As we head into the New Year I must write about my favorite subject — values! Over the years, I have discussed, explored, shared, taught ways to get Jewish value thinking going for children and adults. I read this from one of my favorite sites — Tim Elmore, Growing Leaders.
Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal writes in her book, The Upside of Stress: It turns out that writing about your values is one of the most effective psychological interventions ever studied. In the short term, writing about personal values makes people feel more powerful, in control, proud, and strong. It also makes them feel more loving, connected, and empathetic toward others. It increases pain tolerance, enhances self-control, and reduces unhelpful rumination after a stressful experience.
Wow. Those are some tangible benefits to writing out our values.
Simple steps to get started — try this exercise
- Identify the values in your life: Take a few hours and write out the words that describe your most important ideals and principles — the values that define the person you want to become. They can be nouns or adjectives. Then, add a statement that defines exactly what you mean by each word. Limit your list to six values. Let me offer some guidelines as you write:
- Values can be defined with simple words describing what you deeply believe.
- Values are words that explain what you live by or what you want to live by.
- Values describe who you are and are guidelines for your big decisions.
- Values are stronger than thoughts or opinions. They stir the heart.
- Values are ideals of you at your best.
- Values are the inner-based principles that will fuel the direction of your life.
Include Those Values in Your Decisions: Next, post your values where you can see them every day. Memorize them. Whenever you have a significant decision to make—one that’s not black and white but perhaps a bit gray — consult those values. Do they guide you? Can you let them act as a consultant in the choices you make?
Values are universal, yet Jewish values have a belief system and history behind them that make them continue to live throughout the ages. The Torah is filled with stories because through stories we learn (and remember) the most important lessons. When teaching adults and sharing a story from Torah, I hear so many embarrassed because they don’t remember (or possibly ever knew) the story. We learn the story of Abraham welcoming the three guests into his tent and telling him that he will have a child. The details in this story show us the value of “Hachnasat Orchim — Welcoming Guests.” Abraham went out of his way to be a gracious host, giving more than promised or expected. Today, we hear our mothers’ voices telling us to always offer our guests food and make sure there is plenty. Does it matter that this value came from Abraham? Yes, because it is in our blood!
My challenge for the New Year: Define your values, live your values and take some time to study and learn where those values came from!
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.