Life and Values: Thinking Back After Thinking Ahead

By Tom Horvath, PhD

image of a man thinking to symbolize the notion of life and values and the concept of thinking back after thinking aheadI expect that you know everything I am about to write about. However, I hope this blog will be a useful reminder about life and values.

A well-lived life is based on values. We act on values we are not even aware of. However, we know many of them. Becoming even clearer about them is worth the effort. Some ways to accomplish that effort is what I am proposing here.

If you find yourself, in some part of your life, uncertain about what to do next, it’s time to think ahead. What is a value you want to be acting on?

To help identify this value, ask yourself “big picture” questions. What would I ultimately like to accomplish? How would I like to be remembered? What change seems most important to make? If I could be completely in charge, what would I do? What I am holding off on doing because I’m afraid to do it?

You might also keep in mind what appear to be universal human values: be fair, do no harm, respect the liberty of others, respect purity, honor authority and seniority, be loyal. There are a great many other values as well: health, family, accomplishment, etc. You might also realize that in some situations these values can conflict. If I’m loyal to my friend, would it lead me to be unfair to someone else? If I have conflicting values, what is the most important one in the situation I’m in?

After this self-exploration you can determine a value you want to act on. Now it’s time to think backward, to a small step to take TODAY. If I want to accomplish Z, then I need to accomplish X and Y, and to accomplish X and Y, I need to accomplish W, etc. With a little imagination and effort, you can arrive all the way back at A, which you can do TODAY!

If a value is important to you, there are probably multiple ways you act on it each day. With a little thinking forward and backward, you can achieve greater consistency about what you value, and what you do day to day.

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