For one of my college classes this year, we were asked to complete a Life Values Inventory at http://www.lifevaluesinventory.org/. This website invites people to reflect on what they value and how they prioritize those values. They define our values as our lens, what we use in order to view ourselves and the world. For my assignment, we needed to complete the inventory and then reflect on how our particular values (our lens, our perspective) influences the way we see the field we are studying.
This was a fascinating process for me, and I found it to be very useful not only for my class but also for better understanding myself (and maybe others).
Through a series of questions, the website will help you reflect on and draw conclusions about how strongly or loosely you hold 22 common values, such as Spirituality, Independence, Financial Prosperity, Privacy, Concern for Others, and Humility. For me the most tightly held and the most loosely held were not surprising, but I found it really interesting to see how things were ranked in the middle. For example, I realized how closely I value Independence and Belonging, and I could reflect on the tension between those two and how that’s playing out in my life right now.
The second section takes those 22 values and asks you to reflect on which of these values come up in your different life roles, such as Work, Relationships, or Leisure/Community Activities. The third section invites you to categorize and prioritize your values. You sort your values into the following categories: High Priority, Over Attention, Under Attention and Medium/Low Priority. High Priority values are ones that are important and I pay a lot of attention to. Over Attention is for the values that I feel are currently getting more of my focus and energy than I want to be giving them. Under Attention is the inverse: values I wish I were paying more attention to, and Medium/Low Priority is for the rest of the values that receive a level of attention I am satisfied with.
This is the section I found to be most useful and interesting for me to examine. I sat down with each of the values in each of those categories and reflected on why that value is in that category and how I feel about it. The Over Attention and Under Attention categories, in particular, provided some great opportunities for reflection. For me, Independence was in the Over Attention category and reflecting on the tension between it and Belonging from that perspective offered me a chance to see what I might be able to change in order to find better balance. Humility was in the Under Attention category, something that was humbling to realize; this value is an area of my personal and spiritual life that needs work.
Reflecting on WHY that is offered some useful insights for me: I struggle against an oppressive cultural message that tells me that as a woman I need to second guess my conclusions or hedge my opinions with a false humility, and as a highly self-critical person I struggle to have an objective sense of my own accomplishments and abilities. The combination of these things has led me to sometimes reject true spiritual humility along with false humility. That rejection can lead to some really awful things; I think one of the most dangerous comes in an unwillingness or inability to truly listen and allow my opinions/beliefs/conclusions to not just be challenged, but also to be changed.
In addition to the Life Values Inventory, we were asked to reflect on how we have formed our values and how we make value judgements, to consider how we are influenced by our social and cultural environments. We were asked to consider both folkways (sense of ‘the way things are done’ that can vary widely culture to culture, such as who holds hands in public or whether or not shoes come off before going inside; often can be held more lightly with exposure to other ways of doing things) and mores (moral convictions about right and wrong, often strongly held and difficult to change).
Because I highly value and prioritise spirituality, my value judgements are made first based on my religious and spiritual understanding of right and wrong. I am an idealist and so my judgement has little to do with my own behaviour (past or even present) but rather with what I believe is the Divine ideal (this can lead me to appear hypocritical if I’m not being forthcoming with my own failings). I am a Third-Culture Kid (as a child I experienced living in a culture that was not the same as my birth/passport culture), an immigrant, in a cross-cultural marriage/family with significant cross-cultural living experience, so I tend to adapt to various folkways easily and also hold them very lightly – I’m not bothered by others’ apparent ‘transgressions’ and also don’t hold myself too strongly to any one cultural way of doing things.
I tend to judge mores by my own religious and spiritual ideals more than any singular cultural affiliation; however, there are strong culture-of-origin influences in my opinions and actions regarding politics and laws in the community I’m living in. The values I hold in this area are the result of the intersection of my spiritual and religious convictions with my passport culture, and are perhaps some of the strongest values I hold.
Through this exercise I gained valuable insight to myself, but also realized that everyone else – my classmates, my colleagues, my professors, everyone I encounter – has a similar process. Everyone arrives at the conclusions they do through a combination of experiences and exposure and perhaps more important than understanding someone’s position is seeking to understand where they are coming from. Being aware of my own lens is helping me be aware of others’, and I think this makes me more compassionate and a better listener. Listening to understand someone is so very different from listening in order to prove them wrong. Compassionate listening is something I value and want to give more attention to.