by Monica A. Ross, LPC
I wrote a separate piece not too long ago on the topic of values. Reflecting on one’s own personal values—it’s something else that those with a resilient spirit do. Why would values reflection be important when evaluating a purchase or in deciding whether or not to move cross-country?
Why think about values when looking for another job or when making the decision whether or not to enroll in classes, or whatever the issue may be? People who are rising above unfortunate circumstances and aiming for resiliency may come from a place of a lack of resources. This could be the contributing factor to the unfortunate circumstances some find themselves in.
When resources seem scarce—be that in the way of money let’s say, or time—we neglect to stop and think about the things that influence our decision-making. Those things are our values. In times of constraint we often make decisions that are in direct conflict with the things we value because of the pressure felt.
For example, one may value spending quality time with one’s partner. But in the competing interests of also needing to make money, that same individual might opt for the sales job that requires 90% travel at $150k per year even though it consumes his time.
Similarly, one might consider oneself a law-abiding citizen who respects the rules of the road, but if that same person were driving to see a relative who had just been admitted to the hospital because of an emergency, they might shirk the value of stopping when at a red light and feel rushed to get to the hospital as quickly as they possibly could.
How often do we pause to reflect on our values—to write them down even—not only write them down but prioritize them? This is a great thing to do periodically as our values change throughout the life span. The freedom to travel might have been more highly valued in one’s early 20s post college, with the year spent abroad in Germany and before transitioning to the daily grind of the 8am-5pm.
That same individual in retirement years may find he has come to value his health more than the freedom to travel—post diagnosis of a chronic illness—even though he may have the money to do so. Alternatively, someone might have spent her early 20s in ill health only to find in later years her health improved and a regaining of the ability to do the things she wasn’t able to at a young age. It may actually be in her retirement years that she finally finds both the opportunity and the ability to travel.
How do we go about prioritizing values?
Prioritizing is about 1) knowing first what values we possess, 2) recognizing that those values change over time, 3) accepting that it is okay for those values to change, 4) having the ability and confidence to source out the higher ones when values are competing, 5) knowing that our values are influenced at times by circumstance, and 6) separating out what our own true values might be versus a value given to us by family, peer groups, or social norms.