Values talk with Action For Happiness

Last night I attended a talk put on by Action for Happiness. The speakers were Phil Clothier and Richard Barrett from the Barrett Values Centre, Martin Palethorpe, the founder of the UK Values Alliance, and a lady that spoke about how Sweden is doing using the assessment techniques outlined by the Barrett Values Centre.

These are the seven levels of values the Barrett Values Centre has identified. Values such as making a difference will come up higher on the diagram, and values such as family will come lower down. This does not mean that valuing family is lesser than wanting to make a difference. The ideal set of values would be a completely balanced diagram, with at least one value in each level. Foundation values are needed in order to have selfless values.


This model is inspired by Maslow’s triangle, and can be used for personal use, but it can also be used for organisations, or even assessing citizens’ perceptions of their countries. Comparing people’s personal values to their perceptions of the company they work in or their country and their community can help spark discussion about where things are going wrong.


This is what my diagram looked like. I’m afraid I value making a difference over making money – I have an imbalance and this is not sustainable. It’s something I am in the process of addressing. You’ll notice that finding the meaning of life section is empty for me – you’ll hate me for seeming smug and saying this, but I have a strong sense of purpose. I feel that I know the meaning of life, so I’m not seeking it any more. Meaning can’t be the same for everyone, but for me, I find meaning in actively trying to make the world a better place every day, even if it’s just a tiny bit.

Take the values assessment here for free.

They explained the results of using their tool on several countries and organisations. There was a huge discrepancy between how people perceived their community compared to how they perceived Britain overall. As Phil said, transformation takes time. Measuring values is not much use unless what is learnt from the results is used some way. The results can be used to start dialogue. This is an extremely important point. When the Office of National Statistics measured UK levels of happiness, dialogue was sparked, but it was about investing money into the survey, not about the results. This shows a lack of understanding. The dialogue is the important bit.

There are many different tools to measure aspects of well-being, but the important part is the dialogue after the measurement: analysing it, understanding it, working out why it is that way, comparing it in some cases to other results, finding out what can be improved, and the most important bit – working out how and making it happen.

Part of the analysing process is recognising, with this particular tool, that beliefs divide, but values unite. Yours and my values may be the same, but the beliefs that we associate with the values may be different and may clash. Also our behaviours arising from the values and beliefs. There is potential for discussion here.

Another thing to consider is whether our values and behaviours are aligned. We can say what our values are, but if a private detective was following you, what would they say that your values seemed to be based on your behaviour?

Overall, this was a highly thought-provoking talk, and I would love to help facilitate the discussion that these people want to spark.

You can also read Action for Happiness‘ report here.

Funny quote from the talk: ‘I had a handle on life, then I broke it.’

Inspiring quote from Richard Barrett, aged over 60: ‘I’m optimistic about the future.’

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Filed under Ideas, Well-being project

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