Demonstrating Your Values When Times Get Tough

We’re talking about decision-making. Get caught up, it’s too much to summarize.

Yesterday we talked about the fact that there are different levels of priority when it comes to our values. In the decision-making process, it’s a luxury when we can choose between preferences as opposed to choosing between needs. The example we worked through in the first few days dealt with a choice between taking a fictional job in California verses staying in my current job. That’s a decision that I am, theoretically, in control of. There are no external pressures forcing me to either leave or stay. If I leave, I do so freely. If I stay, I do so freely. This is because I have a job and a means of providing for my family either way. I can choose to value warmth and traffic, or I can choose to value stability and proximity to family. Either way, I’m (roughly) in control.

If I lose my job, the confines increase. I’m no longer making a low-stakes choice between two roughly equal, but opposite, outcomes. I need to find a job in a hurry in order to provide for my family. How do I demonstrate my values in such a case as this? What do we do when we have no desirable options? Using yesterday’s example, we can either stay put and be jobless or move to Arkansas, where the only relevant job offer comes from. I do not want to stay put because I value providing for my family and don’t want to lose my house and live on the street. I do not want to move because I value proximity to our extended family.

There’s a few things we can say here. One option is to get creative. Can you sell your home and temporarily move in with parents while you do an extended job search? Possibly. I could even get a less desirable job temporarily while I search. One option is to take the job and move and instantly start looking for jobs closer to the extended family. It’s okay to choose a temporary outcome in order to create the possibility for a long-term choice that matches our values.

The other option is to settle into different values than what we have previously said we prioritized. Let’s say we’re uncomfortable taking a job temporarily because we view that as being unfair to the new employer. Well, we’re choosing to value a certain kind of loyalty. We could also say that moving would be an act of valuing self-sufficiency. That’s not a huge value for me, but I could see why it might be for some. It would also be an act of valuing the immediacy of being able to provide for the family, which takes a great deal of anxiety off the table. In this case, we’d be valuing safety and security.

Each of these outcomes is perfectly acceptable, and values different things. It doesn’t necessarily matter which one we choose but, according to the way we’ve been looking at things, it matters that we know what we’re choosing so that we can live consistent lives.