The five values that are most important to me are honesty, kindness, gratitude, respect, and courage. I chose these values because I believe that they are critical for success in all aspects of life – from personal happiness, to success in relationships, to success in your career. Honesty is the absolute foundation for everything. You must first be honest with yourself before you can let others get to know you. Honestly enables us to perceive the world around us with clarity and objectivity and this ultimately allows us to make things better – ourselves, our relationships, and our lives. Kindness is about treating others the way you wish to be treated yourself. It’s about doing what’s right, not necessarily popular. It’s about going to sleep at night with the knowledge that your intentions were pure. It’s about making sure others know that they are seen and not insignificant in this world. Gratitude is about appreciating what you have and rejoicing in the story you are living, rather than the one you thought you might have been in. It is about showing appreciation to others as well, not only for their words but for their actions as well. Gratitude encourages the good both in ourselves and in others by positive reinforcement. Respect is about acknowledging differences among different people, whether in regards to class, race, education, or something else, and still appreciating what those diverse sets of people have to offer. It’s about being able to listen and learn from others, and adopting an attitude of us against the problem rather than a you against me situation. And courage is the ability to do what’s right in the face of adversity and fear. It’s about standing up for what you believe in even in difficult situations, and stepping outside your comfort zone to do just that. I chose these five values because I think that they make up the basis of a moral and ethical society in which everyone can have a chance to thrive.
I think that most people in the culture here in the United States think that they align with these values. But one needs only to look at our political system to recognize that this is not the case. I think our society lends itself to a much more divisive culture, one of mine vs yours, and perceived right vs wrong. I found that when I lived abroad, both in rural Bolivia and then again in Costa Rica, people were more likely to practice these values. There was less of a focus on color of skin and earning power. Even during my three-week backpacking adventure through Iceland, I found that the general communities there aligned more with the core values that I resonate with more than they do here in the United States. I really try to express these values similarly wherever I am. And I try to surround myself with people who share my core values and hold on to the thoughts that if we band together, we can make a difference. We can change the world, one community or neighborhood at a time.