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Think. Discuss. Act. Morals And Values

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Understanding How Core Beliefs And Values Determine Behavior

A group plan presenting a model to help participants understand how core beliefs and values determine behavior, and consider the issue of self-control as a result of each person’s value choices and beliefs.


Leader Preparation

Learn the models presented in The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management: Proven Strategies for Increased Productivity and Inner Peace (Hyrum Smith, 1994).

Obtain a blackboard, large pad of paper, or whiteboard available to record the thoughts of the group.

Prepare a large picture of the entire model presented in the book.

Group Building

Separate the large group into small groups of 2-3 people. Tell them that they are on a pirate ship and are about to be put ashore on a deserted island. “The despotic pirate captain has found a certain warm place in his heart for you and decides that you may take 5 items with you before your small group is marooned on this island. What 5 items will you choose?” (the items do not necessarily need to be limited to items traditionally found on a pirate ship) Allow participants no more than 5 minutes to develop a list. Have each group share their list, explaining why they chose those items.

Continue discussion by asking the group what they would need to be happy on this deserted island if knew that they were going to be stuck there for 20 years. What would still be missing? How is a desert island different than their situation now? Does this deserted island have any benefits over their present culture?

Group Presentation

Following the discussion above, ask what people really need to be happy. Make a large list for everyone can see. Present the “Needs Wheel” containing these four needs:

  • The need to live.
  • The need to love and be loved.
  • The need to feel important.
  • The need to experience variety.

Ask if the group agrees or disagrees with these needs. Can each need from their list fit into one of the four categories?

Next, discuss a “belief window,” or the things that we believe to be true about the world, ourselves, and other people. Let teenagers share in each category. The areas of self and others will probably not be too personal, and in a large setting they shouldn’t be. List some of their suggestions, but don’t let discussion drag-most people will begin to see that each listing could be endless. Prime the discussion by starting with something in each category. The belief window is based on experience and can contain hundreds of different beliefs. This belief window may incorporate both personal beliefs and one or more collective beliefs from a cultural group. Stress can be the result from the conflict of these beliefs.

Move to the third element of the model, “rules.” This includes all the rules (often subconscious) governing behavior that are created as a result of beliefs. Ask the group to look at the beliefs listed and explain that some rules might emerge as a result of those beliefs. Consider this example: “If I believe that good grades will make my parents love me more, then for myself I make the rule that If I don’t get a good grade, my parents won’t love me as much,” or “If I believe that guys only like girls for their body, then if a guy doesn’t like me, it must be because my body isn’t good enough.” Let the group try to come up with rules (this may take some time). Ask if these rules are based on reality or fact. Pose this question: are we living by any false rules?

Step four of the model, “behavior,” is when something physically happens. Collect a few examples from the above beliefs and rules, such as: “If the girl who thinks a guy that she likes didn’t like her because her body wasn’t good enough, then she might start dieting or working out 3 times a week.” Let the group suggest a few behavior results.

The fifth element is titled, “Results and Feedback.” It makes this model useful by analyzing the ability of a behavior to meet needs, thereby validating or invalidating a belief in the belief window. Using a particular behavior, let the students examine if the feedback from a behavior proves that the belief is a good way to meet the need. Consider this example: “A need to feel loved by parents might drive a student to get good grades and thus get parental approval, but does that really change the parents’ behavior or make parents love their child more?”

Group Discussion

Once the model is explained, have students test behaviors through the model, using real people an dissues rather than hypothetical situations. Set up five chairs in the front row; ask five students to sit in the chairs, each representing one aspect of the model. Let those in the chairs moderate responses for their element of the model.

  • Do you know someone with destructive behaviors, and do you know enough to see the reasons for the behavior? (Let students in the model take the examples and work them through the model with input from group.)
  • How would putting the beliefs in the belief window in order of importance make a difference in behavior or determining which belief to follow? Try some examples through the model.
  • Do you ever get offended when someone says “All teenagers who take drugs do it because…” or “All teenage violence is a result of…” According to the model, why might these overgeneralized statements offend you?

Evaluation and Follow-Up

Challenge the group to think for a few minutes each night about the choices they made during the day. Ask them to consider the following questions:

  • Did you choose to do anything that caused you stress or uneasiness? If so, why did you make that choice?
  • For the next session, ask participants to share anything they might have seen in their actions that was reflected in this model. Ask the following questions:
  • Did you discover any subconscious reasons for making choices, some of the “rules” you have created for yourself? Are those “rules” always based in reality?

This discussion can actually be used over a long period of time, applied to different topics. It is especially helpful and practical with Bible studies-select a scriptural truth, insert it in the belief window of the model, and run a behavior through. This practice helps students take a spiritual idea and see a direct correlation in their own lives.


The model has several applications: it helps connect what a person believes with the beliefs they actually live by, shows how changing circumstances can reveal incorrect beliefs, and illustrates how to change what is written on one’s belief window.

Amy Cook
© 2018 CYS

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