Soul Searching #2: values

Earlier, I shared the start of my journey of personal development. I say ‘start’, but really it is more of a continuation, albeit more purposeful than earlier in my life. The one-sentence summary is: I’m caught up in the rat race, and I want to spend my time more consciously.

The first thing I did was try to formulate my own ‘values’. What do I find important in life? Upon reflection, my hope was that I could formulate some rules that could help me make choices. Examples: “I won’t work for a company where I have to work 60 hours a week” or “I will spend 2 hours a week on my family”.

I made an extensive list by reflecting on past events and by googling the hell out of it. A few items on the list were:

  • Being honest and open. I’ve noticed in the past that by being open towards other people, there seems to develop a deeper bond and a meaningful relationship of some kind.
  • Creativity. I just enjoy out of the box thinking and problem solving
  • Trust. Being trusted and giving trust helps in building a mutual bond, and is respectful to other people/
  • People come first. If what I do doesn’t mean something to somebody, then why do it?
  • Continuous learning. I’m very curious, and there is always some topic waiting around the corner that I want to know something about.
  • Intelligence. I’m amazed by smart people.
  • Health. If I’m not healthy, then I suspect a lot of my current fixations will drop like flies.

Next, I took some to time to reflect on my list. That was not an easy process. Let’s take ‘being honest and open’ as an example. The reasoning I gave above was definitely valid, and still motivates me towards honesty and openness. But that last sentence already indicates the problem I faced: ‘motivates me towards’. A ‘value’ is not supposed to be something that I adhere to whenever I feel like, and ignore otherwise. And yes, I can easily come up with topics that I don’t want to be open about. I’ll leave this to your imagination 😉

Hands holding a bunch of golden (chocolate) eggs. forming the shape of a heart
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I had similar thoughts about ‘people come first’. This stems from some kind of personal wish to be respectful to other people. But again, I can easily think of a particular political person whom I think is an idiot, and I have no intention at all to be respectful towards him. Besides doubting whether ‘people come first’ is therefor a ‘value’ for me, I also found it confrontational to realize that I could be so irrational.

All in all, I found that my list of ‘values’ did not satisfy what I felt a ‘value’ should be. Also, they don’t seem to be actionable. It took me a while to realize this, and I spend quite some time looking at definitions of the word ‘value’, lists of other people’s values, and things like ‘mission’ and ‘vision’.

So, finally I quit. Formulating rules based on values is perhaps a simplified approach to understanding myself, and it doesn’t work when considering the complexities of the world around me. At first, this felt like a failure, but a few months later I realized that it was a valuable process to go through. Several items from the list above will return in later posts in another form. Also, ‘health’ was an interesting one, because I added it to my list quite late. Amazing, since it seems such a basic prerequisite for daily life. It dawned on me that regular exercise, good nutrition, and a firm understanding of stress (and its causes) are not obstacles that are in my way, but actually foundation stones of a happy existence. It seems like I could have learned that lessen a bit earlier in life, especially since that message has been around for a while 🙂

Thanks for taking the time to read about this step in my journey. See you next time!

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