If you type “value definition” into a search engine, the majority of results you will likely get are related to money. That is telling, and we’ll come back to it, but our first question is: what is value if there is no money? Does a child with no money value nothing, or have no value? How does a culture that exchanges energy without a token (dollar, cedi, rand, yen, etc.) set up its value system? What is the monetary value of being in a grandparent’s lap? We need to take time to examine what value is, and why it determines our motivation.
If you look further than the monetary definitions, you will find that value is a noun, verb, and adjective. Its definitions are associated with math, music, light, linguistics, and principles, among other things. My definition of value is the power to activate your own abilities by focusing love on something.
Ultimately, your values are what you think of yourself and the world that you’re in; actions (public and private) are the proof of your values. Low values mean we don’t think we have the capacity to accomplish great things (inferiority) or that there are no great things to be accomplished (apathy). High values mean we expect great things from ourselves (confidence) and see opportunities in the world to show it (vision).
In math, value means it is what it is! The value of 3 is 3. The value of 3+6 is 9. The value of 9×9 is 81. Value is the definition of a math object (number, equation, constant, variable, etc.), and the result of any math operation. The point is that these mathematical values are self-evident and always exist, so they can’t be falsified. If I give you three dollars and tell you it’s seven dollars, the math will prove me a liar or uneducated, instantly. So, it’s crucial to know there are universal values that help us navigate this existence.
Spiritual systems have numerical associations with ritual, celebration, sacred moments and places, galactic calculation, etc. There are numerology systems, zodiac systems, I Ching, obi, enneagrams, archetypes, tarot…and they all come down to assessing the value of numbers and aligning behavior to the numerical order of the universe. So, the principles of these various systems are all formulas/equations to arrive at a value of divinity. In other words, “What equation/ritual equals god?”
Value as a verb means to hold something as important; or to assess the importance of something. The way you get a society where dishonesty, theft, lechery, violence, etc. is the norm, is get the society to believe divinity is beyond reach, and thus an irrelevant pursuit. It encourages you to value earthly accomplishments over spiritual goals. To bring that into clear focus: which is most likely to be brought up in a conversation about dating potential, great assets or great record of community involvement? Which would get us closer to our life goals, vacationing multiple times a year or going into a week of meditative silence multiple times a year? Both have their benefits, but what outcome do we value more, if either?
What we have here are two truths that are at our disposal: 1) there are fixed values; 2) we can assign values. Our nose can smell a rose because it has a fixed chemical value. But once inside of our olfactory, we can assign a value of how we personally experience it. To one person, A/C on 59 degrees may be perfect, but to a “normal” person, that’s a home-sized freezer (bias showing?) Either way, the fixed value is 59. By using this simple understanding, it’s obvious why so much money is spent on advertising because it is suggesting what people should value. The simple truth is, whatever you value, you will spend energy on it. Your lover, family member, your pet, your job, hobby, vice…whatever gives a result that you consider important, you will figure out an equation. I’ll bet you know someone who you consider unmotivated, but I’ll also bet that person has something they do every day. Search those activities to discover their values. This is a crucial assessment tool, especially for parents or those involved in the lives of young people. It can help inform your guidance and allow you to create a space for children to learn cultural values. Use healthy lifestyle choices to celebrate moments (pop bottles of alkaline water). Invite family or friends over for bonding activities (dinner, game night). Make time for a spiritual practice daily. Submersion is how you activate values.
We live in a society where typing “value” in the web of the wide world speaks mostly of money. Money is just a storage battery that is charged by the work that people do. Why is money now the default container for all value? One reason is because all of our community needs have been capitalized, which means we’re paying for everyday humanity (survival). But, also, because it allows you to do business with people who don’t share the same VALUES. That isn’t necessarily to our benefit. Consider how realigned power would be if everybody only exchanged money, resources, goods, and services with people who are aligned culturally (i.e., self-sufficiency).
For a real-time example of how it might look to run a modern nation with high values, study Ghana under the leadership of Jerry Rawlings, or Burkina Faso under Thomas Sankara.
Imagination and spirit give us the ability to do wonders. By setting values, we are deciding how to shape the malleable universe.
Everything is based on values, no matter what system or level you consider. We can use that intentionally to determine if the formulas we’re using in any area actually equal the results we want. If anything doesn’t add up to the right value, we can recognize it and move on. When something adds up to our intended future, then we keep stacking!
Photo by Aude Andre Saturnio