What you need to know:
- Some of your values will be entirely personal, but many depend on the community you belong to.
- Wise people see everyone as their equal.
If you always work towards achieving the highest values, you’ll lead a valuable life
Your values are the core of who you are. Your mental images of what’s good, bad or beautiful in your life. They’re what drive your attitudes, your preferences, and the decisions you make. Everything, from how you spend your spare time to who you choose to marry.
Most of us don’t think about our values much at all, though somehow, we always notice when someone else’s are different from our own!
Mostly, we just live each day as it comes, and rarely ask why we make the choices we do. But trying to understand your values is a really good idea. Start off by spending a little time each day, thinking about the choices you’ve made that day, and the emotions you’ve felt.
Try to identify the values that lay behind them. Because mostly, our values are learned, and things you learn, you can change. And that could make a real difference in your life.
Some of your values will be entirely personal, but many depend on the community you belong to. Like the way food preferences vary around the world. Some people eat insects, for example, others would rather die (than eat insects). And how some societies put group interests ahead of individual interests, while others do the opposite. Mostly, our own culture’s values are so familiar we never question them. Though they’re often clear from who we admire most in the community.
Another example is our sense of right and wrong. We often assume it’s the same as the law, so that what’s legal defines what’s right or wrong. But might there be bad laws? Of course there might, and there’ve been endless examples around the world. Apartheid for example. Which means that there are values that lie above the law that can be used to decide whether a particular law is a good or a bad one.
And that’s the way wisdom lies. Not in chasing money or possessions, but in seeing past your own personal values, or those of your particular culture or group, and working towards more universal principles on which to base your life.
Those might be religious of course, but there are also secular benchmarks that have motivated some of the world’s greatest people. Bentham’s aim of doing what produces ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’ for example.
Wise people see everyone as their equal. So be open to others’ views, while focusing on your own goals. Living your life according to your own values and choosing your own destiny. With a focus on what you can change for the better.
Immerse yourself in whatever you’re doing and your plans for the future, and don’t dwell on the past. Be honest about your objectives, and be driven by your dreams and values, rather than by wealth and status.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by everyday clutter. But if you always work towards achieving the highest values, helping others, and building a better society, you’ll lead a very valuable life.