When I discover who I am, I’ll be free. ― Ralph Ellison
All 20-somethings have one thing in common, we spend a great deal of time “finding ourselves”.
It manifests into things like taking a year off to travel the world, jumping from job to job every 6 months or identifying with a newly found religion. Like Britney, we’re in this weird I’m not a girl-not-yet-a-grown-ass-woman stage.
It’s this stage in which we also start to form more concrete opinions (ie. people are either financially stable or they’re reckless, you’re either money-driven or following your passion, but not both). We start to find out what we care about, what we stand for, and we start to carve out our individual values.
But values are like investment portfolios. Everyone thinks everyone else has them, most people don’t know what to do with them and 90% of us have ones that we were told to have.
If you need a second (or an hour) to think about what your values are, don’t worry – you’re not alone. But before you start, what are values actually?
For me, they’re a decision making framework for how to live my life. When people have strong values, it makes every decision much simpler:
I’m giving money to this homeless person instead of buying Starbucks today because I’m a generous person.
I’m going to family dinner instead of happy hour because I’m family-orientated.
Well, that’s awesome! Anything that makes life simpler is good right?
Wait, but how do you decide what’s going to be important to you for the rest of your life right now? How do you create a framework to make decisions that might affect the next 10, 20 years?
If you asked me 5 years ago about what my values were, I probably would’ve said Grey’s Anatomy, sports and having a lot of friends. I probably would’ve also ended up in a ditch if McDreamy was still one of my core values (may he Rest in Peace).
The point is, values will change but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them. As someone really smart once said:
If You Don’t Stand for Something, You’ll Fall for Anything. ― Anonymous Smart Person
I guess this is the part in the post where you’re expecting some epic list of values from me. Okay, well here they are:
1. Being a good person
2. Doing things that I love
I know what you’re thinking. “Wow Eva, those are like everyone’s values! I feel scammed.” And you’re right, no one’s going to say:
“No, I don’t wanna be a good person.” or “No, I hate doing things that I love.” (Please don’t prove me wrong)
But there’s a slight difference. The difference between values that you’ve concretely decided on and values that you think you’re suppose to have is accountability.
I hold myself to those two values every single day. Whether it’s writing out this post, working a 12 hour workday or deciding on what to spend my tax return on.
Am I being a good person? Am I doing something that I love?
If I’m about to buy a pair of shoes for no reason other than “it’s on sale”, about to go to an event because “everyone else is”, considering a job offer only because it pays 2X my current salary – revisiting my values stops me from doing those silly things. It refocuses me.
When you start this exercise, you’ll be tempted to include everything of perceived significance as part of your core values. Don’t fall into that trap, be relentless with your prioritization. By learning to say no often, you’ll be able to say yes to more things that actually make you happy.
Here are some questions that helped shape my values:
- What makes you really happy?
- Why do those things make you happy?
- Would you be happy if you had no external affirmation for those things? (nobody else knows nor cares)
- What is something that you believe is true but most people think is crazy?
- If you were to die tomorrow, what kind of person would you be today? What would you do today?
- What do you want to be remembered for?
A popular value is being financially free. It’s a great core value and one that I care about. There are many smart, kind human beings that I know striving for it, whom I respect dearly. But it didn’t make my cut because I’ve decided it’s not my current focus, and that’s okay.
Right now, trying to be a good person and doing things that I love everyday makes me pretty darn happy. But who knows, maybe that’ll change someday.
Thanks for reading and until next time, let me know how I can help you get to where you want to go.
P.S. I recently was tasked with crafting Opencare’s culture and core values, I’m ridiculously proud of the end result: https://www.opencare.com/culture/