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,
“We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough?”
- Wendell Berry
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Featured Art: Cliffs of Green River, Thomas Moran (1881)