What’s In a Value?


This topic has on the back burner of my mind for two years. I’ve wanted to tackle this since we started Gesher. On the heels of the two year benchmark, it’s time to finally talk about a fundamental, core aspect of life that often goes undefined and neglected: Values.

Values are defined as: a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.

Values are part of the fundamental elements that make up a grounded life. They are the light that help us illuminate our hearts, minds, and behaviors. Values can come in the form of a spiritual or religious practice, certain types of habitual behaviors, or goals.

Values come in levels: There are community values, like morality and respect, which help shape our relationship to others externally, and individual values that come from within.

How do you figure out what it is that you value? How do you define the core things that make you you, and then live your life based on those things?

Sounds kind of daunting, like sticking yourself in a box of rules for all eternity. Values aren’t burdensome. If chosen and lived through correctly, they act as the guideposts to make for a happier life and a sweeter world.

I never thought about my values until I reached my twenties. I knew what I enjoyed, and I thought I knew what made me tick, but I never sat down to define them as a way of carrying out my life in the best way possible. Who thinks like that? It was only when I was faced with people who knew what their values were, and used them as leverage to hurt others, that I decided to explore this area of my life.

I found myself asking questions about myself, my behavior, and the world I was in, questions that were uncomfortable, icky, which made me feel two sizes too small in my own skin. I valued some things, like integrity and faith, but my behavior proved otherwise. So, who was I?

I had to face myself for the first time and ask the tough questions, but I figured it out. Integrity, Faith, Family. On my best days, my life stems from those three things. And, on my worst days, I now have a road map to guide me.

We change the world by starting from within. Know yourself, know the world.

Unsure where to begin? I found that the best method for tapping into my values involved a quiet room, a lifetime supply of coffee, and a pro-con list. As a writer, the simplest solution was to ground down and pull the thoughts that I knew were already somewhere deep down inside me, but that may not work for you. Maybe you have to talk it out; maybe it requires a dance (figurative or literal), a walk, or a far off destination away from the world you know. Or, maybe it’s as simple as googling a list of values and picking the ones you connect with to try them on for size. Whatever works for you is great!

If you’re clear about your values and how to use them to best show up in the world, you’re one step ahead of the game. It doesn’t mean you won’t fall or fail, because you will, and it’ll hurt.

Your values will be there to help you wrestle with the fall and get right back up again.

Which values define your roadmap? Let’s talk about it.

Next time, we’ll tackle respect, a global value that could use some defining.