Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung gave me a playbook for finding my values. He recommends paying attention to:
- Behaviors that irritate, anger, or sadden me
- Behaviors that inspire and motivate me
When behaviors irritate, anger, or sadden me, I learn what I don’t value. This leads me to ask, “What are the alternative approaches I do value?”
For example, I get irritated when my teammates assume things about me and my decisions, rather than speak with me about them. Giving this more thought, I realize I do the same thing to other people. I assume things about them when I could ask clarifying questions or withhold judgment and offer the benefit of the doubt. Boom! A bunch of things I value:
- clarifying instead of assuming
- withholding judgment
- offering the benefit of the doubt
Knowing this, it’s my job to live these values.
Alternatively, with behaviors that inspire and motivate me, I get direct access to what I value. When people forgive me, I value that. So I am committed to forgiveness. Same with apologizing for mistakes. I value when others do it, so if I want to be consistent, I ought to do the same.
When I don’t practice what I value, I am two people—a thinking brain that values certain behaviors and a person who behaves differently. I am incoherent. I feel off.
When I practice living my values, I am one person. This is coherence—also known as balance, harmony, alignment, and symmetry. Whatever we call it, I know I am calmer and happier when I live in accord with my values. (When I stray from my values, apologizing and re-committing is how I get back on track.)
Something crucial happens the more I practice my values: I get firsthand experience with them. Sometimes, I lose interest in a value the more I practice it. I begin to see its upsides and downsides more clearly. Sometimes, I gain interest. Other times, I realize I’ve misunderstood the value altogether. To practice my values is to refine and clarify them.
For example, I used to be impressed with people who work their tails off, perennially grinding things out. But after living that way for years, I see things differently now. I value a much more moderate pace.
I also used to value folks who were very conscious of other people’s opinions of them. I thought there was something wise about this. But I took it to an extreme and found that, yes, a small group of people’s opinions matter to me. But not everybody’s. To live by the opinions of others is to become a reflex of other people’s judgments. Nah. I’d rather not.
To some degree, I imagine we are all unclear on our values. As I age and change, some of my values do too. Carl Jung’s guidance helps me stay in sync with myself.
I welcome your thoughts,
This is Max’s note—an every-so-often message from Lessonly’s CEO about learning, leadership, and Better Work. Sign up below to subscribe via email. No spam, we promise!