Creating Value defines the move from why (purpose) to the first step in defining how. In practical terms, creating value means serving our fellow human beings – making things better for them (what making a difference is about). It can be:
- Can be new value, or provision of an existing benefit.
- Can be psychological, physical, financial or even spiritual.
For example it could be:
Psychological – mentoring, advising, or just listening
Physical – carrying the shopping to inventing wheels on a suitcase
Financial – charity donation, help to a family member, to seedcorning a worthwhile enterprise
Spiritual – providing uplift, inspiration, creating a vision a better society
Taking or destroying value
Not much talked about, but crucial, and it comes in many forms.
One is the attack on self esteem. Numerous psychological studies show that we all constantly monitor ourselves in relation to others. People with lower self esteem – temporary or permanent – have a tendency to want to reinforce and improve their own view of themselves by reducing people around them. In so doing, they destroy value for them.
People with very low self esteem –especially the socially excluded, or people living on the margins of society – are very sensitive to feeling inadequate, defective, insecure or helpless. They often kick down on people they consider to be below them. For example, prisoners attack sex offenders, jobless working class whites kick down on ethnic minorities.
When they feel they are being dissed – shown disrespect – the normal reaction is violence. Often feral violence, because the very core of their wellbeing is being threatened. They have a very fierce pride in protecting what little self regard they have.
Taking value from another human being is extremely destructive. This is especially true for children, in particular vulnerable children. Showing disrespect is a fundamentally dehumanising act. It takes away value from the very people who need their value reinforced and consolidated
Value destruction is also present in certain jobs and occupations. This is not normally as vicious as that described above, but can be damaging nonetheless.
Some occupations within the law, for example, can be value-neutral at best, and value-destructive at worst. While lawyers are necessary, and many provide value by seeking justice for their clients, others merely obfuscate for the fees. Jarndice v’s Jarndice in Dickens’s Bleak House is the classic example of lawyers talking to lawyers to no benefit to their clients until their fees have consumed the entire inheritance.
Financial services. The provision of money for a fair price is the cornerstone of our free enterprise system, but much money trading, or brokering, and much lending – eg credit cards – where the sky high interest rates are not justified by the risks involved – is usurious. It takes huge chunks of money (value) out of the system. Destroying value in this way is not victimless. The rest of us suffer, and often the financially vulnerable or naïve suffer most.
Those involved in value theft often don’t get off scot free. They often suffer from stress, and even burnout. The reason – it’s stressful at subconscious level. You can’t fool your subconscious. Like conscience, it can’t be manipulated. If it knows what you are doing is worthless/has no value, a kind of schizophrenia is set up causing stress, discomfort and loss of energy. It can be very challenging for those concerned.
* Exercise 1.
Evaluate what you do for a living – the work itself and its constituent elements.
Is it creating value? …………..
Is it destroying value?………………
Can parts be changed to be more value positive? …………………
Can you do anything to reduce the value you are destroying?………………………….
What can you do to make sure you are creating more value?……………………………..
Your behaviour can create, or destroy, value
The most basic way is making people feel valued. This can be a huge contribution to human happiness. Offering friendship is the simplest way. Friendship involves people socially. Based on reciprocity, mutuality, social obligation, the recognition of other people’s needs.
Friendship is especially effective in times of stress, or need. It is not just giving people support – although that is important – it is making them feel valued just when they need it. Studies show friendship improves physical and mental health, particularly at stressful times.
It must, of course, be genuine, from the heart. It involves taking time – listening well – to understand a person’s real needs.. Holding an old person’s hand longer than perhaps would naturally be inclined to, can create huge value for that person. Old people live at a slower pace, and feel the need to connect to the people around them. To feel connected – valued – they need to hold another human being’s hand for longer than the minimum time possible.
The Origins of the Need to Feel Valued
We all have a fundamental need to feel valued. Adam Smith understood that we all feel the need to follow what he called the “pursuit of regard”.
At bottom the need to feel valued, or appreciated, is about security. Doing things that others find helpful is a good insurance in a co-operative group. If you share benefits, you avoid being outcast.
We have to recognise that our modern society increased individualism is in many ways very positive, but it also gives us greater insecurity. We worry more about what others think of us, and how we look. The explosion of cosmetic plastic surgery is rooted in this desire to look good, to be accepted. To have others think we’re OK.
So creating value for others by making them feel valued – we must recognise – is both a generous act and a selfish act, at the same time.
Other ways to create value
For those of us lucky enough to have families there is the opportunity both to give and take value. The balance between giving and taking varies over time. Some family members, at various times in their lives want to take more than they give, and the reverse is true at other times.
Children, for example, when young take (they have no alternative), but sometimes keep taking when they grow up. But they often give value when they realise at least some of their potential as human beings when they become adults. Their giving back of value can lie in the people they become when they grow up.
Most basic creation of value in a family is the creation of a sense of security for children growing up. Not financial security (impossible and non guaranteeable) but the combination of justice, fairness and kindness. Clear boundaries, firmly enforced. Families, like societies, gain stability and security through fair rules, fairly enforced. Without consistency, there can be no integrity. Manipulation skills become prized above anything else, which destroys value for the individual concerned.
Unconditional love is a way to give huge value. It confirms a child’s – or any family member’s – sense of intrinsic worth. However high your self esteem is, you still benefit from the feeling that someone loves you – whatever happens. It confirms and validates you as an individual.
By the same token, there is no surer way to destroy value for someone than to withdraw unconditional love. It can be very challenging with a child who feels hurt and rejected through parents re-marrying, for example. The child is full of anger, because it is emotionally damaged. In this situation unconditional love can be very hard work, but it’s very necessary. Guts and persistence are required, as well as kindness and love.
* Exercise 2
What new value can you create for your:
– family …………………………………..
– friends …………………………………..
– colleagues …………………………………
– people in your community …………………
– the planet ………………………………..
As a society, the trends are positive
Contrary to the nonsense talked by the post modernists about human progress being a myth, our sensibilities are developing in a very positive way.
- -Less than a hundred years ago, women did not have the vote in developed societies – something unthinkable today.
- Less than a hundred years ago, racial discrimination was enshrined in law in countries like USA and South Africa.
- We now try to treat soldiers traumatised by war with sympathy and compassion. Post traumatic stress disorders are recognised medical facts. Less than 100 ago, during the 1st World War, we shot them at dawn for cowardice.
- Capital punishment, and corporal punishment, are both declining in most parts of the world. We no longer flog or hang people in private, let alone in public.
- Welfare states – the recognition that societies have a responsibility to their most vulnerable citizens – are expanding.
- Religious, sexist, ageist discrimination and racism are declining – all are becoming less acceptable.
- The tendency we have to identify with our family is extending to our community, to our nation, to the human race (helping with overseas disasters) to the planet (embracing sustainability, environmental responsibility).
We still have a very long way to go, but we have a growing desire to be valued and needed by others. At its lowest, it’s the desire to protect ourselves through being useful.
Interestingly, a study published Psychological Science in 2003 showed the main beneficiaries of practical and emotional help were the givers, rather than the receivers. The reason is that our needs are now aspirational, rather than financial. Our social strategies to be valued by others are shifting from money and status to more direct social sources – mutual aid, emotional identification with each other.
In summary, we gain a sense of self value – enhanced self esteem – through giving value to others by helping them, and making them feel more valued.
Creating value for others creates value for us.
It really does make a difference.
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