“Francisco, what is the most depraved type of human being?”
“The man without a purpose.” Ayn Rand in her book Atlas Shrugged.
I recall writing a blog once about the difference between conservative and liberal thinking. Conservative thinking I stated was a mindset that most things in life are block and white. This could be very small minute choices. It could also include life changing ideas and directions. For example, there is an absolute best type of toothpaste which will clean teeth the most productively. Similarly there is one presidential candidate who is absolutely better than the other. The conservative mindset is that all questions have one definite answer, we can know that answer, and we usually already know it.
Conversely the liberal mindset is one of looking at the big picture. It takes into account changes in society, culture, and context. There may be an absolute right answer for every question. But we can’t always know that. And that answer could drastically change from one context to another or one time period in history to another.
However, I want to take another approach today. I’ve noticed that most people go through life as if mastered by some external force (society, religion, peers, etc.). They really do not seem to have a purpose to live for. And they certainly do not know their values. Those who may come from a conservative point of view are simply the products of generations of belief systems systematically passed down to them. Those who think more liberally are often just looking for an excuse to excuse their desired lifestyle or perhaps just don’t want to take the time to figure things out for themselves.
Does this sound familiar to anyone? How many people do you know who are really sure what they are living for? How many friends do you have who have a real purpose? And when I say a purpose I don’t mean “I’d like to graduate from business school and work at a bank.” That’s a job! Or “I want to be a mom!” Biology allows for some pretty inadequate girls to do this! A purpose would perhaps be stated like this “My desire in life is that when I die people will remember me as the guy who dedicated everything he had to helping small businesses by providing the best banking options and customer centered service within his power.” Or “My goal is to raise up kids who are so passionate about life and what they believe in that they are capable of taking on the world”.
But before you can have a purpose you need values. This makes sense right? Because what gives you purpose? What’s going to motivate you to end world hunger if you don’t value human life? What’s going to make you love your wife no matter what if you don’t value relationships?
Values are what root us and give us direction so that we can have a purpose. They can be fluid and adaptable sure. In fact, humility dictates that they must be as we are sure to need calibration in all aspects of life. Values are what keep us from walking through life living according to someone else’s dictates and for someone else gain.
Ever met someone who just seemed to let everyone walk all over him? Lack of values. Or someone who got married right after college just because that’s the next step? Values again. Or what about the person who is working the past ten years in a job they hate? Once again values dictate these decisions. And if you don’t pick some values and hold to them someone else’s reality will be greater than yours and you will be dominated.