Values and Wellbeing


By Judith Mills

Values have been debated and discussed for centuries. Plato wrote about them and the Indian text The Bhagavad Gita written around 200 BC gives insight into the struggle to live a values-driven life. Those of us, past and present, who are interested in values are motivated to make the world a ‘better’ place. Put another way we are concerned for the wellbeing of the world. In the striving for a values-driven world the question is, are we looking after our own wellbeing? And what is Wellbeing anyway.

Wellbeing is being well physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. These vary over time and in relation to each other. Sometimes we are very fit physically yet stressed mentally. Sometimes we go over and over something that has happened in the past and actually going to a place in nature that soothes us will bring us back into wellbeing.

Values underlie our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. What they are and where they come from differs person to person. Our upbringing through family norms, education, culture, life events and the times in which we live affect our choice and perception of values. Values that enhance our wellbeing come from a sense of love and self-worth rather than from fear. Values that come from fear are an interference that can affect our wellbeing.

A number of years ago one of my coaching clients had ‘continuous improvement’ as a value for herself and her organization. All very worthy, until we unpicked that it fed her ‘be perfect’ mental script; that she could never feel good enough which niggled her self-esteem; for her it was fear-based rather than life-enhancing or from love. We reframed it to ‘continuous development’, which sat easier emotionally and less stressful to live up to than continuous improvement. For her this had become a potentially limiting value, not serving her wellbeing.

The concept of potentially limiting values is part of the Barrett Values Centre model of Values. Values are potentially limiting when they come from fear. Being liked is one. One behavior associated with this is pleasing others rather than having a healthy self-interest for our own needs. We are concerned what others will think. To have the will and energy to care or empathies or behave compassionately with others when living a values-driven life we need to care for our own wellbeing.

How we name and understand values can deepen through interaction with others, through self-reflection, and through an interest in having a values compass to guide the way we live our lives.

To take a personal values questionnaire and for a meditation on Wellbeing click here.


Judith Mills is a coach and facilitator who has used values in her work with people and organisations for over 30 years.

Photograph by Max van den Oetelaar @maxvdo


More Posts

From Twitter