There are lots of labels out there. There are categories we are placed in by others or designations we choose on our own. We are male or female, brown, black, or white, boomers or millennials, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, republican or democrat. Each of these labels comes with a set of expectations regarding what we value or care about. Because we are male or female, republican or democrat, a set of values is attached to us.
Being part of a group can be comforting. It is nice to hang out with people who share beliefs and values. There is, however, a downside to labels. They are rarely a perfect fit. Most of the time individuals share some of the values of their group, but not all of those values. Just because an individual is a woman, it is not a given that she likes to cook and does not like to hunt. That is why it is important for individuals get in touch with their own personal values and base their decisions on those values. The group may provide guidance, but people make their best decisions when those decisions are based on an individual’s personal values.
Decisions regarding the size and make-up of the family an individual will have needs to fit that person’s personal values. Will there be a life partner? Will there be children? Will the children be natural or adopted? Family life works out best when decisions are based on what a person really cares about. Decisions regarding how to celebrate the life of a person we loved who has died will bring the most peace and comfort when they are in sync with personal values. The way in which a life is memorialized provides the most comfort and meaning when it honors the values of the close survivors.
There are a number of websites that offer ideas about how a person can identify their own values. Most suggest limiting the value list to three to five. A person’s core values are deeper than a list of likes and dislikes. Core values are not driven by fear or fad. They run deep.
A person must ask themselves what they really care about. Things like family, financial security, kindness, faith, environmental stewardship, honesty, responsibility, learning, and balance are all examples of values that resonate with different people. Decisions—who to marry, how many children to have, where to live, what work to pursue, who to vote for, and how to remember a loved one who has died—are all best made based on personal core values.