Do you know what you value most in your life? Do you REALLY know? Can you get specific? Are they deeply personal values or are they social idealisms you feel you should honor? Or are they values imposed upon you by someone you know? Take a minute to ponder those questions.
According to Dr. John Demartini in his book, The Values Factor, what you value most serves as an internal compass “…pointing you toward the activities, people and places that most fulfill you and away from the situations and people who are likely to feel unfulfilling.”
How to determine our values
When determining our true values it is best to look at the actions we take spontaneously and without much influence from others. This is not to say our values are not often derived from family traditions, family pressure, societal pressure or idealisms. They are, but they are not the ones that guide us authentically to fulfillment. If we live by others’ values, we often feel drained and unfulfilled, even if we outwardly look successful.
We want what we don’t have
Dr. Demartini also says our true highest values — the things we are instinctively drawn to, what we live for — often start out as the things we feel we are missing.
Whatever we perceive we lack, we tend to develop a strong craving for. Think about the answers you came up with to the questions in the opening paragraph. Single out one of your most deeply held values. Was this value something you felt you were missing at one point in your life? Chances are, it was.
This perceived void drives us to work hard and without much external motivation to achieve or create what we don’t currently have. When we work hard for something and consider it important, it becomes something we value.
Driven by money
I’ll give you personal examples. Growing up there was always an undercurrent of financial instability for my family. Unexpected expenses really rattled my mom. My mother was a preschool teacher and my father owned shoe stores (retail in the 80s, not good). One thing I subconsciously set out to eradicate from my life was that fear of not having enough money. I got a college degree in a field (business) I knew had a greater chance of paying well. I married a man who was financially savvy and had a high earnings potential. I valued financial stability and set my life course to attain it.
What we value, we seek
After my mother died and a long-term relationship ended, I felt alone and untethered. My extended family lived far away. I worked from home by myself. I did not have a tribe to belong to.
I was highly motivated to find a community to join. I found a church that fit the bill. I started working at a school part-time. I met a man with a large family in the area and fell in love with him. All of these additions to my life eased that void of not being a part of something, of feeling alone. I valued them.
Values change over time
Which brings me to another point. Our values change over time, as we do. As a young twenty-something I felt the pang of poverty and financial instability. After achieving financial stability, I started to value personal development and emotional connection more. I still value these highly, but time will tell if they are lifelong goals of importance.
Know your loved ones’ values too
The more certain we are of what we deem important, the better we know ourselves. The better we know ourselves, the easier it is for others to know and love the real us.
It is also especially helpful to be aware of our loved ones’ values. To know our partner’s/friends’/family’s values we must take note of what they do without coaxing and what they perceive as voids in their lives.
In knowing what we and our loved ones appreciate, we become better companions and more fulfilled.
What do you do all the time without prompting? What do you seek? What is missing in your life that motivates you? What are your strongest values?