What is it that we value? As a society at large, I’ve heard a lot of candidates: We value our environment. We value our children, Education, Progress, Peace, Health, Knowledge, Kindness. All kinds of stuff. I’ve never thought long and hard about this question. Now that I am thinking about it, these are the kind of contrivances that come to mind. Is “contrivances” too harsh?
We show what we value in our actions. Regardless of whether you view “the market” as an efficient decision maker, at our collective simplest, we all make our decisions based on what we value. I value the glorious feeling my stomach gets after eating McGriddles more than I value $1.99. (and apparently value my taste buds more than my health) I value my time more than the savings from cutting coupons. (Though this is debatable since I also don’t grocery shop – see McGriddles example.) I think it’s clear: what we value, we select.
So let’s look at the world. I see luxury cars aplenty: Lexus, Acura, Porsche, BMW. Still stuck in traffic, I look inside those pretty cars and see Chanel sunglasses, Prada purses, Armani suits, etc. Out of traffic and with my friends I hear them talk about buying 50″ TV’s to go with their Playstation 8, Xbox, and new Blu-Ray player. This says nothing about the present (crappy) state of schools, (in-)access to higher education, (lack of quality and access to) health care, (in-attention to) the environment or any of those things. Let’s ask again: What do we value?
What do you value? How do you spend your time? How do you spend your money? How do you spend your attention?
My mind has focused on this question of value. It birthed other questions as well: Who do I want to be? What should I be grateful for? What am willing to sacrifice for? What is broken? What is perfect?
In the serendipitous way that is life, I came across this clip for the second time today. The gist is in the headline:
“Everything is so amazing and nobody is happy.”
I’ve been in a mood, so this really stuck. He focuses on the marvels of technology: cell phones work everywhere and allow us to send photos at the speed of sound. We sit in a chair in the sky and are transported around the world. We get updates about our friends and family automatically while we sleep that are sorted by how important these people are to us. Are you kidding? Then there are the health advances, the knowledge advances, etc. Yet, we’re still not happy. We’re not grateful. But this is the way it’s always been, I hear in my head. Minus a few hiccups, civilization has been a pretty sweet uptrend. Things have gotten progressively better and we’ve raised our expectations accordingly (along with the level of complaints). Essentially, my takeaway from this awesome video is that we don’t value any of this progress. We’ve taken it for granted. We consider it as owed to us.
Values are often spoken of as something ingrained in us from our early life. He was raised with good values. But don’t we form values every day? Every decision we make determines what we value (and our values). Look around at the world. At the state of the financial markets, at businesses, at those in governments, and across society. It’s not a pretty picture. Think about what that says about what we value. Then think about the things that we *should* value and what a world like that would look like. What would a day where you spent your time on things that you truly valued look like? Start by spending an hour tonight asking yourself what it is that you value. Then, maybe, start living it tomorrow.
It’s a question I’ve never really thought about. Now that I’ve started, I can’t stop.