Being civically engagedExplains, if relevant and/or needed, the rationale behind the own positionIntegrating values and beliefsReadiness to stand up for values and beliefsStands up for own values and beliefs, with respect and responsibility

Natural and moral authority

The tool relates to the reflection on the values of the European Union and empowers trainers to use and promote those values in their process of empowering young people to make a positive change in society. This tool is useful in understanding the differences between values and principles. It also gives you an insight into what makes authority unprecedented if it's based on the right principles. The content of the tool is based on Stephen Covey's writings in the book "The 8th Habit”. This tool is a good input for reflection or a group discussion on the topics of #values #principles #morality #integrity #leadership

Stephen Covey identifies the natural laws with human principles. In his book “the 8th Habit” he states that principles are like natural laws. They are universal – they transcend culture and geography. They are timeless, and they never change – principles such as fairness, kindness, respect, honesty, integrity, service and contribution. Different cultures may translate into different practices, nevertheless, they are present. Like the law of gravity, they operate constantly. Another thing is that principles are inarguable, they are self-evident. For example, you can never have enduring trust without trustworthiness.

Natural authority is the domination of natural laws. You cannot ignore natural laws

and you have no choice but to operate by them. If you jump off a ten-story building

you cannot change your mind at the fifth store. Gravity controls. It’s a natural law.

Moral authority is the principled use of freedom and the power to choose. In other words

if we follow principles in our own relationships, we tap into the permission of nature. Natural laws like gravity and principles like respect, honesty, integrity, kindness, service, and fairness, control the consequences of our choices. Just as you get poor air quality (consequence) if you constantly violate the environment (action), you also get destroyed trust (consequence) when you are constantly unkind and dishonest (actions) to people. Moral authority requires the sacrifice of short term selfish interests and the exercise of courage in subordinating social values to principles.

Stephen Covey argues that values are social norms – they are personal, emotional, subjective and arguable. All of us have values. Even criminals have values. The question that is important to ask yourself is: Are your values based upon principles?

And now, read carefully:

Consequences are governed by principles, and behavior is governed by values;

therefore, value principles!

The key task is to determine which way “north” is (like on a compass) and then align everything towards it. People who are “celebrity-obsessed” are an example for people whose values may not be attached in principles. Popularity shapes its moral center. They do not know who they are and which way “north” is. They have based their lives on social values and don’t know which principles to follow.

  1. Civic engagement perspective

Image result for youth participation comics

Being civically engaged is understood as ‘civic participation’ through initiatives aiming at making a change or a difference in, and for the community. It is also about empowering young people to take an active role in their society. Young people will engage in action if it is aligned with something important to them. And how do they perceive what is important to them? Their values determine their compass of importance. Therefore, the role of a trainer that clarifies the difference of values and principles to the learners is crucial for their civic engagement.

It is clear that our actions and decisions are based on our personal values (consciously or unconsciously we make decisions every day based on what we believe is important). As a trainer that works with young people, first, you need to reflect on your personal values. Think about the underlying principles. You can use the tool personal values assessment or you can have your own process. Are your values social norms? Are they related to something trendy now? Or are they timeless, universal, and transversal? Why? Think about it.

Second, as a trainer it is important that you understand the values learners (young people) hold and challenge their perspectives. Make a reflection and engage in discussion with them.  Are their values based on the right principles? How young people see their values?  Do they see them based on the social norms or do they hold everlasting principles? Make sure you clarify that difference to them.

It is also important to engage in reflection and discussion about the values of the European Union. Are the values based on the right principles?

The civic engagement competence area is based on the values listed in the Treaty of the European Union: values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of people belonging to minorities in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity, and equality between women and men.

We as trainers believe that the values of the European Union are based on the right principles, and they are going to bring positive consequences. Because, as we learned above, integrating values based on the right principles brings positive consequences and impact on society in the long run.

Why did I choose this tool?

This tool is important for understanding the difference between values and principles and for identifying if the values are based upon the right principles so a person can make a positive and productive change in the society. The tool relates to reflection on the values of the European Union and empowers trainers to use and promote those values in their process of empowering young people to make a positive change in society.

Suggested Reflection Questions:

Are your personal values related to the European Union values? How? In what way?

Are your personal values related to the values of the European Union? How? In which way?

Do you feel you have moral authority? When was the last time you sacrificed a short term selfish interest for a greater good? Which actions did I take last week to increase my moral authority?


  • How do you relate to your personal moral authority?
  • Are your values based on principles?
  • Write down on a piece of paper the values you believe are most important to you. Use the other tool personal values assessment if needed and then reflect if they are principle-based and how?

Other Ways to Practice

This tool can be practiced individually or in a group. Since it is important for a meaningful discussion to appear, it is not suggested for the group to be more than 20 people.

Author of the article: Antonio Jovanovski

Antonio Jovanovski has extensive experience of training and facilitating diverse groups all over Europe. His training and facilitating experience started during his AIESEC years ( where he served as President of AIESEC in N. Macedonia and France. Currently, he is a director of a youth environmental NGO ( where he works on the topics of climate change, youth eco-activism, greening of economy, greening of education and jobs. He is also a member of the Pool of trainers of Youth@Work partnership on employability and entrepreneurship (

Click here to read more about Antonio Jovanovski

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The book “The 8th Habit” on Google books

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