❝It's better to go slowly in the right direction than go speeding off in the wrong direction.❞ -Simon Sinek
On the way back from lunch, I stroll into a car dealership. I'm baffled by this because I never look at cars just for fun. If ever I'm forced to go to a car dealership, I'm always in ninja mode, so the salesperson doesn't see me. Today I'm not doing that; I'm walking right in the middle of the showroom floor - anybody can see me!
Soon I am approached by a salesman who shows me a used car that catches my eye. Later he tells me that, although I'll be happy with the used car, he can get me into a shiny, brand new car for the same car payment.
I work in finance, so I don't fall for this nonsense...except today! I let him convince me to lease a new car instead of getting a loan for a used car.
After thinking about this more, I realize that I let myself get talked into a new car because I had just been to a poker game hosted by one of the partners of the firm I work for. I saw all the cars that everyone drives and started to feel inadequate. By buying a new car, I was expressing the value of conformity, or fitting in. If I had more self-awareness, I could have prevented this purchase because I would've realized I prioritize several values higher than fitting in. By not considering my values, I let myself get talked into something I otherwise wouldn't have done.
When your actions and behavior align with your personal values, you are expressing your values. You can think of value expression as the extent to which your values show up in your day-to-day life.
Values can be expressed through many different behaviors, meaning you can express your values in several ways. How you express a particular value may be completely different from someone else who holds the same value.
There may be some values that are easier to satisfy than others. Nonetheless, abstract concepts like personal values are made real through your actions and many different actions can satisfy the same value.
For example, you may value education. Your value (education) can be expressed in many ways. You can join mastermind groups that work. You could commit to reading about various topics. You might attend lectures at a local university. You can take online courses. The number of ways to express the value of education is only limited by your imagination.
Not only can one value be expressed through various behaviors, but each behavior can express multiple values. It might not be obvious, especially if you haven't thought about your behaviors and your values in this way.
A behavior that expresses many values at once is value-rich behavior.
For example, going hiking with friends can satisfy your value of being in nature. It can also satisfy your value for fitness or adventure. And because you are with friends, going on a hike can satisfy your value of friendship.
FINDING VALUE IN EXISTING BEHAVIOR
It's considerably easier to find a value or values that are being expressed by a behavior if the behavior is something that you enjoy doing. It can be more challenging to see what values are expressed by some of the more mundane activities you have to do. Reframing a mundane activity that feels like a chore into something you get to do because it satisfies a value can be empowering.
One example might be vacuuming your home. If you view vacuuming as a chore, then it's more likely that you will put it off, be in a bad mood while doing it, or otherwise fail to see the value of vacuuming. However, by reminding yourself that one of your primary values is peacefulness, for example, you allow yourself to see vacuuming as a means to experience peacefulness.
EXPRESSING VALUES MORE EFFICIENTLY
One common way people express values is by buying things. It may not seem intuitive that the way you use money expresses values, but recognize that you're making a purchase to satisfy some need or value. It's insightful to understand why you are making a particular purchase. Buying a new item of clothing could be because you are replacing another item. You could be buying it because you want to fit in. You might be buying it because you were bored. Knowing why you are spending money gives you insight into the values you are expressing.
Once you know what you're getting in exchange for your money, you can ask yourself if there is a more efficient way to satisfy the same need or value.
For example, personal-finance writers love to blast people for buying lattes. The argument is that you can get caffeine much cheaper by getting it at the office or at home. And that is true if the reason you are buying lattes is strictly for the hit of caffeine. But that's not the only reason people buy lattes. Some people needed a break from work. Some people need a place to study or a place to work. Some people are merely passing the time before another appointment. Or it might be a place to socialize. Understanding what you get in exchange for your money, say, a place to hang out with friends, helps you see if there might be a more efficient way to meet that value. You might decide to go on a walk in the park instead of going to the coffee shop.
By understanding your values, you can begin to express your values in your day-to-day living. You can learn to align your use of money with your values so you can live more authentically. You can design your life around your values so that you can look back on your life with pride and not regret.
You get one life; live intentionally.
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References and Influences
Frankl, Viktor: Man’s Search for Meaning
Frankl, Viktor: Yes to Life, In Spite of Everything
Hagen, Derek: Your Money, Your Values, and Your Life
Haidt, Jonathan: The Happiness Hypothesis
Lukas, Elisabeth & Bianca Hirsch: Meaningful Living
Manson, Mark: Everything is Fucked
Manson, Mark: Find Your Purpose Course Workbook
PositivePsychology.com: Meaning and Valued Living Masterclass
Sinek, Simon, David Mead & Peter Docker: Find Your Why
Sivers, Derek: How to Live
Steger, Michael & Pninit Russo-Netzer: Meaning360
Vos, Joel: Meaning in Life
Wagner, Richard: Financial Planning 3.0
Wallace, David Foster: This is Water
Ware, Bronnie: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying
Note: Above is a list of references that I intentionally looked at while writing this post. It is not meant to be a definitive list of everything that influenced by thinking and writing. It's very likely that I left something out. If you notice something that you think I left out, please let me know; I will be happy to update the list.