Tony Robbins: Values and Why They Matter

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What does Tony Robbins say about values? How can understanding your values change your mindset for the better?

According to Tony Robbins, values can dictate every evaluation and decision you make. When you’re clear on your values, they act as your compass, guiding you unequivocally toward any action that upholds them. As argued by Tony Robbins, values that are understood fully can lead to happiness, empowerment, and fulfillment. 

Find out more about Tony Robbins’ value theory below.  

Tony Robbins: Values for Empowerment

In this article, we’ll discuss Tony Robbin’s values theory and how changing your values changes your life. According to Tony Robbins, values dictate your evaluations, decisions, and actions, which create your destiny. Knowing and also living by your values brings deep fulfillment, inner peace, certainty, and joy. 

When you’re clear on your values, they act as your compass. By contrast, if you’re unclear on your values or if you have conflicting values, it can cause enduring unhappiness and frustration. For example, if your highest value is independence and your second-highest value is intimacy, you may frequently struggle in relationships between wanting to connect and yearning to be untethered. Furthermore, if you haven’t identified and committed to your values at all, you may sometimes act in ways that don’t align with them, bringing you further unhappiness.

We’ll explore how to identify your values, recognize how they’ve shaped your life, and alter them to support the life you want. 

What Are Your Values?

Before we talk about how to identify your values, let’s explain why you probably don’t know exactly what your values are, despite their impact on your life. For Tony Robbins, values are somewhat difficult to identify. 

In short, you may not be aware of what your values are because you didn’t consciously choose them: They developed largely without your awareness or input. You adopted your values through life experiences and conditioning from your parents, teachers, friends, culture, and other external forces. When your actions aligned with their values, you were rewarded with social approval, encouragement, or other forms of reinforcement. But when your actions went against their values, you were punished, excluded, or ignored. You also may have picked up values from your role models and from the media.

If you don’t know your values, then you don’t have a compass to guide you to the future you want, which leads to disappointment, frustration, and the sense that you could be getting more from life. Furthermore, not knowing your values means you can’t set goals that help you live up to those values. People in this situation often try to fill the void created by that uncertainty with self-destructive habits such as drinking, smoking, using drugs, and overeating. 

Later in this chapter, you’ll have a chance to reflect on what your values actually are. As you reflect on this, it’s important to understand that there are two types of values: 

  1. Ends are the emotional states you want to experience, such as love, happiness, and security. These are the values that make life fulfilling. 
  2. Means are the ways you expect to reach the ends—for example, you may value family because it’s a means to love and happiness. 

Distinguish between your values that are means and those that are ends to avoid pursuing values that are merely means without ever achieving their ends. For example, you may value owning your own business because you see it as a way to set your own schedule, enjoy more freedom, and have more time to spend with your family, so you set and achieve a goal to launch a startup. However, as your company grows, your responsibilities expand and you end up with less freedom and less time for your family. If you focus only on your means—the business—and forget about your ends—freedom and family time—you could reach your means while ending up further from your ends, leaving you unfulfilled. 

Recognize Your Value Hierarchy 

Although all of your values are important to you, some are more important than others, creating a value hierarchy. Your hierarchy determines how you make decisions—the values that are highest in your hierarchy will determine your decision, outweighing lower-priority values.

When you are clear on your value hierarchy, you can improve your life by deciding to actively pursue the values that mean the most to you and will bring you the most fulfillment. For example, if you are offered a great promotion at work but it would require you to move overseas, you must determine whether you value success above connection with family and friends, or adventure over comfort. 

You actually have not one, but two value hierarchies that guide what you do and don’t do: 

  1. Your hierarchy of “moving-toward values” ranks the values that bring you pleasure, such as love, power, and freedom. The values at the top of this hierarchy are those that you would do almost anything to fulfill. 
  2. Your hierarchy of “moving-away-from values” ranks the values that you want to avoid because they bring you pain, such as confrontation, fear, rejection, and loneliness. The values at the top of this hierarchy are those that you would do almost anything to avoid. For example, if your coworkers invite you to karaoke, you may not want to go because you want to avoid the humiliation of singing in front of everyone, but you may go anyway because your fear of social rejection is greater than your fear of humiliation, and you don’t want your coworkers to reject you if you pass on their invitation.

Beware That Your Hierarchies Can Cause Conflicts

Knowing your hierarchy of values is critical not only because it guides you to pursue only the most meaningful values to you, but also because it gives you the insight to see when your hierarchy is creating challenges in your life. This can happen in one of two ways:

  1. If you have conflicting moving-toward values that are ranked next to each other, you’ll face frequent dilemmas and dissatisfaction. For example, imagine that passion is your highest priority value and comfort is your second-highest. For the last 10 years, you’ve had the same job—it’s stable, comfortable, and familiar, but you’re not passionate about the work. You have a constant, nagging urge to make a career change to pursue your passion, but the risks and discomfort are too great, so you live in limbo. Many people go through life like this, but a simple reordering of priorities could resolve it (we’ll explain how to reprioritize your values next). 
  2. When your top moving-toward value and your top moving-away-from value conflict, you’ll end up in a cycle of self-sabotage. For example, if you want intimacy above all else but you also want to avoid rejection more than anything, you probably crave relationships but tend to sabotage them before you get close enough to risk rejection. Furthermore, as we discussed in Part 1, pain avoidance is a stronger motivator than pleasure-seeking, which means that your desire for intimacy will never outweigh your fear of rejection. This kind of conflict can plague your life, unless you reprioritize your values.

Apply It: Customize Your Values

Now that you know the role your values can play in shaping your decisions and your destiny, harness that power by taking stock of your values and adjusting them to guide you to the life you want.

First, become aware of how you currently prioritize your moving-toward values. There are countless values that you could hold and adopt, but, to get started, rank the following values in order of priority: 

  • Love
  • Success
  • Freedom
  • Intimacy
  • Security
  • Adventure
  • Power
  • Passion
  • Comfort
  • Health  

When you’re clear on how these forces drive you and which are the strongest forces, you’ll understand how these values have shaped your life. 

Second, once you’ve identified your current moving-toward values hierarchy, assess it to see what you’d like to shift in order to create the life you want. Initially, you might feel reluctant to change your values, because they’re such an integral part of who you are—but they don’t define you. Not only will you still be you when you shift your values, but you’ll be you in control of your life and destiny. Remember that you didn’t consciously choose this values hierarchy in the first place, and now you have the opportunity to tailor it to fit who you are and who you want to be. 

With that in mind, follow these steps: 

  1. Think of the values you would need in order to be the best person you could be and live the best life you could. Consider values that aren’t already on your list. As you think of additional values, decide where they fit best in your hierarchy. 
  2. Ask yourself which values you can eliminate from your priority list. You may eliminate values that are important to you, but which you have achieved sufficiently to take your focus off of them. For example, you may decide to remove “stability” from your hierarchy because, while it’s still important to you, you’ve achieved a high level of stability in your life and you realize that your continued focus on it is making you less willing to take necessary risks to fulfill other values. 
  3. Look at each value on your list and assess what benefits you get from that value and from placing that value in its particular position in your hierarchy. For example, why does prioritizing “achievement” above “happiness” shape your life in a positive way?
  4. Look at each value on your list and ask yourself what the drawbacks are of having that value in its particular position in your hierarchy. For example, having “success” as your highest priority may help you to achieve great things, but it may also force you to make sacrifices in fulfilling your “love” and “health” values. 
  5. Reviewing your revised list of values, ask yourself what priority order they need to be in to guide you to the future you want. Just like cooking, you can have all the right ingredients, but you won’t get the result you want unless you put them in the right order. 

After doing this exercise, you can feel confident and at peace knowing that you’ve harnessed the powerful force of your values to drive your decisions and actions toward creating the life you want. Of course, merely putting these words into a list won’t change your life—you need to condition yourself to internalize these values. Hang your values list where you’ll see it frequently, and create leverage by asking the people in your life to hold you to your new values. 

To ensure that your hierarchy of moving-away-from values don’t hamstring your progress, the next step is to do the same process with those values. First, rank the following values in order of how far you would go to avoid each: 

  • Rejection
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Failure
  • Humiliation
  • Guilt

Then, follow the steps above to reevaluate the importance of these values to you and determine where they should really appear in your hierarchy. Understanding Tony Robbins’ value hierarchy theory can help you to improve your life. 

Exercise: Evaluate Your Values 

Reflect on how you prioritize some of your values and how this hierarchy affects your life. 

  • Describe a dilemma you recently faced, and how you decided to solve it. 
  • What were the conflicting values in this dilemma?
  • Which value guided your ultimate decision?
  • Think about the implications of prioritizing this value above the other, conflicting value. How does this hierarchy shape your life on a larger scale? (For instance, in what other situations have you prioritized this value over the other? What were the effects of this?)
Tony Robbins: Values and Why They Matter

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Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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