Rebirth of Reason

The Good Life

Identifying Values
by Joseph Rowlands

Values lie at the heart of Objectivist ethics. By judging values, and determining how well they benefit our lives, we can choose goals effectively. They're also an important part of our happiness. By choosing values correctly and pursuing them, we can greatly improve the quality of our lives.

One of the great insights Objectivism gives is the focus on values. By really looking at things and figuring out how important or beneficial they are, we are able to focus on the important things in life. Have you ever realized that you were wasting a lot of time and energy on something that wasn't really worth it? Ever thought that you could and should be doing something more important with your life? By identifying your values, you can aim for those things that mean the most to you.

Of course, by identifying your values, you're also able to make comparisons. This can make difficult decisions easier. When you identify clearly what you're gaining and losing, it's often a simple choice to make. This is why people sometimes make pro/con lists to weigh a choice. By making value identification a habit, though, you don't need to start from scratch every time. You also get better at seeing values for what they are.

Which leads to one of the best benefits to identifying your values. It's often said that you don't really appreciate something until it's gone. This is because often in life, we fail to recognize the values we do have until attention is drawn to them. By making a conscious effort to make your values clear, you can gain that appreciation, and act accordingly.

An example of this is in friendships or other kinds of relationships. Often, the values gain from friendships are enormous. Having someone to talk to when you have problems. Being able to relax and have a good time with someone you enjoy. Going and seeing movies or playing a sport. Intelligent conversation. Shared memories and interests. The list goes on and on.

Often people are afraid of evaluating relationships in terms of what they provide. It's a carry-over from altruism where identifying something as in your self-interest is as good as saying it's immoral. Parents will often not examine whether their children are really a pleasure to them, or a burden. Friends will avoid judging their friends out of some misplaced sense of loyalty. Couples will move blindly through relationships, never asking whether it's really worth it.

By identifying values, though, you learn to appreciate what you have. Further, you learn to enhance it. Like spending time with someone? Make an effort to do it more often. Enjoy the long talks you have with someone? Let them know you appreciate it, and arrange for it to happen more often. By identifying values, you can really focus on what makes you happy.

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