What do you value more?
Your spouse or your job?
Your kids or your car?
Your friends or your phone?
Of course we value our spouse over our job, our kids over our car, and our friends over our phone. Few people would say otherwise.
But as stress levels increase, schedules fill up, or budgets get tight, our actions do not always align with our values. The old saying is true: actions speak louder than words. To know what someone values, observe their actions more than just their words. Actions - like where we spend most of our time, what occupies our mental energy, how we speak to people, and ways we cope with stress - reveal our value system with more accuracy than what we say.
Actions reveal the true Self behind our words.
For example, we might work more in order to generate more income and in process sacrifice time with family. We might cope with stress by spending money we do not have rather than sticking to a financial strategy. We might lose our temper with our kids for behaviors we would otherwise ignore.
Our actions are not always in sync with our values. So, in the normal "daily-ness" of life, how do we maintain a lifestyle that is consistent with our values while also holding down a job, a home, family, and relationships?
To answer that question, we examine three areas in which it is critical that we hold tight to our values: relationships, money, and possessions.
THE VALUE OF RELATIONSHIPS
When you consider your closest relationships, what do your actions reveal about how much or how little you value them? Do you value the humanity and worth of each person, or are your relationships transactional? It's easy to slip into a mindset in which we treat people according to what they can do for us. The value we place on people is directly proportional to their ability to meet our needs. This attitude, if we fail to keep it in check, extends into relationships with patients, and even our spouses and children.
A core value of healthy relationships is empathy - the ability to see life through the eyes of another person. Without empathy, we naturally sort people into categories of Useful and Useless, and treat them accordingly. Empathy helps to remove these categories, and declares that every person is valuable, regardless of what they can or cannot do for us.
THE VALUE OF MONEY
Monthly bank statements represent the clearest picture of a person's financial values. You can learn much about someone simply by observing how he or she spends their money, especially whether or not a person is disciplined, generous, active, content, or even healthy.
What does your bank statement reveal about the value you place on money?
Our natural inclination is to use finances the same way we use relationships: for selfish pursuits. Our survival instincts keep us focused on moving forward through the world, sometimes without regard for others. At times we accomplish this by sacrificing the needs, wants, and dreams of our family. Or we ignore the needs of the community in which we live so that we can pad our Retirement Fund a bit more.
A healthy view of finances includes an awareness of our connection to the people and community around us. Survival instincts come naturally, but generosity requires intentional effort.
Generosity reminds us to consider the humanity of people besides ourselves. A generous spirit also gives us "skin in the game." When you invest in local organizations, charities, schools, or non-profits, you pay closer attention to the city and community in which you live. You have a vested interest to see it improve, and this even includes your own family. Generosity reminds us to consider the effects of purchases on our entire family, not just the personal benefit they bring to us as individuals.
One proactive way to add generosity to your financial strategy is to open a Donor-Advised Fund. Click here to read more about it.
THE VALUE OF POSSESSIONS
Many of us are misled to believe that quantity trumps quality. We've been conditioned to think that things which cost more have greater value than things that cost little. Or that the value of something important - like a home - is measured in square footage or other status symbols rather than the quality of time spent there. These arbitrary measurements appeal to our cosmetic standards, but they don't always measure up to the value of quality.
Contentment is the best path toward finding quality in life. When our hearts and minds are content - not constantly looking to the next big, new, impressive thing - we discover that we already have everything we need to be happy and to be at peace. Material things become something we hold with a loose grip. We are no longer terribly concerned whether other people are impressed. A content person needs little, because they know joy exists on the inside, independent from material possessions, status, title, salary, or net worth.
LOOSEN THE GRIP
Empathy. Generosity. Contentment. These are values that lead to a full, rich life and are within the reach of every person. Our contrived status symbols are irrelevant when our hearts and minds are set on becoming people who are empathetic, generous, and content. Our actions may not always live up to these values, but we can get better every day at loosening the grip that causes stress, anger, or unhealthy habits. And, over time, the people in our world will know without a doubt what we value, because they see it lived out every day.