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Values and Life Rules

Values find their expression in terms of security, love, honesty, honor, loyalty, reliability, responsibility, etc. They are the foundation of our behaviors and are inner motivators. If you want to change your behavior, but have values that contradict the desired behavior, you will not succeed. You will not be able to maintain your new behavior for long. Only if your values support your behavior will you be able to change your life permanently.

Values usually emerge as abstract nominalizations. They are of paramount importance, not only to individuals, but to businesses and society as well. Values are the driving force and orientation for our behavior and serve as criteria for the subsequent evaluation or assessment of our actions. Values constitute an ideal frame of reference that guides our activities and evaluations and guides us to achieve the desired results. They must be experienced and "negotiated" in a concrete frame of interaction, because they form the basis for our judgments about what makes life worth living.

Everyone uses their personal values for making progress towards their goals and results. A sense of personal contentment and wholeness results in a match between current behavior and personal values. The people you love or are friends with, the way you educate your children, the political direction you support, how you do your work, the clothes you wear, the foods you consume are determined by the individual values that you claim for yourself.

Introduction to values

Values find their expression in terms of security, love, honesty, honor, loyalty, reliability, responsibility, etc. They are the foundation of our behaviors and are inner motivators. If you want to change your behavior, but have values that contradict the desired behavior, you will not succeed. You will not be able to maintain your new behavior for long. Only if your values support your behavior will you be able to change your life permanently.

We use values to judge what is good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, good or evil, true or false, beautiful or ugly, appropriate or inappropriate.

Since values are very personal, strongly emotional orientational principles and motivators and include our beliefs, their development is subject to the same developmental periods as the acquisition of belief systems: a period of "unconscious modeling" a period of introjection and identification with immediate family members (esp. parents), a period of extra-familial socialization in school, peer group and occupation. Seen in this way, the sources for the development of our values are our family, our friends, the community in which we grow up, social institutions (school, church, associations, etc.), the working environment, the economic, social and political conditions. Values are thus strongly linked to our identity and our beliefs and attitudes.

Values are the most unconscious parts of our personality. Values are principles, standards or qualities that are accepted by individuals or by a group as valuable or desirable.

Values are closely related to each individual's beliefs, attitudes, and meta-programs. The terms honor, responsibility, friendship, love, creativity, etc. can be values and criteria that serve a person as orientation patterns and sorting principles of circumstances and activities in each context. Perceived facts and actions are sorted out by our five senses, and personal activities are directed towards achieving the desired values, whereby different people in a community, institution, or corporation can have different values and criteria. Belief in certain things can also be expressed in the form of values. So, the belief in religion or a particular god can also be a value.

Thus, people, social relationships, time, place, activities, nature or circumstances can be of different importance at different times and periods of life: e.g. It can be assumed that a marriage or the birth of a child results in a change of values and assessment criteria.

Decision making is based on values and systems and is usually unconscious. For the attentive communicator, however, these can be discerned from the use of modal operators of necessity:

  • "I must do this."
  • "I absolutely need this."
  • "I have no choice, I just have to put up with it."

Depending on the context and desired outcome, values and criteria may conflict, e.g., when different values and criteria should be placed above or subordinated to others.
E.g., "I have to take more care of my health and relax more"
vs. "It's important for me to finish this job by the end of the month."

Values and criteria for the individual can be found out by observing the nominalizations used or by simple questions such as:

  • "What motivated you to take on your current job?"
  • "What is the most important thing in your social relations?"
  • "What do you regard as especially valuable in your life?"
  • "Why do you do that?"

Neuro-Linguistic Programming provides the professional communicator with different methods for identifying and changing a hierarchy of personal and conflicting values:

  • Changing the hierarchy personal values
  • Eliciting a hierarchy of conflicting values
  • Changing conflicting personal values

Values in relationships

Examining one's own values and recognizing which values are most important to oneself helps make life more valuable. It explains many a conflict, but also many decisions and needs. Clarifying values in a partnership can provide a significant added value at the beginning of a new relationship and make everyday life even better. The clarity of one's values and the clarity of values in the relationship are a very strong foundation.

Value analysis

Individual work

  1. Which projects, plans, leisure activities did you do during the last 2-5 years? Create a list, find out the corresponding values and enter them in a percentage distribution.

  2. Which projects, plans, leisure activities do you want to carry out during the next 2-5 years? Create a list and find out the corresponding values. Enter these in a percentage distribution.

(Alternatively, or in addition to 1 and 2, you could also ask, "How do you spend your time?" "What do you spend your money on?" "What do you invest energy in?" The more precisely these questions are answered, the more you know the real preferences, and thus indirectly, about the values that guide your actions. That what a person consciously knows about his values will always be a hopeless mix of rationalization, idealized self-image and some true self-observations).

Work with your partner

  1. Find out his/her values by asking the following questions:
    Why do you do that?
    What good does it do you?
    For what purpose do you do that?
    What do you get from that?

  2. Work out a hierarchy of personal values from these observations.

Discovering the hierarchy of values

Discover your own hierarchy of values. What is important to you in life? Which words play the most important role for you?
You can formulate your values freely. The list below should give you some food for thought.


In order to make the ranking of values clearer for you, I will show you how to put them in order of importance with an example. This is just an example, you determine your values all alone!


The values could be: passion, imagination, freedom, development, adventure, success and health.

Now I wonder what value is more important to me.

Is passion or imagination more important to me? Passion.

Is passion more important than freedom? Yes.

What is more important: passion or development?...

So, I compare all the values in turn with passion. If there is no value more important than passion, then passion comes first. If there is a value that is more important, it is preferred and compared to all others. If, for example, success is more important than passion, success becomes number one.

Of course, I no longer need to compare success with imagination, because imagination was less important than passion, and in turn less important than success. So, I just ask: is success more important than health? Yes. Success is number one.

Is passion more important than health? Yes.

This makes passion the number 2 and so on. If you do that consistently, you will very quickly be able to rank your highest values.

Difficulties in ranking

At some points you may find it difficult to rank one value over another.

Example: Is freedom more important to me or adventure? When I experience adventure, I feel free; without freedom, I cannot experience adventures.

Suggestion: If you get stuck, ask yourself, "What does freedom and adventure mean to me?"

Freedom could mean, doing or not doing what you want. Adventure could mean tackling exciting challenges. Now you can better compare the two: What is more important to me: To be able to do, or not do, what I want, or to master exciting challenges? Mastering exciting challenges… So, adventure is therefore a higher value. If you still cannot make a clear distinction despite defining them, then ask yourself: "What would happen if one of the two values went missing?" Could I imagine a life without adventure? It would be boring, I would have no energy and would have little incentive. How about if I had no freedom? I would be dependent. Is it worse to be dependent or without energy? Without energy. This makes adventure more important than freedom. Would I rather have no freedom, but adventure? Or is it more pleasant to give up the adventures and have freedom for it?

Hierarchy of my values





Examining individual values

Now go through your list again and explore what these values mean to you.

Ask yourself: What does love/success/passion mean… for me?

Example: For me, love means going through thick and thin with someone else. What does it mean for you to go through thick and thin with someone else? To be able to trust the other. Go ahead and ask further questions, because often there is some meaning for us in a word completely different than another person would suspect.

Changing a hierarchy of personal values

  1. Identify a hierarchy of personal values.

  2. Decision to change the value hierarchy: Together with the communication partner, find out which of his personal values he would like to change in the position of the hierarchy he has worked out.

  3. Changing the value hierarchy: Find out the sub-modalities, meta-programs, strategies, representational systems of the most important value and of the value to be changed.
    Use the submodalities of the most important value and transfer them to the value to be changed. Check if meta-programs, strategies, etc. have changed. If not, apply the procedure for changing meta-programs and strategies to support this process.

  4. Creation of a new hierarchy of personal values: Let the communication partner reorganize his hierarchy of personal values. How would you arrange your personal values now? At what position in ranking is the changed value now?

  5. Test and Future Pace.

Values and biographical development

  1. Identify a hierarchy of personal values.
    The communication partner is encouraged to name the personal values of his life: "What do you consider to be particularly valuable in your life?" Create a hierarchy of these personal values with the communication partner by using assessment criteria: "Which of these values is particularly important to you, less important and least important?"

  2. Structure of the most significant value and evidential proof for it
    Elicit the strategy or evidence for the most important value: "How do you know that this is your most important value?" "How is that value represented in your thinking?"

  3. Biographical development of the value
    Anchor the evidence (imagination, sounds, voices, etc.) and the related sense of value, and let the communication partner recall all related or associated experiences.

  4. Generalization, belief system, meta-programs
    Review the biographical examples of the value and find out the structure:
    "What generalizations do you draw from the examples?"
    "What is important in the process of perception -
    People, self, goals, activities etc.? (meta-programs)
    "What do you think about the world from this perspective?"
    "What do you think about yourself in these contexts?"

  5. Future Pace
    Transfer the most important value to the future:
    "How will you shape your life if you keep that value for yourself and you act in accordance with it?"

Value conflicts

Many people have so-called value conflicts in their lives. They want to move forward in their careers, increase their quality of life, become more socially engaged and at the same time spend many weeks on vacation, lying in the sun and having time for other things. This can create value conflicts.

To a certain extent, these value conflicts also belong to our lives. They make our life attractive, varied and exciting. But when the conflicts gain the upper hand, we are incongruent, i.e., we are not completely committed to our goals and the inner conflict is expressed in our behavior.

Check your list of values for such value conflicts or potential conflict. First write down your most important values and then consider whether conflicts of any kind exist:





Eliciting a hierarchy of conflicting values

  1. Identify the part to be changed (behavior, feeling, etc.) and the desired part of the communication partner.

  2. Together with your partner, find a description of this part, which includes experience and self-reflection.

  3. Identify the related feelings.

  4. Let your communication partner find a description of an example of the corresponding part and pay attention to all recognizable meta-programs.

  5. Ask the person for the related values.

  6. Take the same steps for the unwanted part.

  7. Let the communication partner select a future situation (family, work, free time, etc.) and describe the effect of the changing value on this situation.

Making changes to conflicting values

  1. Identify conflicting values:
    • Identify a hierarchy of personal values in the partner that conflict with each other, e.g., morals vs. happiness, popularity vs. feeling well, etc.
    • Also identify the related conflicting feelings, e.g. fear vs. freedom etc. and related meta-programs. For example, away from negative vs. towards positive, difference vs. similarity, etc.

  2. Contrast and transfer submodalities:
    • Find out the different submodalities of the conflicting values and develop an idea of each value / part in the form of a person. Have your partner visualize each person on one hand (outstretched).
    • Use the submodalities of the (undesired) value and transfer this value to the (desired) value.
    • Check if meta programs, feelings, etc. have changed.

  3. Conduct a “Visual Squash” (optional):
    • Start from the already visualized persons / values (above) in the outstretched hands and distinguish between positive intention and behavior.
    • What resource does each part / person have available and that can support the other so that that part could be more effective.
    • Create a third part / person that includes each of the other’s resources.
    • Visualize this part / person between the hands (the other two parts).
    • Integrate the two conflicting parts / persons in the third person and let the hands merge and if necessary
    • integrate into the communication partner’s body.
  4. Test and Future Pace: Let the partner select a future situation (family, work, free time, etc.) and describe the effect of the changed value on this situation.

Life rules

Life rules describe what requirements must be met for a cause or event to live up to our values. What needs to happen so that we feel a certain feeling? What needs to happen to make you feel happy? Do you have to earn a million dollars and drive a fancy car before you feel happy, or is it enough for a few sunbeams to tickle your face? What must happen to make you feel annoyed? Is it enough, if you are in a hurry and must wait at a red light, or does someone have to drive into your car at full speed and then make a run for it? You've probably noticed, these questions are asking you to think about your life's rules.

Regarding life rules, I distinguish between two types. The one tells us what conditions must be fulfilled in order for a certain feeling to be triggered in us, the other tells us what we need to do and what we want to do.

Life rule 1st type:

What must happen for you to have a certain feeling?

Life rule 2nd type:

What must I do so that ... happens?

What should I do so that ... happens?

Write down your own life rules by answering the following question:

What are your most important rules of life?





Find life rules for values

  1. Go through your values again and ask of that value, e.g., Love: What needs to happen to make me feel loved? What requirements must be fulfilled for me to feel loved?
    Example: I feel happy when .... I feel healthy when ...

  2. Now check if these rules empower or inhibit you. If you find a rule that you cannot possibly do justice to because the criteria are so complex or mutually exclusive, throw that rule overboard and replace it with a new one. Do the same thing when circumstances that you cannot control are important to the fulfillment of the rule. Try to find many ways to make you feel good and that are complex as possible in order to make you feel bad.

  3. Now complete the following sentences:
    I always feel good when ...
    The more possibilities you give yourself here, the more often you will feel good.
    My relationship is going great, when ...
    My job is fun for me, when ...

  4. Find out which rules are most important to you and arrange your rules into a hierarchy.

  5. Which rules would you never break?

  6. In which areas of your life could compliance with such iron rules be of advantage? In which ones of disadvantage?

  7. Do you already know the differences between the "I must" - and the "I should" rules?
    Try to describe the differences!

My guiding principles for a happier life

Maybe you can also develop something like an ethical code from your rules of life that sets the standard for your quality of life. Large companies develop so-called mission statements for their company. You can do the same with your own life.
Design your principles for a new and happier life.