“Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.” - Ayn Rand
You were taught values by your parents, your church and your school, but when was the last time you looked, really looked, at them and determined if you agreed? Taking ownership of the values you decide to uphold is key to living a fulfilling life. Going along with the values thrown at you by others is a surefire way to live a muddled existence.
And just because you haven’t defined them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If you live in a gorgeous 3,500 sq ft house, drive a clean white SUV and drink bottled water, that existence defines your values. So does the one where you live on a large piece of overgrown property with 8 different animals in a historic home. Both these scenarios are grand. As long as you embrace them and what they represent and say about you and your values.
Because the values you adhere to define your life. As they should. We’re not talking about “Love your Neighbor” or “Be Honest,” we’re talking about how you decide to spend your time every day.
Considering Real Values
First determine what you value and why. Are you living the way you do because someone else deemed these things essential to life? For example, do you work a 75 hour week because your father did? Do you send your child to private school because your friends recommended it?
Values, when true to the self, should determine your priorities and guide all your decisions. The way you behave needs to match YOUR real values and not the values of your parents, your priest or your spouse.
If you say you value family, but work 75 hours a week, this will cause stress because you’re lying to yourself. It doesn't matter if you think you’re supposed to value family. The question is, do YOU value family. At 75 hours a week, you value hard work more than family time. It’s that simple. And it’s okay. IF it’s okay with you. Only you know. And you’ll have to tease apart your values from those around you and those within society because standing up for what you believe and want can be difficult.
So What are Your Values?
Identifying your values and separating them for those of general society is difficult. One of the easiest ways to determine what really matters to you, is to look to the past. Quite simply, most people live or try to live the way they truly want. Identify when you were happy and fulfilled in life. What had you done and achieved? How were you living? Also notice the things you sabotage. Are you always late for work and passed up for promotions because of it? This is probably not an accident.
If you were most joyful and filled with purpose the year you were in the Peace Corp, then consider freedom, altruism and adventure as potential values by which to live. Do you feel most joyful the minute you leave the high rise office building, don hiking shoes, and hit the trails? Perhaps health, exploration and calm should be a more defining part of your daily life. Maybe you work alone, but are only joyful when with others. Or maybe you’re a social director on a cruise ship that loves creating art, alone.
Accept who you really are and what you really value to start guiding your life in the right direction. The best part? When a decision comes and you know your values, you can use them to guide the decision. Offered a big promotion in a large city with more responsibility? The person who values adventure, leadership, hard work and boldness is good to go. The person who values calm, stability and family time might want to reconsider. Neither is wrong, neither is better, but knowing who you are makes all the difference in the way you live.