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DEPARTMENTS: Take Ten

Key Points Concerning Having a Values-Based Professional Philosophy

Peterson, James A. Ph.D., FACSM

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doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000162
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  1. COLOSSAL CLARITY. Values are priorities that serve as a person’s filter concerning how he or she will act and react to the circumstances he or she confronts in life. In essence, they tell individuals how to spend their time — right here, right now. Priorities are important in the lives of professionals for two reasons. First, they enable people to focus on spending their time appropriately. Time is a person’s most limited resource. It does not renew itself. Once a moment has passed, it’s gone forever. Second, values help individuals stick to a clear and consistent course of action in their lives. In that regard, they serve as a compass that helps keep people on the proper path in life.
  2. WHAT’S IN A WORD?. A variety of terms (e.g., values, morals, principles, ethics, virtues, etc.) can be used to express what an individual feels is important in life with regard to personal conduct. Although some distinction exists between each word, in general, they often are considered synonyms for each other. The key point is that each descriptor is a relative parameter of a person’s behavior.
  3. MORAL BEARING. Values provide the moral authority for who an individual is as a person. As such, the presence of ethically grounded principles can help instill a sense of legitimacy in a professional for a number of reasons, including the fact that it reinforces why that individual’s opinions and efforts matter. All other factors being equal, a values-centered professional is more capable of inspiring confidence and rallying others to achieve a specific purpose.
  4. A LASTING IMPRESSION. Values are like fingerprints — unique and personal. Individuals leave them all over everything they do. As a rule, the words and actions of a professional that are grounded in values-driven principles can leave a profound positive impression. In turn, behavior that is not rooted in a strong moral code is much less likely to be perceived by others in a favorable light.
  5. THE BRIGHT SIDE. Research indicates that, in all likelihood, positive people will be more effective in what they do than negative individuals. Given the consequential impact that values can have on a person’s professional destiny, it can be argued that individuals should make a concerted effort to keep their values positive. To a degree, the odds are that people with the right mental attitude are more predisposed to achieving their professional goals. All factors considered, the converse also is true.
  6. A DIFFERENCE MAKER. As a rule, the essence of decision making is to decide among several possible choices. More often than not, every decision can present its own inherent challenges. As such, the more individuals know what their values are, the easier it is for them to reach a decision and address whatever problematic issues might exist in arriving at a particular course of action.
  7. DON’T SETTLE FOR LESS. If individuals feel like they have to start compromising who they are as people and what is most important to them as human beings because of others, it is probably time for them to change the people around them. While striking a balance between one set of circumstances and another possible option can be a suitable course of action, depending on the situation, it is never appropriate for a person to make accommodations for their values.
  8. A TEST OF CHARACTER. If professionals don’t stick to their values when they’re being challenged or tested, they’re not values — they’re illusions of convenience. A willingness to overlook an occasional detour in their values means that a person’s principles weren’t grounded in the first place.
  9. A BLESSING, NOT A LAND MINE. In reality, challenging circumstances occasionally are part of a person’s life. Far too often, however, many people view difficult times in an entirely negative perspective. In fact, they may offer great opportunities for an individual to grow and learn. Arguably, life’s ups and downs can provide windows of opportunity for professionals to engage their values, particularly in the context of addressing problematic matters.
  10. A BUCKET LIST FOR THE SOUL. In essence, leading a values-based life is a choice. Although the core principles and values that guide a person’s behaviors can be impacted by a myriad of factors (e.g., upbringing, peer influences, culture, etc.), individuals have the capacity to determine what values they hold dear and what governing principles (if any) may somehow be lacking in their lives. In the latter case, professionals probably need to recalibrate their priorities with regard to their values and conduct.
© 2015 American College of Sports Medicine.