How do we remove ourselves from the unconscious demands of our world’s cultures? The best way to do that is to have values of our own. It’s not enough to just have values, we have to stick to them even when the world tries to break us away from them. A lot of us haven’t gone through the exercise of naming what we value. It didn’t take me until reading Brene Brown’s Daring to Lead that I made values of my own. Before we go too deep into values, let’s first define them. Values are the things you believe are important to you and guide the way you live.
Where Do Values Come From?
A lot of our values are unconscious because we get them from our parents and our education. If you live in a shame culture like most Eastern countries, you’ve probably lived with a value system of honor. If you’ve lived in a Western country like me, you’ve always been taught to be a good little person. Innocence and perfectionism are the names of the game here. These are the things we point to when it comes time to make a tough decision. Values are important because our values frame our thoughts, our thoughts frame our actions, our actions create our behaviors, and our behaviors create our identity. Most of us don’t know who we are.
Sometimes following our values is going to come with materialist gain. In most cases, we are going to feel a bit ostracized from the group if the culture of the group is in opposition to our values. That’s why I believe finding a tribe within the community, in education, and especially in the workplace is important for our growth. In my professional journey, I’ve been in cultures that didn’t fit my values of love, happiness, and peace.
Sales are the unspoken job function of a digital marketer, but I hate sales. I don’t like the idea of basing my value on how much money I make a company. Yet, I was placed in these positions and I found it miserable. With having unfeasible, arbitrary sales goals to make, I was not at peace. Without knowing how my work impacted people outside of making people buy things they didn’t need, I didn’t find much love in the work. Without peace and love, it was impossible to be happy. I could only survive in these jobs for a few months.
Building on a Foundation
Our values give us the foundation on which we make our choices. If you haven’t learned by now, life is a culmination of choices. If our choices don’t reflect our values, chances are we are making our decisions unconsciously. Even now you have a choice. You can continue to read this book even if it makes you uncomfortable, or you can stop. You can choose the values you want to commit to, or you can continue living under the culture set for you. I feel like Morpheus holding a red and blue pill.
When you separate yourself from the culture and have a spiritual yearning, the magic starts to happen. You become connected to a higher power and you want your values to match up with that power. That’s not to say that you become religious. I know plenty of religious people who don’t have much of a value system. It’s to say if you believe in something higher than yourself, you want to embody the characteristics of that Self.
Our virtues become our values. I do believe in God and I believe the characteristics of God are love, joy, happiness, and peace. In turn, my values are love, joy, happiness, and peace. I try to then base all my choices and decisions based on these values. If what I am doing doesn’t bring love, joy, happiness, or peace to myself or others, it’s a worthless endeavor. If you don’t believe your higher self wants peace, happiness, and love, this might not be the best book for you… for now.
Responsibility and Accountability
When we have and live our values, we take responsibility and accountability for our actions. When someone does something immature or idiotic by our society’s standards, I don’t blame the person. How can I when we are all influenced by the unseen hand of culture? When Memphis Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant flashed a gun on Instagram at a Denver nightclub like a rapper in a music video, it wasn’t for his benefit. Flashing a gun wasn’t going to get him an endorsement deal. He did it to live up to a perceived image perpetrated by the culture around him. The consensus was doing things like this based on the company that he had around him. When we have our own values, we take the power back.
The hard part about values is respecting them. There are plenty of examples of people compromising their values because the dark side of the force is too strong. We probably do it daily, which leaves us with a horrible feeling. We won’t take our values seriously until we know that those values don’t match up with that of the culture and following the culture is unsuccessful. Part of the business culture was to climb the corporate ladder, but when that ladder fell with me on it, it was a shock to my system. One could say, “Andrew, that was just one try.” Sure, but the truth is supposed to be universal. If it’s a game of trial and error, I don’t want to play that game.