Values, Voting and Other Decisions

I recently read Tony Robbins’ book, Unlimited Power, for the umpteenth time. Each time I reread it I have more respect for Tony’s deep understanding of the human mind and behavior. Despite not being a neuroscientist, social psychologist or behavioral economist, the insights he shares (the book was written 30 years ago) are spot on.

Each time I reread a good book, different insights come to light. Tony’s take on values caught my attention this time around. He defined values as “your own private, personal, and individual beliefs about what is most important to you. Your values are your belief systems about right, wrong, good, and bad.” He went on to say, “Our values are the things we all fundamentally need to move toward. If we don’t, we won’t feel whole and fulfilled.”

We all value different things and even when we value the same things we may not prioritize them the same way. For example, someone might place a high priority on love, respect, truthfulness and competency. For one person love may be the ultimate value but another might place respect above love. There is no right or wrong answer, because values mean different things to different people.

We’re in the most divisive election in U.S. history with each candidate having the highest unfavorable and distrusted ratings of any candidates since polls tracked those traits. It’s safe to say neither candidate would have much chance to win IF they were running against someone who was competent, likeable, and trustworthy. But, those are the two Americans have put in this position so barring something unforeseeable the next president will be either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

It’s a fact that most voters vote on one or two issues that are most important to them. For self-identified Republicans, traditionally it was guns, gays and God. They were for guns (still are), against gay marriage (softened on that) and all about religious freedom (still lean towards that).

Democrats were seen as pro-choice, for gay rights, and for economic equality. It’s safe to say these are still very high priorities for most people who lean towards the Democratic Party.

Why is this important? If a person’s highest value is life then they’re probably anti-abortion and would be much more likely to vote Republican. On the flip side, someone who believes in freedom of choice would be much more likely to vote Democrat because of the pro-choice stance of the party.

Neither person is bad and neither is wrong. Based on their upbringing, life experiences and many other factors each has come to their own set of values and prioritizes them differently.

Elections are interesting because given the vast diversity we have in America, we are shoehorned into just two viable choices. No party fully represents anyone and sometimes there are things they support that people outright disagree with. However, given only two choices people tend to hold their nose and vote for the party that either aligns with their highest values or that aligns with most of their top values.

A big factor in voting this way is the principle of consistency. This principle says we feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what we say and do. When we’re not consistent we don’t feel good about ourselves and look for ways to resolve that feeling. One way we do this is through confirmation bias. We will look for evidence to support how we feel and what we believe to the exclusion of other information that may contradict our viewpoint.

As we get closer to the election keep this in mind because some people you know and like will be voting the opposite of you. Odds are you’ll know who those people are because social media gives everyone a voice. Be careful what you post and how you respond to friend’s posts because it’s not worth losing a friend over whom you support because once the election is over very few of us will be talking politics. The reality is you probably have much more in common with those who vote differently than you but you just don’t prioritize your values the same.

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