A WAR IS RAGING. On one side of this conflict is the individual and, on the other, society and culture. To the victor goes your attention and your money.
I submit you’ll win through intentionality—and you’ll lose if you let society determine what’s of greatest value to you. I was on the losing side for many years.
As an undergraduate, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Why? Not because I had a deep passion for the law. Rather, I wanted to dress in flashy suits and attract attention to myself. I thought being a lawyer would help me get there.
Although not through the practice of law, I continued the pursuit of the things that would get me the attention I craved: BMWs, expensive clothes and watches, happy hours and more. Those were the things I valued. I had been programmed.
Now I’m married with a family and my life is almost completely different. Three things catalyzed the change: Within a single month, I moved to southern California, the Great Recession hit and I met my wife.
For me, going from small town Minnesota to Scottsdale, Arizona, was a culture shock. Continuing on to Newport Beach, California, blew my mind. Exotic cars and multi-million-dollar homes, and what appeared to be limitless affluence, made me shake my head in disbelief. I couldn’t understand how so many people could afford that lifestyle. I couldn’t see how it was sustainable for anyone, including me.
With the help of my now wife, I began to realize that my values shape my perspective—and that, in turn, became the lens through which I viewed the world. That was when I began to consider what was of greatest importance to me. What did I believe in? I began to clarify and crystallize my personal values.
I turned age 30 during this process. Today, at age 40, I can proudly tell you that my core values are friendship, justice and learning. It’s through that lens that I make decisions on how I spend my time and money, and what I give my attention to. The result has been greater contentment, better finances and increased overall productivity. I’ve got a long way to go and my desire for learning drives me to continue improving, but I’m on the right track.
If you aspire to be the best steward of your resources and to become the best possible version of yourself, clarifying and crystallizing your values is essential. Like setting goals, too few of us do it—and even fewer write them down. Take the time to put pen to paper. If you don’t, you may be living someone else’s version of your best life.