Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Core values

A friend of mine recently showed me a prompt about core values that I thought might be an interesting exercise to go through myself.  Here's the prompt:

Across cultures, religions and time itself, people have admired and aspired to the same universal values--among them integrity, generosity, courage, humility, compassion, loyalty, perseverance--while rejecting their opposites--deceit, greed, cowardice, arrogance, callousness, disloyalty and sloth. To begin to explore more deeply the values that are most compelling to you, we suggest that you set aside uninterrupted time to respond to the following questions:

- Jump ahead to the end of your life. What are the three most important lessons you have learned and why are they so critical?
- Think of someone that you deeply respect. Describe three qualities in this person that you most admire.
- Who are you at your best?
- What one-sentence inscription would you like to see on your tombstone that would capture who you really were in your life?

The end goal of all of this was to sift through and realize what "compelling values" you hold, but let's first sort through these bulleted questions, as they are not only related but also interesting in their own right.

- Jump ahead to the end of your life. What are the three most important lessons you have learned and why are they so critical?

Already a tough one to answer!  I think the first and most obvious one that pops into my mind is one that I feel like I've been explaining and talking about with others a bit more nowadays -- that of my relationship with the past (of course, you know it had to be something to do with the past).  Specifically, what I learned through several life experiences -- that a lot of the time I cannot move forward in life if I feel that I am leaving something behind.  And moreover, the fact that I *need* to pay my respects to the past and feel connected to it.  This is something that I've struggled with my whole life because somehow the idea of change and loss is really hard for me to cope with, and I think things became a lot easier for me once I realized that even though nothing lasts forever and I will always lose things, it is still necessary for me to hang onto rememberances and try to retain what I can, as a coping mechanism.  And that to do otherwise casuses me great emotional distress.  This is basically the Kiki lesson, as she is the presence in my life that I associate most strongly with this question.  You could also call it the "Star" lesson.

I guess second would be that it's important to put yourself in healthy environments and good situations.  More specifically, that you don't have to (and shouldn't) subject yourself to suffering and sacrifices in order to do things that are worthwhile.  This one is the Marching Band lesson, basically.  I think growing up there were many many times when I was put into situations that were really toxic to my well-being, including but not limited to "bonding communication time" when I was at my most introverted and withdrawn states, being super super stressed out about band, and in general just dealing with a whole host of people who were not supportive to me.  I think with Marching Band in particular it was such a meaningful and important experience to me that I was totally willing to put myself through a lot for the sake of it.  However, later on in life it became apparent to me that there are many other things in life that are just as good without being toxic at the same time.  Basically, this lesson boils down into "treat myself right" and don't be in unhealthy relationships.

A third one?  I guess I would say just in general how to try to sympathize with others and not just see everything from my own point of view.  Basically...human connection.  I was terrible at this because I was always a super loner and really introverted as well not to mention I had a bit of a pride issue and stubborn streak.  So I think I was really judgmental and bad at seeing things from other points of view or even just respecting other people's different opinions or ways of being.  Part of this was also my upbringing because the examples that I grew up with did exactly this so I'm glad that I was able to realize that it is actually a big problem.

- Think of someone that you deeply respect. Describe three qualities in this person that you most admire.

All these multi-part questions!  I don't think this will be a single person but rather, spread across multiple people, as a more general thing.

I think one is the ability to be an "anchor" (no, not in the West Coast Swing sense...), or rather, that quality in people where no matter how many years go by it's still the same thing.  That seeing them again almost brings a sense of nostalgia, because they still are who they are.  Of course everyone has this to some extent -- it's not very often that people change in a very core way.  But certain people really make me feel it very clearly, and it feels super refreshing and actually gives me a really hopeful feeling, that something can stay so untouched amidst a world of such sweeping changes.

I think another is open-mindedness.  I think seeing people embrace new things and create meaningful life experience because of it is really inspiring to me, in large part because I prioritize comfort and routine so new things are really deprioritized in my when I see other people having such success with them it sometimes really makes me think and make sure that I'm not just being complacent.  New things (Ne) is my weak point and I'm really bad at it but I'll never grow as a person without it.

Also, empathy and being able to understand, connect with, and help others.  As I mentioned above I am not really good at this but I actually value it a lot and I think it's really really inspiring when I see certain people being a positive presence in others' lives.

- Who are you at your best?

Comfortable and at peace!  I am living in my routine and doing the things that I am always doing.  Everything is "in its place" and because I feel so comfortable and "in my element" I actually feel more willing to try one or two new things.  Basically I am at my best when I feel like I am secure in my comfort zone and that is the time when I am willing to see what is outside of it.

At my best I think I am proactive in reaching out to people, 100% dependable, always following through with everything that I planned, and taking care of everything that needs to be taken care of.  I am reaching towards achievements and goals while at the same time being happy.  I am "in the zone".

- What one-sentence inscription would you like to see on your tombstone that would capture who you really were in your life?

I donno...something about the past.  Or something artsy that has to do with the fact that I have finally "moved on" from life.  Like,

"Always" was what you said.
you also didn't stay.
You, who longed to be with the stars.

No...that's probably bad to put as an epitaph, huh. xD  Yeah, probably just something about the past.  But you know, as my best friend pointed out recently -- when I do have a tombstone, it will mean that I am part of the past, too.  I will finally be a part of that "past" that I am always looking back on.  If my soul still exists at that time, I feel that my entire perspective about everything will change so much.  But I guess that would be true for anyone.

To bring this back to core values, I think it's no surprise that the thing I value most in general is dependability, persistence, and loyalty -- or more specifically, a resistance to change.  Since a large part of my life seems to be centered around trying to keep things the same while coping with necessary change, it's extremely important for me to be able to stay the same as I once was, and to have people around who also would not change as well.  I think it is this value that drives many facets of my personality.  For example, one reason I seem to have such a diverse set of hobbies (music, games, dance, writing, art, blogging, calligraphy...) is because I don't want to drop any of them.  A lot of the time when I talk about being "true to myself" or "being Timmie" what I actually mean is staying consistent with what I have done in the past.  Not just because the past is important in an abstract sense, but because what I was in the past was =known to be good= and thus I begin to question any deviations from it.

The second thing that I seem to value is comfort.  This usually goes hand in hand with being consistent because for the most part what is consistent *is* what is comfortable.  But in general, making sure that one is taking care of themselves and putting themselves in good situations, as well as making time to stop and smell the roses.

A large part of my life actually revolves around finding a balance between persistence and comfort.  As I mentioned earlier the two are often synonymous, but oftentimes persistence dictates that I make sacrifices because keeping up a pattern can be difficult given varying circumstances -- after all, that is the whole reason why keeping patterns is hard in the first place!

For the most part I try to defer to remaining consistent, but I have definitely gotten into trouble with this and have needed to take a step back and recenter myself, especially when my persistence goals are unrealistic (writing Christmas letters to every single person I've ever written to???).  This is one of the reasons I value my best friend's company so much; because she helps me be more balanced in terms of letting go of my consistency in favor of comfort.

On the flip side, though, if I don't adhere to consistency enough it really does come back to haunt me.  I think this comes up in two main ways.  The most obvious one is that if I don't feel connected enough to the past, I just start thinking about it more and more and eventually become depressed and have to lose myself in it for awhile.  I think at its core this is just because I look backwards to the past to make sure that I am going in the right direction at the present.  If I find that I have strayed from the course drastically, it's really unsettling for me because I won't be able to stop looking at the path that I was on previously and remembering how good it was, and I'll really question everything I'm doing currently and why I gave up all that I had before.  The second way that consistency comes back to bite me is if I haven't been keeping up with a given thing -- like for example if I haven't worked on any game dev in a week or two, maybe because I'm feeling lazy or something.  When that happens it keeps on bugging me and if it continues you'll often hear me write about it in my blog or letters over and over again that I haven't done it in a while and need to get back to it.  Even when it's not something that I "have to do", it still feels like a responsibility to me because I don't want to drop anything.

And then I guess my third core value would be empathy and caring for others.  This is more of an aspiration than something that I actively feel like I have, but I think that when my first two values of consistency and comfort are in a good balance, that is usually when I start thinking more about my connections with others in a more truly empathetic way (or at least attempting to).  I think by far and large I actually defer to consistency in maintaining most of my friendships -- which basically means writing letters and messaging them with the same sort of small talk initiation all the time, for better or worse.  But I think there comes a point when I need to be a little more proactive and focused in order to really connect with people.

So there you have it: my three values are consistency, comfort, and empathy, in that order (not sure if those three words are the exact correct ones, but you get the idea).  In terms of MBTI, the first two are definitely my Si (introverted sensing) at work (consistency more than comfort) and empathy is my Fe (extraverted feeling).  Ti (introverted thinking) didn't really make an appearance at all, but Ne (extraverted intuition) actually did come up, because I mentioned I admire open-mindedness.  I don't think that's a core value for myself though.

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