Earlier this year a friend and I sat on a cliff in Santa Cruz, California, watching the waves. She asked me what my values were. Since I was unable to verbalize them beyond a dull “honesty, politeness, …”, I took it home as an assignment, which I completed in the form of a doc the day after. The values are likely to change over the course of my life. This is a snapshot of my values as of my 25th birthday.
Proactivity & Curiosity
- Take control of my life by regularly questioning habits and the status quo
- Expose myself to diverse mental stimulation
- Surround myself with people who are role models (e.g., my colleagues)
- Explore the world and its different ways of thinking and living (incl. studying history as well as traveling)
- Have courage to try new things, leave my comfort zone
- Question dogmas
- Rational thinking and science are the basis of my decision making
- Integrity; strive to find inconsistencies in my acting and thinking
- Be honest with others and myself
- Reject (for myself, not others) concepts like religion despite of their potentially comforting nature, because they violate either the value of integrity or science
- Follow my state’s social order (like laws) and the culture I was born into
Positivity & Kindness
- Assume others have the best intentions by default
- Treat others respectfully and politely, consider their context
- Allocate mental resources for that, by being actively empathetic
- Suppress feelings like being offended or revengefulness (Freud’s super-ego?)
- Express love and positive feelings authentically (do not hold such emotions inside)
- Respect animals and nature
- Avoid being in a cycle of optimizing for future return / “the next goal”
- Enjoy the current stimulation of senses through feelings, relationships, music, art, discussions, challenges, experiences, …
- Eliminate the role money plays in my life as much as I can afford
- Love my own body and mind, treat it sustainably and with care
- Make scientific contributions
- Search for effective, multiplicative ways of having a positive impact on close ones and the world
- Raise happy children jointly with a partner and invest significant energy into passing these values on to them
The values describe a desired state, I do not necessarily live up to them right now, but strive to. It would make sense to regularly check in with oneself (and close ones?) as to how I do. One could arrange that check-in in a tabular format with three columns: value, when am I not living up to it, actions to take.
Some values are in conflict with each other. For example:
- Exploring the world is currently tied to harming the environment (which is disrespectful towards nature)
- Questioning dogmas can clash with respecting the culture I was born into
- Respecting animals and eating meat
- Treating my body with care but living in the moment w/o optimizing for future return
Writing this up made me appreciate what values actually are. I had never really thought so deeply about their importance and role. Also, how arbitrary they are and yet how strongly one can feel about them.
I should probably define respect separately, because it has a key role in the enumeration.
I’d like to add the special role my family has to the values, but am not sure yet where to. Parents and siblings deserve explicit mention, given how important they are.