Thinking Critically: Ranking, Prioritizing, and Evaluating your Values.

In my last my post I encouraged you to list your values. To start by writing down all the values you believe you hold, make a top 25 and then again try and whittle that list down to a top 10.

Now I want to look at how we rank and apply our values within those lists. This is something that can be really hard to do with the CORE values because essentially, they often feel as though they are all even. The thoughts that identify a CORE value, make up part of who you are and how you make decisions but often we need to prioritize one value over another when decision making.

When I read a snippet of my last post to a friend, they recoiled a bit and said that it sounded judgmental. The segment that talked about me no longer accepting simple tolerance. I don’t think I did the best job explaining my intention to her because I went on one my my textbook rants (for those that have had the pleasure of experiencing one , you know what I mean and if not you soon will if I start doing Insta Videos), so in hopes of explaining it better here, here I go.

The fact of the matter is we all make judgements. Every hour, every day, possibly every minute. We like to classify them under a different, less harsh sounding title like decision, or choice but truly to get to any decision or choice we must first make a judgement. Those judgments are hopefully based on something, and to me it makes most sense to have them aligned with my values.

Being able to articulate your values will help align your decisions with them and will give you a greater sense of knowing who you are, and what you are all about.

To be honest – I started the next few paragraphs 3 times already. I’m restarting again because I started Storytelling. This led to comparing different but similar values which is great but was getting off topic and super long. So I am resetting one last time to hopefully stay on today’s point.

One fact of life is that we can’t be everything to everyone. We are all doing our best, but how we define that best is where we are getting lost. An example it is impossible to value politeness, diplomacy and directness in equal measure – those values are in direct opposition with each other.

Other values that are in direct opposition are optimism and cynicism, prudence and boldness, adaptability and unyieldingness, change and consistency, sacrifice and self preservation. Basically there is pretty much a direct opposite to every possible value.

I value politeness, directness and diplomacy in differing degrees in different situations. Of all 3, Directness is the value I hold most dear. I like direct people, I like knowing exactly what someone is thinking even if it is hurtful because I feel as though at least they are honest and I can make a decision on whether or not I want to hold space for that person in my life. I value politeness in that I like my P’s and Q’s – I want my children to say please and thank you as a sign of respect for others. I do not value politeness if there is room for growth. I value the pain of honesty and directness in the face of possible growth vs politeness to spare ones feelings. Diplomacy has it’s place with diplomats, you can’t be starting wars. Diplomacy in the workplace, works in matters that are inconsequential or for self preservation. Should you be diplomatic if someone says something racist or sexist? No, an individual’s feelings are not more important than the fact, BIG caveat here, FACT that they did/said something to that directly or indirectly hurts, harms, or oppresses others. Facts matter, right matters.

I hope my decision making tree explanation of all three of these values is a bit more clear and can how it can be applied to other opposing values. I’ll try and make an actually diagram in the future to follow. It’s not that one can’t believe in the worth of each value but we do make judgements and we act accordingly. I think we as humans struggle with being open with what we actually value because if we did, we wouldn’t much like ourselves sometimes. I also believe that digging into that discomfort is where we can grow. If you take a look at your stated values and apply them to your recent decisions, can you say that the application was consistent or that you were steadfast in applying them?

When we apply our values universally to our lives, we live happier lives. I know this because when I have struggled with feeling misunderstood or unloved, I have been able to find resilience in knowing that I am living my values. I am a good person, a good person according to me, according to me and what I would like to see in the world. I am doing my best every day. I am not perfect and my values don’t align with everyone’s. As mentioned your values might change, they might shift based on circumstances or experiences.

When we evaluate our relationships and how we interact with others I would advocate to try and understand the other individual’s values. The reason being is that this can alleviate hurt feelings and misunderstanding. If someone does not hold the same values as you they will not approach a situation the same way. Simply put their lens of the world is different than yours.

I often find myself frustrated with others that don’t value the greater good above themselves. I will hazard to say a lot of individuals would say that service is on their list of values. However what service means to them, might be service to them or for them vs service to others. People that will argue with me the value of taxes, or health care or education, make me crazy. I get for lack of a better term uppity. The reality is that I have not been able to enter conversations with them and stay calm in my message delivery.

My question wants to always be, what do you value? But it comes out like, you don’t value other people, here is how little you value others and then a laundry list of what is wrong with their thoughts/values/beliefs, all said in a loud voice and directly. You can imagine how well this is received.

So here is my attempt at a more civilized conversation – what do you value? What do those around you value? How do you judge those around you based on your values? Based on theirs. To my friend’s point how do you know what is right? My answer is, what aligns with my values, what is fair, what is empathetic, what shows integrity, what is service.

There has been so much talk lately about thinking critically. So many people are willing to question one another’s ability to think critically. What is the base point for this judgement? How do you know you are thinking critically. There is a massive difference between being critical and being negative. Being critical requires seeing the whole picture and all the different factors that might come into play. Critical thinking requires that you not only see your values but also those that of the other party entering the conversations/relationship, etc. Are your really critically thinking if you are not questioning your own decision making/values within each decision.

I’m not suggesting that you become paralyzed with the overwhelmingness of applying your values to every action you make or to evaluate other’s values in full, all the time, but what I would suggest is that at the end of every day, you reflect on all your interactions for that day and run through the following – List the values present from both sides, rank them in terms of the situation and visualize the alternative endings. This will help with your critical thinking skills, possibly reinforce your values or help reevaluate them. No matter what this will help you align yourself in the future.

Just like when our body is feeling a little out of whack or need of an adjustment so too do our values, aligning them takes care of our hearts and minds.

List your values, rank them in priority order, makes decisions, reevaluate and repeat.

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