In Part One I wrote about getting started on your ethical will. In Part Two we’ll look at how to discover our values.
What are values? The American Heritage Dictionary describes a value as: A principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable. And believe it or not Elvis Presley said, Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ‘em all over everything you do.
I like to think of values as a part of our DNA. For each person they are unique. They explain what motivates us, what angers us, what we cherish. Knowing our values gives us a clue as to who we are. Our values develop over time and are shaped by our parents, teachers, community and religious affiliation.
So how do we uncover our real values? Let’s start with three simple exercises. These are not meant to tell you what your values should be, they simply provide a way to discover what your values are.
Exercise one: Open your ethical will notebook that you started last week. Leave a few blank pages from the first page where you wrote your introduction. These will be the pages on which you’ll write the final draft of your ethical will. After these few blank pages write the heading, “My Values.”
Think of a best friend and the qualities you admire in that person. For me, the qualities I admire in my friend are loyalty, humor, dedication, fairness, and honesty. Now take a moment and write down the qualities you admire in your friend. As you look at your list, ask yourself, “Would these qualities describe me as well?” Chances are most of them would. And why? Because we make friends with people who tend to share the same values as ourselves.
Here’s another exercise to try:
Exercise two: Ask yourself, “What are some things that really tick me off?” For me, pomposity, impoliteness, and arrogance get me pretty steamed. So what are the things that can really upset you? Take a moment to write down your list. Within this list you’ll find good clues to some important values you hold. When a value that’s important to us gets stepped on or violated it upsets us. Let me illustrate using my own example. Pomposity goes against my value of unpretentiousness. Impoliteness violates my value of politeness and arrogance assaults my value of humbleness.
Try this next exercise to unearth some more of your values.
Exercise three: Write down at least three things that give you real pleasure and joy. For example, for me that would be:
- Discovering new things and learning new stuff.
- Witnessing a magnificent sunset.
- Seeing a dear friend after a long absence.
What are some of the things that bring you pleasure? After you’ve compiled your list take a look at each item and see if you can pull out some of the underlying values. For example, my pleasure in discovering new things and learning new stuff taps into my values of learning and exploration. My joy at seeing a beautiful sunset links to my values of beauty and spirituality. And seeing an old friend connects with my valuing friendship.
By now you should be developing a pretty good list of some of your core values. If you want to explore this topic in more depth consider these books: What Matters Most : The Power of Living Your Values and Values Clarification
You may want to reflect on your list and see if some other values of yours come to mind. Perhaps there are some important values that you have missed in your list. Remember these are your personal values not your parents’ or your society’s.
The next step. Put your values into a sentence that will become a part of your ethical will. Using myself as an example, I’d take my values recorded above and write, “Some of the values that have guided me over the years have been loyalty, humor, dedication, fairness, honesty, unpretentiousness, politeness, humbleness, beauty, spirituality and friendship.”
If you want to add some “meat” to your list try taking one or two of your most cherished values and recount a personal story that illustrates how these values were put to use in your life. If you need some inspirational guidance check out This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women
That’s it for Part Two. I hope you found this worthwhile and fun at the same time. Don’t forget to return next week for Part Three ~ Expressing Gratitude.