By: Terri Hoffler
As a kid, I loved the bumper cars at the amusement park. Without a license and any real knowledge of how to operate a motor vehicle, we were allowed to get behind the wheel of a “car” and drive with the sole intention of crashing into each other for our entertainment. The saving grace that kept us and others from being severely injured were the rubber bumpers on the cars and the guardrails that kept us enclosed.
Values are like the guardrails of our lives. They are the standards that govern how we show up; the parameters within which we operate; the rules that help maintain civility. Most advanced cultures operate within a set of values- liberty, democracy, equality, individualism. When those values are ignored, not upheld, or don’t align with individuals’ values, there are consequences and sometimes chaos.
We can look to events in the very recent history of our country for evidence of the mayhem that can ensue when there is misalignment of values. Loss of order, destruction of property, and tragically the loss of life are just some of the consequences. So, what do you do if you experience a mismatch of values?
- Assess your personal values- What are the principles or standards that govern your life? Why are they important to you? What are the impacts to you if you live outside of those values?
- Identify the people, places and things that do not support your values- Who in your immediate circle lives governed by values drastically different from yours? What places do you frequent that cause you to act outside of what is important to you? What are your most prized possessions and how do they align with what you consider important?
- Decide to make different choices- What about your values or your circumstances need to shift? What can you do without? How do you make a shift that does not impact you negatively?
Living without values is an aimless and hopeless journey. Much like those bumper cars, you may derive some joy, but you never really get anywhere. You may also find you’re bumping needlessly with others- and that these days, that isn’t so much fun.
Decide what is important to you and surround yourself with the things that support and build up that value-filled life.