2024 February 27 Focus on supporting your value system

Feb 27, 2024

Hi, this is Jim Cranston from 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com, the podcast and website about reimagining your life. Thanks for joining me today to talk about the focus of our lives. If you like what you hear today, please leave a like, tell your friends, and send me a message.


Tonight we're going to talk about what is, or perhaps should be, the focus of our lives. What's the underlying meaning of what we're doing? Obviously, this is a very personal matter, and it's formed in very unique ways for each and every one of us. Some people may have had a youthful experience that so upset them that their focus is to ensure that never happens to another young person in any way they can possibly guarantee that if they can. 


However, a similar person may have had a youthful experience that was so positive that their focus is to ensure that as many youths as possible will have that same sort of opportunity to experience that wonderful thing. Obviously, even when formed at a young age, this is highly dependent upon individual experiences, circumstances, how you view life, and a thousand other things.


There are many external factors. Your home environment, your community environment, and very importantly, how your home and community environment were perceived and responded  to by the influential people around you. I know people who grew up quite poor by common measures, quite poor, and they felt they had some of the richest environments to grow up in imaginable. Then there were others who grew up reasonably wealthy, and they felt they had little opportunity. Simple metrics are not necessarily accurate, or even useful, when you're trying to measure the environment and the influences that it had upon you as you grew up. 


But there's another issue which runs very deep. It's often overlooked because it's so pervasive. We usually don't even notice that it's there until we move either to a different region or somebody new comes into our area from another place. That's the culture we grew up in, with many cultural layers. It could be which side of town you came from, what city you grew up in, what state, whether you live by the sea, in the mountains, or in the plains, etc. There are a thousand things that affect your culture.  


But what I'm really talking about here is the overarching culture of the place in the world, the region in which you were born and grew up in. To start with, if you're from the USA, you're coming from an extremely different region than almost the entire rest of the world.


Only China is larger in population as well as in land area than the US. Canada and Russia are physically larger, but both have considerably smaller populations. India, along with China, has a larger population than the US, but only China is larger in land area and population. So what do these statistics mean?


To begin with, being in a country where I can drive for 7 normal driving days and just barely get to the other border, is a very different experience than most of the rest of the world. The same is true for doing that same drive and having most of the governing laws be similar and all the laws based upon the same foundational document, which is our US Constitution and Bill of Rights. But there's something else that's the same, too, which is the underlying cultural assumptions insofar as what is important or should be important in our lives. This evolves over time, naturally, and as the culture evolves. However, even though it changes, since we live in such a large monolithic region, it means that our assumptions may not often be tested. Unless we travel to a foreign culture or get to talk with someone from a foreign culture, we just think the whole world thinks the way we do, because we can spend our whole lives there and never leave the part of the country that we're from, maybe not even leave our state. Many of our states are still bigger than a lot of other countries in the world. 


What got me thinking about this was a single sentence from an article I just read entitled Dissident Wisdom from Alexei Navalny and Natan Sharansky, from The Wall Street Journal on Saturday, February 24th, 2024. The key point to me is this section where Mr. Sharansky quotes a European journalist who couldn't understand why Mr. Navalny would return to Russia for almost certain arrest. The journalist asks if Navalny just didn't understand such simple things.  The question was said to have angered Mr. Sharansky "because it betrayed a belief many in the West evidently took for granted, that life is about oneself." 


That one phrase pulled back the curtain on so many thoughts and frustrating conversations I've had over the years, the basis of which is, But you deserve to do something for yourself, too. To which my answer is always, Why do I deserve anything?  This statement always perplexed me, because it would even occur in a Christian context. Jesus Christ, more than most, was certainly one beyond all to encourage self sacrifice for the greater good.  


The Wall Street article continues, Mr. Sharansky described his retort as pretty rude. He said, You are the one who does not understand something. If you think the goal is survival, then you are right.


But Navalny's true concern is the fate of his people, and he is telling them, I am not afraid, and you should not be either. Two sentences clarify a lifetime of perplexing conversations in trying to resolve Christianity in Western culture.  Our modern culture has evolved into a consumption society.


That's certainly not news. We've talked about it before. But there's some kind of significant hidden baggage in there, too. One of which is that if your GDP, gross domestic product, is highly based upon consumption, then you have to encourage people to consume. That's pretty obvious, but not so obvious is that you also need to convince them that it's their right, their need, to consume.


Do you need a new phone every year? If you're Apple or Samsung or Verizon or AT&T, you need people to get a new phone.  This is where the monolithic culture comes into play.  As social creatures, we tend to be influenced by our peers. But when our peers are hundreds of millions of people who share a common culture, suddenly it's very difficult to think outside the box, because the box is very big. 


Relatedly, if you do think differently, you'll get nearly zero support from anyone because, everyone's immersed in that same monoculture.  One of my biggest early influences growing up was my dad. I've talked about that before.  He was a physician, and I would sometimes join him when he gave free care to migrant workers on his day off.


I grew up in an agricultural region. I would go with him when he gave out free care to people.


Talk about an awesome role model. This isn't about tooting my own horn, but rather explaining the lens through which I saw and see the world. Now try to match that up with consumerism, and you can see where the total disconnect happens. Seriously, I've never really understood why I always felt so different, and always felt that I had to defend my world view, until I read the article about Russian dissidents.


To a large degree, the value system I was raised with does not match the value system that surrounds me. I'm either having to explain my actions or, more often, simply choose to not mention them.  That latter approach really isn't good because if there are others who share my values, and there certainly are, probably, hopefully, many of you are listening. You need to know that you're not alone, that there are others walking that same path with you, that we share a common goal.


Which brings us all the way back to the topic, the focus of our lives, which is based upon our value system. Remember: Where the focus goes, the energy flows. Thank you, Tony Robbins, for that one. But it's so true. If you're focusing on something, even if you don't mean to do it, that's what you'll tend to do.


We all have different areas of focus and, and live to slightly different value systems, which is fine. I would encourage you to embrace your value system if you truly believe in it, even if it's different than whatever is popular. These days, it's all the rage to be part of some group, whether it's political, ethnic, religious, or not religious, etc.


There are more ways to dice the population than one can imagine. If you don't totally agree with whomever you're hanging out with, don't immediately assume it's you who are wrong, or that either side is wrong. It's okay to be you - wonderful, unique, quirky you. If others are so locked into their belief system that they can't tolerate any variation from it, then that's a whole different discussion you should have with yourself.


You should be proud of, and completely own, the value system that you have, and focus on living your life consistent with that value system.  Remember, your vision will be consistent with your values. You really don't have a choice in that. If you try to force yourself to have a vision, and hence goals, that are not consistent with your values, you'll never really be content.


Why work to get two homes and a fancy car if your real dream is to teach underserved populations here or abroad? No matter how much apparent success you have, you will never really be truly satisfied. So, be aware of your values and the focus of your life, and be equally aware of the aspects of society that may challenge them simply because they're different.


It's easy to forget that even with our pervasive media influence and apparent monolithic culture, even a region as large as the US is still just one part of the puzzle. There is a place for each of us. We all have our own little odd pieces in the puzzle where we can fit in and thrive.


Be proud of yourself and your own worldview. Focus on that which is consistent with your own values. While you certainly want to check in on where you stand occasionally, marching to a different drummer doesn't necessarily mean it's you who's out of step. Your homework (always optional) is to think about an area of your values or your value system where you're hesitant to mention them to others because they're different than the norm.


Now think if you really want to think of the norm as better or just more popular and why.  As we've often talked about, perhaps it's driven by marketing and other causes. Extra points if you can also find someone who shares your own unique worldview and talk it through with them to encourage each other to take a nicer path through life. 


That's it for the evening. Of course, don't forget about our central donation site for Ukraine at UKR7.com and the World Central Kitchen at WCK.org. There are a lot of things you can do to help people here or abroad. It doesn't matter where. Even just being pleasant to somebody can take you out of yourself, bring them into their world, and maybe make their day a little bit better as well.


So that's it. As always, thank you for stopping by. If you found something interesting or useful, please pass it along, and please hit that like button. If not, Please drop me a comment as to what you'd like to hear. Have a great week. Remember to live the life that you dream of, because that's the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone. See you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. Thank you. 


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