What do you value most in life? You may not have thought about this, and thus have difficulty answering the question. But if I look at your calendar, I will know what you really value. This, however, may vary from what you would say and even think you value. Our truest answer to the values question is reflected in how we spend our time. And for many people, there is a disconnect in what we think we value and how we spend our time. There is a significant difference in what we say we value and how we spend our time. Research proves this.
Research reflects that when people are asked what they value the most, they have similar answers. Even people from various backgrounds, who on the surface appear very different, have more similar answers to this question than different answers. The most frequent answers to the values question are health, happiness, and prosperity. The exact words “health” and “happiness” are often used, yet there are different words used that describe “prosperity.”
What exactly is prosperity? Different dictionaries have different definitions of this word. Descriptive words for prosperity include: successful, thriving, financial success, wealthy, secure, and well-being. Some of these words mean very different things, yet many people would agree with most of them, especially related to financial means. We don’t often think of a person being prosperous without financial success, yet there are people who consider themselves prosperous in ways other than financial. Yet in the Western culture prosperity is often equated with financial success.
As you read this, you may easily agree with the “health” and “happiness” answers, yet you might not be so sure about the word “prosperity.” And even if you agree and would answer the question with the same or similar words, how you spend your time might not be consistent with your answers. Not because you aren’t being truthful; most people (not all, but most) try to be honest and tell the truth as they know it to be. And when we hear the word “values,” we think we are giving an honest answer. What we are really referring to instead of values is attitudes or beliefs. Although these three words are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same. If we really value something, we “walk the talk.” We can have an attitude or belief about something and not really value it. A couple of examples will bring clarity to this.
Although many people say they value health, what they really mean is they have an attitude or belief that health is important. If most people really valued health, we would not have an epidemic of obesity or an opioid addiction epidemic in the U.S. When many people say they value happiness, their behavior reflects that what they really value is pleasure. There is as much difference in the words happiness and pleasure as there is in the words values and attitudes and beliefs. Pleasure is transitory, while happiness is life sustaining. Pleasure can be found in a vacation, while happiness is most often found in good relationships and good health. A more thorough discussion of these differences can be found in my recently published latest book, the Second Edition of How to Thrive in Spite of Mess, Stress, and Less! This link will take you directly to Amazon where you can read about it and purchase it.
There are two common phrases that relate to this discussion. One is “You can’t take it with you,” usually referring to money and a philosophy that can result in one spending money or giving it away instead of saving it. The other phrase is “No one on their deathbed ever wishes he had spent more time at the office,” a statement reflecting regret that work has been too much of a priority, often at the expense of relationships. If these statements are true, what information do they give us related to prosperity living? Several thoughts.
Prosperity living includes health, happiness, and sufficient financial resources to have and do what is most important to us. Without good health, it is difficult to enjoy other things that are important to us, such as cooking for our family, carrying our grandchildren, or walking on the beach. Without happiness that allows us to sleep well, meet life’s challenges with grace, and have a sense of gratitude for our blessings, our vacations, and other monetary pleasures can be meaningless. Those living at or below the poverty level who are unable to get adequate health care can’t maintain good health or live a prosperous life because more financial resources than they possess are required to do so.
Back to the original question. What do you value the most in life? Does your schedule reflect it?