For the love of all that is good in this world, don’t google personal values. You’ll get about 1,000 websites that all just list a bunch of adjectives? An adjective is not a value, and the people who wrote all that are dumb.
Values are your beliefs about the world – what’s good, what’s bad, what’s important to you. These develop over your whole life, based on your community and your experiences, and they are often the foundation that gives us our moral compass when we’re making decisions. Let’s say, for example, that you are offered a new job making double your salary for a company that uses child labor overseas. Your values might say working for a corrupt company is implicitly condoning its behavior. Your values might say the most change can be made from the inside of a company. Your values might say that personal financial security is critical, and that needs to take precedence above anything else. Each of those choices likely comes from something you’ve experienced in your life or what the people around you will think, and depending on which answer made you the most mad, you can likely see where your values align.
It’s important to spend some time thinking about the values that define you. I’ll talk about this a little bit more in the next two blog posts this week, but living in alignment with your values is motivating, exciting, and makes you feel good. But if you’re living in friction with your values, it can cause a lot of stress and unhappiness in your life. That’s the part we’ll focus on more in a couple days, but you can’t know whether you’re living for or against your values until you figure out what they are.
So. Let’s talk some time to reflect. If you journal, this is a great time to bust that out. Here are some questions I’d like you to ask yourself.
- What political party do you align with? What parts of their platform speak the most to you?
- What is something that someone else does that really frustrates you? Why does it make you so mad? What do you think their intentions are?
- What do you consider to be universal needs or rights of people? Animals? The environment?
- When is a time someone else has made you uncomfortable or nervous? Why do you think what they did was wrong?
- What are the things that make you happiest? The people? The places?
- What do you like about your upbringing? Is there something about a different upbringing you would have wanted instead? Why is that one better?
- Are you religious? Spiritual? Does it bother you when people have different beliefs than your own? Why?
- What do you feel proud of in your life? Why are you proud of those things?
It can feel challenging sometimes to reflect on our values, and sometimes you can think they seem silly, but that’s okay. For example, my answer to number 2 is that I get super mad when people don’t switch lanes on the highway if you’re coming up behind them and going faster. To me, I think that they are being rude and selfish, and that they are someone who only cares about whatever they want over paying attention to anyone around them. In actuality, maybe they are just really concerned about road safety, and they don’t change lanes because then they’ll be allowing speeding to keep happening. I know how mad I get is silly, but a value that’s really important to me is trying to be considerate of other people, and I just get real worked up about it. So. In this exercise it’s okay to be honest with yourself and write down the things you feel, even if your brain can talk you out of it, because we react to our feelings all the time, so we have to be aware of them.