Lately I have been thinking a lot about external influences and the forces which guide our decisions. Especially with social media, where we constantly are bombarded by images of what literally millions of people around the world have, experience, and look like, it is easy to become sucked into wanting to change or adjust our core values. I might see someone with a beautiful outfit and think I need to wear similar clothes or follow the latest trends. I might see someone with gorgeous highlights and think, “I should try highlights” (which I did, and ultimately hated). I might see someone with a perfectly curated home, perfect vacation photos, perfect family photos, perfect (fill in the blank) and think, “I should want that too.” It’s funny because I am well aware of the difference between “I need that” vs. “I want that” vs.”I should want that.” Still, the constant exposure to what others have and do can make it challenging to adhere to my own values and remember how to weed out the good from the bad.
Last year I listed to the audiobook version of “Think Like a Monk” by Jay Shetty. I have been listening to his podcast for several years now, and this book was perfect for me as it was like one long podcast episode with pearl after pearl of wisdom. Of course, the actual practice of applying teachings aimed at self-improvement can be elusive. I get distracted by work, family obligations, and of course expectations from the outside world, and I fall back into old patterns of thinking and behaving that simply do not push me forward in any way. Because I have been feeling a strong pull to revisit his book, I started to read the hard copy this week. The benefit of reading versus listening to his book while driving is that I can pause reading to actually complete the exercises/reflections in the book. I think these exercises will be highly valuable in getting me back to understanding and sticking to my own values.
One of the most straightforward exercises the author suggests is to audit your values based on what you spend money on. It will be interesting to note what things I spend money on and reflect on what value this indicates for myself. For example, I know that in recent weeks I have spent more money on clothes for myself than I have in a long time. This is somewhat in opposition to the value I have for minimalism and reducing unnecessary clutter (something I learned from Marie Kondo!) On the other hand, making such purchases are at times necessary and also may indicate other positive values (e.g. showing self-respect through how I present myself to the world). Any choice we make does not need to be lumped into either a good or bad category. Sometimes there are overlapping values! The hard part is balancing them.
The author offers a highly helpful list of “higher” and “lower” values in his book (pp. 15-16). As he notes, “happiness” and “success” are not values, but rather outcomes! Thinking about what each of these values mean for us, and how we can align our choices to reflect the values we want to keep or cultivate, are challenging exercises. In the long run, however, I am certain these will be worthwhile.
Purity of mind
Service and Charity
Absence of anger
Restraint from fault finding
Compassion towards all living beings
Are there some values that have changed for you throughout the last few years, months, or weeks? How did you notice that they were changing, or that they needed to change?