by John G. Johnson
Anne Marie worked hard to finally secure her coveted, hi-profile dream job, one which had glamour, power, and prestige attached to it. The job gave Anne Marie the ability to influence the direction of politics and policies in the USA and around the world. It also kept her at the office until the wee hours of the morning - and away from home for extended periods as well. This dream job did have its perks though: Trips to exotic countries, attending exclusive engagements and ritzy events, mingling and dining with titans of industries and influential heads of state.
Ann Marie thought she had it all. But in less than two years she called it quits, giving up the position she fought to get, saying it wasn’t what she thought it would be. Why? The demands of the job weren’t fulfilling a personal need, a value important to her – family. She had a husband and two teenage boys who she wanted to spend more time with.
To understand one of the reasons people do the things they do we need to look at “Values.” Values are subjective; they vary from person to person and are contextual. This means that what’s important you, what you are valuing in a career, for example, will be different from what’s important to you when it comes to owning pair of shoes. In short, a person’s behavior oftentimes is satisfying the values they consider dear to them in a particular context. The good thing is that values aren't set in stone; like human beings, they can change over time. If we work from this premise, then in order to learn what someone’s values are in a given scenario, all we need to do is ask: – What’s important to you in X? And Listen! (x = specific context: For example, family, friends, career, car, clothes, vacation, etc.
Ann Marie’s situation, of achieving a goal and then abandoning it, isn’t rare. As observers we are sometimes stunned by the actions of certain individuals, people who are in the public eye, or within our own private social circles. From our point-of-view we think what they did was bizarre, prompting us to say something like, “Why did they give it all up? They had it all. “I” would have never done what they did. I don’t get it, etc.” To the outsider, upon first glance, Ann Marie’s decision to quit seems strange. But asking the question above, in order to unearth what her values are in the context of a career, would show that by leaving the dream job, no matter how attractive it was, Ann Marie was adhering to her values. Spending time with her family is important to her. The rigors of the job prevented this from happening. So she did the next best thing…
Values give rise to behavior. So before we go condemning someone for an action they took that you clearly wouldn’t have if you were in their shoes, so to speak, dig a little deeper and find out that person’s values are in that given context and were they (values) being satisfied.
There are times that humans do have to endure the gauntlet to discover what’s important to them. But we can save ourselves time and eliminate, if not, reduce disappointment in advance when we:
1= Ask ourselves the same question posed above (What’s important to you in X?) and - pay attention - to the answers and emotions that arise.
2= Write down the answers you get.
3= Then find out if the desired goal or behavior you seek will fulfill these values.
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