Worth and Value

May 1st, 2016

Paul Jarvis today coached us to notice things, so that we’d have stories to tell and something to write about.  He also offered the perspective of potential clients - what do people wish they knew? what are they asking of you?  “Look for patterns in what people are talking about, questioning, wanting, needing, yearning for.”

I thought, people want to know that they are right.  They want to know that what they believe in is solid.  They want to know that all of the work they put in to their jobs means something.  They want to know that the effort of their life has all been worth it.

So can I tell you that this is so?  No, I cannot.  All of your beliefs are just that – they are yours and yours alone.  How do I know?  Because that is what beliefs are.  They only work for the one who holds them.  They don’t work for anyone else.  My beliefs only work for me because I have come to them through my experience, and no matter how many words I use to try to share that experience with you, you will never know what it was like to have “been there.”

I suppose by writing this I am going against that belief – the belief that I can never really share with you anything meaningful – so there is another belief running underneath the first one.  Sometimes our beliefs are not so clear.

The question that strikes me the deepest is whether or not it’s all been worth it, because I can’t say that it has.  Perhaps, at the end of all things, I might be able to look back and see that it was.  But right now, even as I sit in my very comfortable living room with my beautiful dogs around me, sipping delicious hot coffee, I can’t say that it has.

There is one exception to this and that’s when I think of my daughters. They are smart, funny, creative women who look to their futures with a certain anticipation that does not feel like hitting some target but rather like a generous amount of time in which to make things that please them.  They both see themselves sharing these creations with the world in a way that speaks of a success born of satisfaction and purpose.  They also are both very interested in making sure they have fun along the way.

What does it mean, saying something is “worth it”?  This idea of worth comes up often for me – am I worth it?  Do I have worth?  The word “value” comes up alongside of it.  Is that what it all comes down to, a sense of value?  Can it really all just be about money?

No, I don’t think that’s it.  Even though our culture (in the USA) is very much in love with that kind of value, I don’t think that’s what makes us happy.  It might make us feel secure, momentarily, but money can slip away, it can be lost, and it always seems there’s just not quite enough of it.

The value I seek for myself and ultimately for us all has to do with feeling needed and wanted and loved.  Recent talk about our human need to feel loved and accepted backs this up but I don’t think we needed any scientific studies to know this, which is really what those studies were pointing towards anyways.

Maybe by sharing this I can give you something.  Maybe, like Paul’s email, it will be something to think about.  Look at how many words I came up with just by thinking about the questions he asked.  This points to another human need – the need to express ourselves.  Even those of us who like to be alone most of the time still have a need to “say” something once in a while.  The internet has been perfect for us as we can put out thousands of words a day if we are so inspired.  And if you’re like me, you won’t even know if anyone is reading them, but it doesn’t matter, at least not to me.  I have spoken and that is good enough.

Maybe it does matter, though.  Maybe my sense of self-worth depends on my feeling like I have contributed something to the world.  So many teachers ask us to ask ourselves, “what can I give to the world?  What can I do for my fellow travelers?”

While the word “service” can carry some baggage, sometimes I think I can see what they are trying to point at.  And it’s not about being a servant.  It has to do with singing my part in the chorus.

I think I will take a cue from my daughters, and start to equate something being “worth it” to something being fun.  Ultimately I will leave this world and all of my beliefs and experiences will go with me, so there really is no material value to my life.  I only have my perspective and the meaning I assign to what I see.  Hopefully this will help me to see how it has indeed all been worth it.

As Paul says in his email, noticing things doesn’t mean judging them.  It’s about paying attention and giving my focus to something.  And what I’ve noticed is that when I focus on something – really focus – the idea of worth and/or value doesn’t even come up.  A true experience of the moment is timeless and complete in and of itself.

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