Last week I wrote about value-guided decisions—that process of acting on situations based on our long-term values rather than short-term feelings. We talked about how being clear about our values gives us better long-term outcomes in relationships. This is particularly important for those of us who are trying to learn how to stop acts of domestic violence.
Being clear about our values gives us better long-term outcomes in relationships.
I ended the blog with the question, “What do you value?” No one can answer the question for you, of course. However, based on a survey of few thousand men (I’m focusing on the guys right now, although women share many of these same values) and our discussions with many of them, some common themes emerge. See if you relate to these values:
Since this was a survey of men, you thought sex was going to be at the top of the list, didn’t you? Well, in a way, it is. Men, like all humans, have a deep desire to be loved. This means having a partner we connect with—someone to share our life experiences with—both the good and bad parts. We want someone we trust, that we can be vulnerable with, and that will care about us. I’m pretty sure this is what women would say, collectively.
One of the ways men experience this level of connection is through sexual intimacy. An often-used saying is that men need to have sex to feel loved, and there’s a lot of truth to it. So if you said sex, there’s a good chance that what you were really saying is the desire for feeling connected and to feel loved by someone.
Respect is that feeling that other people admire us. They might not say it, but we get a sense of being respected when others listen to our advice, appreciate our contribution, accept our opinion, or maybe just leave us alone to do the things we’re doing in the way we naturally do them.
We’d like to think that what we’ve accomplished so far in life, demonstrated in our work, or shown in our relationships would give others confidence in our abilities to deliver good results again. We want them to believe in our abilities. Men cite wanting respect more frequently than women.
We want others to believe in our abilities.
The old question about what we want to be able to say about our life on our deathbed gets at our purpose. Most of us want to have mattered. We want to be able to look back and say we made a difference, that we left the world a little better, or that we will be remembered fondly for what we contributed.
It could be as simple as raising good kids who become happy and healthy adults, or caring for every person who walks into our office. On the other hand, it could be as profound as inventing a device that makes people’s lives easier. Having purpose means that our lives have meaning. We understand the reason we’re here.
The definition of inspiration is to be mentally stimulated to do or feel something. Men are often inspired by an adventure or a challenge. Physical challenges like climbing a mountain, hiking in the wilderness, rafting the rapids, or setting a personal best at running, lifting, or even a golf score are stimulating. The challenge could be intellectual or social, too, like learning a new skill, navigating the back roads of a foreign country, or exceeding the sales quota.
What we are typically seeking with adventure and challenge is the opportunity to learn, grow, and expand our limits. We’re wired to improve ourselves and we find it thrilling when we do. We admire people who are the best in their field, and we are inspired to become like them so we, too, can be respected for our accomplishments.
We’re wired to improve ourselves and we find it thrilling when we do.
You’d think money would also make the list, but I’m putting it under the category of security instead. After all, why do we want money? To buy the things (we think) we want, and to have some reassurance that we will continue to be able to do so, regardless of what life events might happen to us. Achieving security frees us from worrying about the future. Security is often highly valued by women.
A lot of people would have happiness on their list of what they value, but I’d suggest that what most of us really want is joy. Joy is different than happiness because happiness depends on our circumstances. When things are going well, we’re happy. When things are not going well, we’re not happy. Joy, on the other hand, is a deeper sense of satisfaction with our lives, regardless of what’s currently happening.
Joy is a deep sense of satisfaction with our lives, regardless of what’s currently happening.
Joy is updating our resume with confidence that there will be another good opportunity after our job ends. Joy is being okay as a single person after a bad breakup. Joy is appreciating our loved ones and living as well as possible after we get bad news from the doctor’s office. Joy is peace of mind, even when it doesn’t make sense to feel at peace.
So I’ll ask the question again: what do you value? I’ll also ask a couple other questions. What do you do to move toward what you value? Are those actions likely to get you what you want? I finally realized that trying to force my partner to love me, respect me, etc. really backfired. It got me less of what I want. That realization caused me to reconsider how I was reacting to unpleasant life situations. We need a well thought-through response that is consistent with our values to get closer to living the life we want.