The role that values play in our lives

They give us the clarity to make decisions and derive a deep sense of fulfillment.

We often overlook the meaning of our existence, sometimes defining it arbitrarily by the wants and needs that govern our lives. Can we consider our lives, as human beings, to be solely the sum of our desires and requisites? Obviously, we should not. There is something more meaningful that gives our life purpose and that is our values.

As humans, it is critical for us to explore the values that define us; we need to reflect and be aware of how and why they mean so much to us. These values, which are shaped by our experiences and inspirations, shape our lives — our future.

Why are values so valuable in defining who we are? How are they any different from our needs?
While a need is governed by our existence, values are conscious choices that influence us to act in a certain manner to meet our needs. For example, two people may need to feel significant, but they will have different perceptions and act in different ways to fulfill that need. They may have a common need, but the actions and thoughts that lead them to their goal will be guided by different rules — their individual values.

To understand the importance of values in our lives, it is helpful to imagine values as being our personal compasses. We can all have a different due north. To that end, if we spend some time reflecting on and choosing our values, they can help guide every decision and action. This can help us find a meaningful direction for our life, and perhaps even create a happier journey while we move forward to our respective destinations.

Can we use this knowledge to help our children lead better lives?
As parents, we can assist our children in living a fulfilled life by helping them understand what they value the most in their life. If we can help them figure out what their core values are, we can help them find a direction to start their journey. We can give them the only true guide they will need to live their life by. However, for our children and us, it is important to remember that it is in staying committed to these values that we create meaningful experiences.

Whether it is the selection of a school, an activity for recreation, or even that of deciding on a life partner, our values can help guide us in making the right choice. On the other hand, when we do make wrong choices, they help us understand that things are not how we want or even need them to be. Values can help us when we are going wrong, and that is why it is important for children to understand their values. One way to look at it is that it will help children stray off the wrong path.

We need to think about our values deeply and teach our children to do the same. When we do not know how to align our lives with our core values, we end up stumbling through life with little or no clarity. If this happens to our children, they will seek an outside-in approach to life, meaning that they will look at what others value and blindly follow their approach to life. They will be influenced by people and media that create a perception of life that may not truly be agreeable with their own values. When we do not follow an inside-out approach to life, we feel a lack of meaningfulness and fulfillment — an absence of true happiness.

To avoid facing such situations, it is essential to determine our personal core values. These values will help us find answers to the fundamental question of ‘who do we want to be?’. Therefore, it is important to understand that the values we find important as parents, may not necessarily be the values that our children need to find important. Additionally, values do not need to remain constant, whether in priority or relevance, throughout our life. As we grow, our values change, and with it, so do we. So, we need to spend time thinking about what values will bring meaning to our lives and choose what we want to establish as our core values.

Values can make a major difference in how we live our lives. When we are in tune with our values, we can lead lives where our philosophy and beliefs align with our actions. They give us the clarity to make decisions and help us derive a deep sense of fulfillment. Often, it may seem that our values need to be derived from family, school, and society, but ultimately, it is our choice to adopt and adapt values. However, whether it is for our children or ourselves, remember that we can sit down and consciously select our values. We do not need to follow the same values as the people around us; our values give our life significance and purpose. So, choose them carefully.