The same value can mean different things to different people.

Consider two people who greatly value their families. The first person values eating dinner with his family, so his goal is to be done with all his work on time to be able to make it home for dinner. The other person works long hours and almost never eats dinner with her family, because she’s trying to make as much money as possible so she can provide for her family and save for her children’s college.

The difference between these two approaches is called operating philosophy. It is the missing link between values and behavior. There are three main types:

  • Pragmatic
  • Intellectual
  • Human

Pragmatic operating philosophy is when a person determines worthiness of an activity based on how useful and effective the activity is in achieving a given goal.

Intellectual operating philosophy means that the worthiness of an activity is determined based on how much the activity contributes to understanding something.

People with dominant human operating philosophy will determine the worthiness of an activity based on the impact the activity has on other people, or on the relationship they have with other people.

Each person has a certain combination of these three operating philosophies. This combination, and especially the dominant philosophy, affects how our values are manifested.

I have two dominant operating philosophies: intellectual and human. I value knowledge and ideas, as well as the wellbeing of other people and my relationship with them.

I encourage you to take a moment to try to identify your dominant philosophy. It will provide you with a deeper understanding of your personal values and help you live a more fulfilling and resonant life.