At work a few days ago I had a lengthy discussion (we’re talking over an hour here) with my boss about how my personal values jive with my professional life. As I’m sure it is with other organizations, encouraging employees to take ownership of their own value system is a big deal to Thrivent. My first day on the job I received a deck of cards, each of which contained a single word. The goal of the exercise was to narrow down the values from a list of 52 to my top five. As I was running through the cards I had to think carefully about what my core values actually are, instead of selecting a card based off what other people might have considered socially superior. I discarded ‘service’, although I definitely believe in volunteerism. ‘Community’ went as well. So did ‘family’ and ‘friendship’, which just sounds awful. Others, like ‘loyalty’, ‘security’, and ‘adventure’ were tossed aside too. Believe me. It was tough to narrow my values down to just five…
…but of course I did. No worries.
Those of you who know me well can guess which card immediately went into the “no duh I value this” pile. Regardless of how dark our current political and economic outlook may be (which is an entirely different post), I legit bleed red, white and blue. The romantic ideal of freedom makes me want to do ridiculous things like cry during the national anthem and purchase an American flag to hang in my room (there is one for sale in an antique store near the Uptown house, if I’m forced to walk past it again I will buy it). My other four values were a lot harder to narrow down, and I spent a significant amount of time debating between 10 or so cards. The result is that I’m now extremely attached to my ideals regarding diversity, education, faith, and happiness. In some cheesy way, it feels like these five values are my personal form of identification – this is who I am, because this is what I believe in.
But after my conversation with my boss I realized that, while it’s incredibly easy to wax poetic on my belief system, it’s much harder to make sure my actions reflect my sentiments. I’m particularly hung up on my last value. What the hell does happiness even mean, exactly? I really sucked at my philosophy and theory classes in college so I’m not even going to pretend to answer that question, but I think it’s worthwhile to put it out there. If I’m not completely happy all the time, then why is happiness a value that I resonate with so strongly?
That’s not to say that I’m convinced I should be happy every moment of the day. No one, aside from maybe Amy Adams in Enchanted and Ryan from the Bachelorette, is all smiles and optimism 100% of the time. I think my roommates would hate me if I was like that. But the way I live my life definitely influences how happy I am, and thankfully, I get the pleasure of deciding just how I want to do that. I can choose the work I do, the books I read, the plans I make, the people I surround myself with. I can choose the goals I set and the things I say. I was blessed with the ability to choose my education, and I can choose how I wish to continue it. And if I truly value happiness, like I’d like to believe I do, then I must make those decisions based on what will lead me to the greatest joy.
So that’s my ultimate goal for this year. I vow to document any revelations I have on the point as long as I remain a slub in the city.
But for real, you should all narrow down you values right now and – fancy that! – I have the list for you! You officially have no excuse not to figure it out.
Recommended course of action: In your first sweep of the list, cross out those values that don’t immediately resonate with you. Go with your gut. Then, narrow down all the values you didn’t cross out to 15, and then 10, and finally 5.
Achievement Advancement Adventure Affection Artistic Expression Authority Autonomy Challenge Community Competence Competition Contribution Cooperation Creativity Diversity Economic Security Education Faith Fame Family Freedom Friendship Fun Happiness Health Helpfulness Honesty Independence Influence Integrity Justice Loyalty Nature Order Personal Development Pleasure Power Predictability Recognition Respect Responsibility Risk-taking Service Spirituality Status Structure Team Work Tradition Trust Variety Wealth Wisdom
como siempre, con mi amor.