This is a personal reflection based on a post entitled: Everybody Worships Something (Conscious Freedom: Part One) by Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus who write the awesome blog The Minimalists (it is a guest post on another awesome blog Becoming Minimalist). I would highly recommend that you read that post before you read my reflection, otherwise it all might be a bit confusing.

“Everybody Worships Something” posits that while people say they value and prioritize things like friends, family, their relationships, or their health, they actually live a life with emotional attachments to material possessions that are so strong that these same people “worship stuff.” When we look at how our lives are structured, how we spend our money, and (most importantly) how we spend our time, we see that our emotional attachments and priorities, which are often unconscious, dictate how we actually live our lives. These emotional attachments drive our actions rather than the intellectual values that we say that we care about.

I’m not doing the essay justice, so please go read it (here). Suffice it say that it got me thinking about what I say that I value, versus the values that I express through actually living my life. I express my values daily by how I choose to spend my time, how I choose to spend my money, the things that I allow to take up space in my brain, etc.

So here is a little chart of things that I say that I value, versus the values that are expressed by the way that I choose to live my everyday life:

What I Say I Value Values Expressed By My Life Choices
Freedom The illusion of security that comes with a conventional career
Making mindful consumption decisions Making mindful consumption decisions about what I eat (being vegan), but not about other goods that I purchase (particularly clothes)
Thinking for myself Worrying about what people think of me
Investing time and energy into my relationships with friends and family Spending my limited vacation time with friends and family (seeing them at least once a year)
Living a life that challenges me and forces me to grow as a person Living a comfortable life that society approves of and that some people admire; trying not to fail
Not feeling like I always need to explain myself Constantly apologizing
Doing what I know I need to do for myself Doing what I’m expected (or told) to do
My health My health – as long as it doesn’t interfere too much with my job
Making a lasting contribution to the world Climbing the corporate ladder

I’m sure that I could make a much longer list. I’m also sure that I’m not alone in experiencing many of these inconsistencies. The values that I live tend to align quite closely with the default expectations that society has of a woman like me – who has a business degree and has been accumulating pin-striped suits since she was 19. I’m sure that many people reading this also feel that there is some discord between the things they say they value, and the values they express through living their lives.

I firmly believe that anything that can be brought to consciousness can be changed. Externalizing these contradictions by writing them down will be a first step to changing them. The next step is making these contradictions things that I must change, rather than things that I should change (maybe, someday, if I get around to it).

If you’re reading this reflection and you see something that resonates with you, shoot me a message on twitter @justdarby. I’d love to hear from other people who have gone through the exercise of trying to align their daily existence with their values. I’ll be posting updates on my progress, and hopefully some of you will find them useful for your own lives.