Politics, values, and what’s important

While everyone in the UK has been talking about Scotland since last week’s ‘No’ to independence, Sweden is still shaking from an election outcome that had the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) voted as the country’s third largest party. With individual candidates spouting racist remarks and being caught wearing swastikas, the party itself is at minimum nationalist and xenophobic, its campaign ad featuring women in burqas beating a poor old woman to the welfare desk where she now can’t get her pension.

I didn’t actually think it was going to happen… Mostly because the SD, and parties like it, are so foreign to me that I couldn’t imagine that anyone would vote for them, my own feelings being completely reflected in those expressed by my Swedish friends on Facebook. Social groups tend to share core values, and I’m relieved to see that this was the case here (and, in fact, 87% of the population also share them, having not voted for the SD).

A political election is one occasion when you’re ‘forced’ to evaluate what Your Values are. A dating profile is apparently another – as I write this, a TV ad for match.com is promising to find partners who share my values, which, I assume, would require me to first define what those values are. Many business and self-improvement books will tell you to define your five core values; in her book Thrive, Arianna Huffington talks about her four pillars of well-being, wonder, wisdom and giving; and Benjamin Franklin had 13 ‘virtues’ that guided his life choices: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, humility (though none of these sound particularly fun!).

There are some fundamental values that I would take for granted, but that’s of course a product of my particular social and cultural upbringing. And, with my basic needs fulfilled, I’m free to focus on the top of Maslow’s pyramid with such lofty values as creativity, flexibility, humour. I think it’s a useful exercise, to consider what really matters to me when it comes to myself and to others, and it’s worth returning to it from time to time to bring yourself back to those core principles whenever you’re getting bogged down in stress or triviality. I always thought the company values at my first job after university were a bit of ‘bla bla’, words on paper that were completely obvious and therefore unnecessary – until I heard from colleagues who moved on and discovered that those values (integrity, leadership, ownership, passion for winning, and trust) were not as all-pervasive in business as we had thought.

If this were an intellectual essay then I’d need to define what I really mean by values, and I probably couldn’t have gone from electoral results to online dating in a couple of paragraphs; but, hey, it’s a blog post, so I’ll throw caution to the wind and just brainstorm a list of things that I value. Let’s try 13 – if it’s good enough for Ben Franklin…


I’m claustrophobic and feel uncomfortable when I’m forced into corners both physically and metaphorically. I like to have options, to explore, to travel, to take things as they come rather than being locked into plans made well in advance.


I value openness both in the sense of sincerity and that of being open to new ideas and other perspectives. I love meeting people with different backgrounds, different priorities, different values.


I love to learn languages, music, sports, to read, to absorb, to find out something that I didn’t know before. I’m interested in everything (and therefore not very good at anything). I know one thing: that I know nothing, and all of life is a voyage of discovery.


Using my imagination, creating something new, problem solving and thinking innovatively… Work is kept interesting with new challenges, different demands, and finding creative solutions.


I like logic, I like to understand the ‘why?’, I like to weigh the pros and cons (if you’re familiar with Myers’ Briggs, I’m a ‘T’). I’m frustrated by irrational or unfair behaviour and can become unreasonable myself in response.


I respond badly when faced with dogmatism or an inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Sometimes I’m probably too flexible, as I’m constantly open to evaluating new information, other people’s opinions, always searching for the best option… but I prefer that to complete intransigence.


I don’t respect people who blame others or who fail to take ownership of either their work projects or their personal choices. Pushing back on anything and everything because you don’t think it’s in your job description is short sighted and unproductive. In more general terms, you are responsible for your actions, and moaning about it or blaming others is immature and ineffective.


Negativity and constant complaining is annoying and counter-productive. I am a firm believer in the law of attraction and I find that things usually work out in some way or another. You can’t just sit on your bum and expect manna to fall from heaven, but a little bit of positivity will do more than you think.


As a Libra (of course!) I value peace and harmony, I always see both sides of an argument, and if I argue strongly on one side then it’s usually because I’ve been provoked by someone with a strong opinion on the other side.


I care about how I look and how I feel. I want to have energy to do the things I want to do, to sleep well, to live a healthy life. You need only get a small cold to realise the value of health and wellness and the importance of looking after your body and your soul.


Family first! However important those PowerPoint slides may be, your partner, your parents, your siblings, your children – these are real people in your life who matter, and their welfare and your relationship with each other should always come before presentations and deadlines. Easier said than done, but it really should be that simple.


Consideration and concern for others, at least trying to understand what their individual situation is and how they feel, is important when it comes to both personal relationships and leadership at work. Coldness and selfishness are unattractive traits.


I can’t be doing with people who take themselves, or life, too seriously. Laughter is the best medicine, and a bit of light relief, even sarcasm, helps us get through difficult times.


So what are your values? Temperance and frugality like Benjamin Franklin, creativity and humour like me, or something else entirely? Let me know how you get on with defining what’s important to you!


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