Value Testing

Value testing in theory is fairly simple. Write down your values. Reflect. Write down your behaviors and actions. Compare.

We really need to take an honest look at ourselves. Put on different hats. Do you practice what you preach? Does the rubber meet the road?  I would argue our actions are a greater reflection of who we are than “what we think we are”. If we make a deliberate practice of self-observation then hypocrisy can be minimized; in the age of the peacocking value testing can help clear the smoke so we can stand and deliver with intent. A deliberate approach to self-observation makes taking criticism easier. Running models and switching lenses keeps one fresh. Heck, why not get stoic and challenge those belief systems with a direct approach: try some self-experimentation and method acting.  AJ Jacobs comes to mind, “The Year of Living Biblically” is an example of immersive living. Not that I’ve done that…  Jacobs REALLY tests his assumptions.  ( https://ajjacobs.com)

Am I what I think I am? Not often enough. But, maybe just enough.

Here we go…

Family Comes First. This can be a little complicated. I need to work to provide for my family. Sometimes, I spend too much time focusing on work and career. It’s survival. Some of it is ego. But, my wife is more than half of our success strategy. She is my check and balance. She is also our provider. My son is 9. He’s beginning to form a stronger and stronger sense of self. How do we empower him to thrive and be free of our vices and shortcomings? This is hard work! Reed has become the ultimate hypocrisy detecting machine, in my case. Nothing is getting past this kid. I am on notice and being observed with laser precision. Brene Brown says we can’t parent beyond our abilities. It’s our behavior not our lectures that teach and reveal. (The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting – https://brenebrown.com/books-audio/)

My mom, stepfather and the in-laws. Can I thank them enough? As a parent, now, I have so much more understanding and gratitude for what they have done. The sacrifices they have made. They continue to support us on our journey. And, yet, I still have moments where I take them for granted.  Always room for improvement.  In recent years, there has been a drifting of values… When did this happen? How to manage this unexpected divide? I’m working on that. Often,  just listening and trying to understand their perspectives, instead of reacting and trying to win the philosophical produces the most harmony.

Family first feels like more than full time gig when I’m doing it right. I’ve said it more than once to my peers who are thinking about making babies, “You have no idea what you’re getting into!” Finding the “work/life balance” IS part of my values practice. In the early years of parenthood I remember thinking, “Why wouldn’t we approach family and parenting like any other professional endeavor? Why isn’t there Bachelor’s Degree in Parenting?”

Have a Movement Practice.  I am a sitting type, career person, who used to experience random pain and physical complications from my “life in a chair”. I am so grateful to have discovered a movement practice that improves my overall condition. Exercise makes me cognitively and emotionally more acute. I am less sick and able to hang with my kid. See training/fitness for more details.  This healthier-ness means less time at the doctor and more time grinding. The grind. Love it. Live it.

Work Hard. Let’s see… about 40-50 hours a week, in my case. Some work more, some work less. I complain more than I should.  Personal and career development? Don’t wait for someone to serve this up on a platter. Get it. I believe that employees are better off when the employer leads. But, there are no guarantees.  If I can look back at my day and know I gave it 100% then that’s certainly something I can be proud of and thankful for having the opportunity to do. 

Find More Harmony with the Natural World. Sustainability. Regeneration. This is an area where I need a lot of improvement and it’s on my mind quite a bit. I feel like I do a lot of nasty shit in this category. Without the natural world the rest of the value realizations are just not optimally viable.  Many human practices are strangely out of sync.  I drive my gas guzzler day after day. But, I don’t suck on my truck’s tail pipe: It’s all good if I’m not standing in an enclosed garage huffing the exhaust. I don’t have a garage… btw.

Last week I met with a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP). One of the things we discussed is the problem of glyphosate and the general knowledge of it as a health problem in humans. This is not working folks…

Wikipedia: “Farmers quickly adopted phosphate for agricultural weed control, especially after Monsanto introduced glyphosate-resistant Roundup Ready crops, enabling farmers to kill weeds without killing their crops. In 2007, glyphosate was the most used herbicide in the United States’ agricultural sector and the second-most used (after 2,4-D) in home and garden, government and industry, and commercial applications.[3] From the late 1970s to 2016, there was a 100-fold increase in the frequency and volume of application of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) worldwide, with further increases expected in the future. This was partly in response to the global emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds,[4]:1 requiring greater application to maintain effectiveness. The development of glyphosate resistance in weed species is emerging as a costly problem. ”

Garbage. My garbage. I fear we are the frog in boiling water. Is it too late? Honestly, I don’t know. If I continue at my current rate of consumption and concede that all should be privy to such freedoms – it’s not sustainable. I sometimes wonder if that’s the rub behind part of our anxiety about climate change. A emerging global addiction to consumerism and cheap, disposable shit. My addiction. It’s all to easy and shallow. Yet, here I am… doing it. Buying it and throwing it away. As if there was no consequence.

Self-observation and Self-Awareness. Yes, this is “added value”. A metaphorical look in the mirror. Without it, the values exercise is damn near pointless. The stoics say that which makes us uniquely human is our ability to apply rational thought and self-observation to our lives. Because we can, we should. And, not necessarily for outcomes that please us. To not exercise this ability is a failure to the stoics. Get it done. Test your assumptions.

There is more than one way to implement this. For me right now, one technique is, the blog. “Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it. There’s countless reasons why it’s a good idea and I can’t think of one reason it’s a bad idea.” “If you know you have to write a blog post tomorrow, something in writing, something that will be around 6 months from now, about something in the world, you will start looking for something in the world to write about. You will seek to notice something interesting and to say something creative about it. Well, isn’t that all we’re looking for? The best practice of generously sharing what you notice about the world is exactly the antidote for your fear.” – Seth Godin

Journaling is another great modality for self-observation. I’ve gone through many variants. The last couple of years I started implemented some structure. First, write down an inspirational quote. This can take some time. But, no heavy filter here. Next, write down something that you are grateful for. Sometimes this get’s redundant. But, that’s cool. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve also gone through very militant periods of food and exercise documentation. Adjacent to this data might be casual or deeper observations, thought and feelings. I think the point is that this is an extension of your mind transferred to a blank canvas… the journal. I try to write without filtering and get the ideas out more fluidly. I’ve had phases where I felt too self-conscious and worried what someone would think if they read my words. I might sound illiterate, lame and shallow. This is too much filtering in my opinion. It needs to be a freer and safe space. Try and let it be. Be who you are.  

Mediation is another great tool. I don’t have a regular mediation practice at this time. But, I do feel that time spent mediating has improved my self-awareness and allowed me to more easily see the “arising of phenomena” in consciousness. I am a better watcher at the gate. The float tank is another EFFECTIVE tool for self-observation. In the tank there is only you. Typical sessions are 90 minutes. This is not as easy as I expected it to be. Tremendous return on investment.

Contemplation of GOD/Purpose/Gratitude. The former are not mutually exclusive. I personally carve out specific time for this targeted practice:  write about God during journaling. Pray and give thanks during cold showers.  We have a gratitude jar in the house. Everyone writes down something they grateful for and puts it in the jar.  Occasionally, we read these to each other. Kinda cool.

This morning: “A man must become truly poor and as free from his own creaturely will as he was when he was born. And I tell you by the eternal truth, that so long as you desire to fulfill the will of God and have any hankering after eternity and God, for just so long you are not truly poor. He alone has true spiritual poverty who wills nothing, knows nothing, desires nothing. (Eckhart) Put that in your pipe and smoke it! Right?!

Provide to those in Need.  Not everyone get’s to begin the race at the same START. Along the way shit goes down. At this point I’ll drop the iconic Maslow pyramid. In 1943 Abraham Maslow published “A Theory of Human Motivation.”

Maslow did not use the pyramid in the original paper. It gives the sense that these are fixed concepts that are not fluid or interchangeable: the exception might be physiological and safety needs.  I hear occasionally the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” narrative when it comes to validating and helping others through collective social programs. If you do not get the basic needs met – the higher order more complex functions to achieve self-reliance is a HEAVY lift. Many in fact are so  consumed by just meeting their basic needs that there is simply not much time or money left, if at all, to thrive beyond meeting the basic needs. It is our duty to our fellow humans and natural world to assist if possible.

So, what charitable acts am I engaging in? For many years now, I’ve considered my 4.5 hours a week of training at Crossfit as one of the ways I volunteer.  But, I am beginning to reconsider this as a way to provide help to others. Most of the humans who have the money and time to exercise in a gym are adults and shouldn’t need hand holding to get their ass in gear.  My other volunteer efforts with Newport Are Trail Stewards and the Visual Arts Exhibition Committee are contributions with value. However, I’m beginning to rethink these things. Can my  volunteer time produce a bigger return on investment?

More to come… (Updated 11.28.19) XOXO