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Monk Notes 32 - On Outsourcing Our Values

It's easy to miss how the values and dreams of the people around us affect us.

We all are seeking to understand the world. We are given a certain amount of energy and time, and we need to work out what is most important and what’s not. We do this in part through reflection, reason, and personal experimentation — but the vast majority of our own values and ideals are outsourced.

This is neither good nor bad, it simply is. We are limited in capacity and must rely on the experience and beliefs of others to help offset our own, building out a fuller picture and worldview.

Each community that we're a part of — workplace, family, peer group — informs the ideals we hold, which causes we view as most pressing, and what goals we pursue. We all compare ourselves to one another, but which aspects of our lives we compare is highly informed by the very people in our life to whom we compare ourselves, and what they think is important. All paths, whether professor, musician, cleric, parent, lawyer, social advocate, or student has its own bundle of comparisons.

In order to harness this effect, it's important to remain aware that it is happening. We keep our eyes open to and notice the badges of honor given out in our circles.

This can help us to be proactive about the communities and circles we introduce ourselves to. In a monastery, the monk benefits from the virtuous cycle that comes from being around other individuals who hold similar values and aspirations. This helps them stay aligned. We can do the same — whether this means placing ourselves more often in communities whose values we already align with, or intentionally expanding into communities of people who see the world differently.

In the opposite direction, we can also actively identify the people in our lives who may be subtly directing us to take a step backward from our values. This doesn't necessarily mean we cut off ties with them, but we may want to maintain distance.

What we value shapes what we pursue, and what we value is shaped by the people in our life. This is why we need to be very attentive to the relationships we hold.

Here are a few questions to help you understand how the values of others may be impacting you right now, as well as how you can intentionally curate these values moving forward.

What did your parents value highly?
What do your current peers value highly?
What does your culture currently value highly?
Which of these values do you want to move toward most?
With that in mind, which communities and relationships do you want to intentionally move toward?
Which do you want to intentionally maintain distance from?


All the best,

Steven Lawson

“We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough?”

- Wendell Berry


What is Mimetic Desire? - Luke Burgis

Many of us place a great deal of importance on having a clear sense of independence rather than just being one part of a matching set. They find validation in feeling like the bands they like are speaking to their personal experience or that the clothes they're wearing are a full expression of themselves, but the truth is we're many of the things we come to love about ourselves are more influenced by the world around us than we may realize. As Luke Burgis explains, this is a result of memetic desire, and understanding it more fully can help us refocus these desires into what truly matters most.  LINK

Human Relationships And Permaculture - The Tiny Life

At times we're faced with problems that we can't seem to figure out, and we only resolve the issue by getting another person's set of eyes on things to see them from a new perspective. In a similar way, when we consider taking philosophies from one line of work and applying it to a different area in our life, it becomes clear that many of the ideas line up with each other. That's just what Ryan Mitchell does in this piece, demonstrating how the best practices in permaculture are just as applicable to the relationships in our lives. LINK

How are personal values formed? - BetterUp

One of the main ideas behind many of our Monk Notes is that the more we understand about ourselves and why we are the way we are, the better equipped we are to take on the world and creating the most fulfilling life we can. A key part to obtaining that life is by understanding our values and whether or not they actually serve us. With that in mind, this article by Maggie Wooll goes further into detail regarding our values and may be able to help get you closer to the path that's best for you. LINK

Featured Art: Cliffs of Green River, Thomas Moran (1881)