. In that case, efforts to clarifying our values are crucial to making quality decisions.


How to clarify values

Ask yourself

  • What do I really want out of this decision?

  • How much of one value am I willing to give up to get more of another value?

  • How do my overall goals apply in this situation?

Ask your head

  • Can I explain why the potential futures associated with each alternative are attractive or not?

  • Can I explain how much of something I would give up to get more of something else?

Ask your heart

  • Have I considered the potential impacts of my decisions on all those I care about?

  • Are the values I am expressing consistent with my conscience?

Tools and good practice

  • List of what I care about

  • List of possible outcomes for each alternative

  • List of what I want and dislike about each possible outcome

  • Explanation of how much of the “wants” I would be willing to give up in order to reduce the “dislikes”


Traps to avoid

  • Thinking in the short term

  • Thinking only of yourself

  • Being attached to sunk costs

  • Overreacting to risks

  • Ignoring risks

For more information about good decision making, download our booklet

Decision Quality: The Fundamentals of Making Good Decisions