Everyday, each one of us face situations and problems which call for thought,opinion-making, decision making and action. Some of these situations, problems can be familiar or unusual whereas some could be casual or crucial. The decision and action we take, is based on our consciously or unconsciously held beliefs,attitudes, and values. 8 years back I made one such decision. I entered a marriage arranged by my parents. At that time, I took the decision thinking and believing my parents will find the best for me. I did not have my own value system but adopted the value system of my parents.

I was both right and wrong. Right in believing that my parents wanted the best for me, wrong in not realizing that the world of my parents is different from the one I’m living in. The marriage did not work due to some reasons but it left me with a strong life lesson. If only I had made a well thought out decision, I would have been saved from this life altering failure. But how? I never learnt how to make a right choice. I followed this bad decision by a slew of other bad decisions, that did not involve my parents. I entered into relationships with married men, with unmarried men who looked for no more than a hook up. I was in a terrible phase.

That was two years back. Today I know how to make those self-benefiting choices because now these choices are backed a “value system” that I have created for my own. From my experience and from the experience of hundreds of other young people I have worked with as a sexuality educator, I have realized the importance of “value” in our lives, in our intimate relationships. A value is the deepest set of core beliefs, rules that help us make decisions. 

Now it’s not that we were not taught about values. Traditionally, our parents and guardians who were motivated by a sincere desire to help us lead happy and productive lives guided us on values through “moralizing”. Moralizing is the direct or subtle inculcation of the adult’s values upon the young. It works like this: My experience has taught me a certain set of values which I believe would be right for you. Therefore, to save you the pain of coming to those values on your own, and to avoid the risk of your choosing less desirable values, I will effectively transfer my values to you. Now, one of the major problems with this approach is that it only works in a consistent environment.

But the young person is exposed to so many models today. Parents offer one set of should’s and should nots. The peer group offers a second view. Media and social media suggests another. Bombarded by all these influences, the young person is ultimately left to make his own choice among all such bewildering array of alternatives. Whose value or advise he should follow? But young people brought up by moralizing adults are not “prepared” to make their own responsible choices. They have not learnt a process for selecting the best and rejecting the worst elements contained in various value systems which others urge them to follow. Thus too often important choices in life are made on the basis of peer pressure, unthinking submission, or under influence of power.

How then does, a young person learn how to direct his life through a world full of confusion chaos, and conflict? How can he sort out the pros and cons of a situation or decision? How does he choose his own course of action that benefits him in the long run? More so in an intolerant world, how does he relate to people whose values differ from his own?

I’m going to illustrate a “value clarification approach” that can help you arrive at these answers. Like I said our values are the baseline on which important decisions and choices are made. I will enable you to create your own values. This approach was introduced by Dr. Louis Rath way back in 1950s as a part of innovative educational program and was further developed by Simon, Howe, and Kirschen baumin 1966 in their classic text ‘Values Clarification’. I have tweaked it a bit to suit present sensibilities.

The value clarification approach is not concerned with the content of the values but the process of valuing, as in how values can be built. It is composed of three main processes:

  1. Prizing and cherishing one’s beliefs and behaviors – If you consider something as your value, you should be able to defend it and stand for it in a room full of people. If you secretly consider liking something but are ashamed and hesitant of making a public affirmation, it is not a value.
  2. Choosing one’s beliefs and behaviors – You should be able to ‘freely’ choose your values among  a pool of alternatives after careful consideration of consequences attached to each one of them. A value cannot be something that is imposed on you or that is adopted by you without significant forethought.
  3. Acting with repetition and commitment – You should act out your values with consistency and commitment. If you believe in something but don’t do it, it is not a value. If you advocate something but pay lip service to it, it is not a value.