“Live your days on the positive side of life, in tune with your most treasured values. And in each moment you’ll have much to live for.”
I believe that understanding your values is essential in getting the most out of life. To becoming the best version of yourself possible. We all have things in our life that matter to us and bring us joy and meaning. By gaining insight into these values we can better merge them into our daily experiences.
This blog is a perfect example of a value in action. One of my core values is my family and specifically my kids. Knowing this, I’ve constructed my life so I can incorporate this value into it.
I’ve happily chosen to give up career advancement for the opportunity to spend more time with my children. Arranging my work schedule to give me the most possible opportunity to interact with my children. I made these choices because I knew what my values were and was willing to alter my life to fit them.However, simply identifying a value is not enough. You must understand that value and how you want it to play itself out in your life. Another father with different life experiences from mine may also hold up his family and kids as one of his values.
He may view his career advancement and increasing his salary as his way of fulfilling this value. His way of living out that value is to provide for his kids the funds and resources that he may not have had as a child.
Values aren’t Right or Wrong
My point is this, values are subjective and one father’s way of living out a value may look different from another. The best way to make sure your life meets your values is to take the time to understand them. Identifying what your values are and how you want your life to represent them.
In addition to having a set of core values, we also have superficial values. For example, when it comes to owning a car my values are gas mileage, dependability and a low operating cost. While my friends value is speed, performance, and appearance.
By understanding our superficial values, we can make the best decisions for ourselves in the day-to-day functioning of our lives. However, these superficial values usually aren’t going to carry the same significance in our life than our core values will.
We have one last type of value that influences our life. I think of it as our driving value. This is the value that all other values seem to fit into. Helping us make decisions and determining how we construct our lives.
It is the guiding force that forges the path that we take. Either trumping the other values or working in harmony with them. If you haven’t been paying attention to your values, then you have likely been operating on autopilot. Allowing this driving value to dictate the course of your life without even being aware it was happening.
My kids are a perfect example of a driving value functioning on autopilot. Their brains aren’t developed enough to understand this concept. However, they both are driven by a specific value that generally trumps all other values (either ones we’ve tried to instill in them or ones they innately have).
This past Christmas my oldest son, who is just beginning to create a more complex web of values, allowed his driving value to over shadow his innate values. However, he then overcame his driving value with and was able to implement a learned value. So here’s what happened.
The gifts had all been opened and the chaos had died down. My boys were off playing with their cousins, while the adults talked in the kitchen. My oldest meekly wandered into the kitchen in tears with a half eaten candy bar in his hand. Through sobs he explained that he had just started eating the candy bar. Only when he was halfway through did he realize it was his uncles.
He felt terrible that he had taken something that didn’t belong to him and even worse that his decision now meant his uncle didn’t have the candy bar. He apologized to his very understanding uncle and with a little prompting from dad promised to replace the candy bar.
His innate value of consideration was overrun by his driving value of instant gratification. He was so wrapped up in what would feel good in the moment (i.e. eating the candy bar) that he didn’t stop to think of the consequences of that decision. How giving in to the immediate good feeling would result in violating his natural compassion.
However, I was immensely proud that he not only came to this realization on his own. But then implemented two of our core family values: honesty and responsibility. He overcame the instant gratification of hiding what he had done and took responsibility and told the truth.
My youngest son’s driving value is slightly different. He doesn’t struggle with controlling his impulses. Rather he desires to avoid pain. He recently had his birthday. In the weeks leading up to it, he continually reviewed his expectations with my wife and I. Explaining where he wanted to eat, what he wanted to do, and what presents he hoped to get.
In the past, he has been inconsolable when face’d with disappointment. He’s learned that the best way to avoid this disappointment is to make sure his expectations are clear. So he perpetually told us what he wanted his birthday to look like. Ensuring that he would avoid the pain of disappointment.
These two driving values are common in most kids, and in adults who haven’t yet determined their own driving value.