A few nights ago, my wife asked me: “What would you say are my values?” It's part of a self improvement program she joined last year. This is the final month, and she is tasked with considering her life and what makes her happy as if she were celebrating her 80th birthday.
I spent a long time thinking about this. Long enough that she began to retract her question. I can think of who she is, what she does, and what qualities she has. But turning her values from abstract concepts into words was incredibly difficult. Even harder was avoiding just listing off traits instead of actual values.
A few minutes later and I had managed to get a few values out there. She seemed happy with the assessment, but when I asked her to do the same for me, I saw her go through the exact same problem of trying to think about me in words instead of as an abstract concept – then avoid listing traits instead of values. It's an incredibly complex question, and at the end of the day, I think it's one that you really do need to answer for yourself by considering what you would look back on in your old age and feel proud of.
For me, I landed on: comfort for myself with a place I can call my own, giving to my community in a way that truly empowers those around me, stewardship of nature, and creating something that will live beyond myself.
I have my doubts that these will be the same forever, but if I could look back on my life and check off those boxes, I'd be pretty dang proud.