The Value of My Motivational Values

I am in college, still a teenager, really, for at least a little longer, even if I like to pretend otherwise. And while I believe this is true for your entire life, particularly in this stage, people are trying to find themselves, to determine who they are, to determine their higher purpose. And so when I saw “personal growth” (part of the definition including greater self-awareness and, I was thinking, self-actualization), a gut reaction put it on top. Other values in my top five included “belonging,” “family,” “equality,” and “helping.” These, however, are mostly personal values: they do not necessarily point to how I will work in school or at work––except that, perhaps, I’ll try to help others with their work, maybe share with them what I can.

But just a little farther down in my small stack of values were things like “risk” and “leadership,” and these, I think, affect me more when trying to solve a problem in how I go about solving it and what I eventually come up with. I like to, for example, take risks when problem solving. I’ve noticed this especially in my writing, but slowly its crept into the other components of my life as well: I like to take a risk with a project or a comment in class, say or do something that is different than what has already been said and done around me. If I am working with others to solve a problem, I am not going to be content to go along with the first idea or suggestion that’s been given if it seems too simple or conforms too precisely to our conventional shapes and pictures, if it is a problem without a single or known solution. And although sometimes content to let others lead, people should know when working with me that if I think our group or pair is not working as it should, I will take charge and try to get us where we need to go.

What was interesting, after assigning values their ranks, was thinking about why some were farther down the list than others. It was something I talked about with a few friends a couple days after the Honors community meeting. Because I had been thinking: some values were low on my list, not because they weren’t important or necessary, but because they were simply constants in my privileged life, not something that I had ever considered being without. For example, values such as “justice” and “freedom” were closer to the end. And if we had done this exercise earlier––before we started talking about things like Ferguson and before I began to better understand the inequalities in the American education system––the value of “equality” would likely have been farther down as well. I just don’t think about these values: because I don’t need to, because they are not something I need to personally––in my own life experiences––value more or less highly because either way I will have them. It was a slightly surprising and saddening realization for me. But that is why I wanted to at least put “equality” higher up, as perhaps it could take a backseat to others in my life and I would not notice the difference, but it should not take a backseat. And yet, none of my other top values can be ignored either. Not one of the five are values I would be willing to give up or momentarily look past when working towards some goal.

Comment (1)

  1. AvatarKylie Musolf

    Hi Brittany!

    I am really impressed by the way that you’ve allowed real lived experience to influence your values in a tangible way. I’ve often considered this very same question– how does my privilege bias my values? This is an issue that’s definitely worth sustained consideration.

    Within this consideration you raise yet another complex question– how ought certain values rank on my list? When I posed the question I asked an empirical question–how do your values rank? The difference between “is” and “ought” is an important one. Does your consideration of the “ought” in this instance (equality) change the way you are prioritizing your values? What would it look like for someone in your position to put equality higher up on their list?

    You distinguished between your academic values and personal values and I wonder whether you might make another distinction yet between personal and social values? Is that a compelling way to revalue equality in a meaningful way in your life? Just curious…

    Thanks for posting!



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