Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Value Evaluation

"Where you invest your love, you invest your life." Awake My Soul, Mumford & Sons

As I've mentioned in the past, I grew up in a very economically focused environment. Always reviewing prices, clipping coupons. Cost/Benefit analysis was a a common occurrence in my home as a child. If we were discussing a trip, a meal, or a purchase, money was at the forefront of that decision. I attribute this dynamic to many things, among them my grandparents thrifty mentality and the fact that, while not poor, my family was never incredibly well off. Keeping a close watch on the finances was a necessity. But we were never deprived. Just taught that the activities and products we wanted came with a price.

Now that I am an independent adult, I've noticed that there are several ways to look at the world, and I've struggled to determine how I want to order my values. By holding certain values above others, my entire outlook has changed.

Financial Focus

We'll start here, since this is my "Default" perspective.

"How much is it going to cost?"
"The cheese costs an additional Forty nine cents?! Forget it then, I'll have a hamburger."
"Slow down, you waste gas when you drive over 55 miles per hour."

These statements typify the negative aspects to focusing on finances over any other value, at least in my mind. There are people out there who value savings over quality, experience, or social and environmental impact. Always looking at where they can achieve the most savings. Always trying to keep an eye on the bottom line. They balance their check book hourly, clip the coupons, and praise the Groupon machine. A mile long receipt is their coup stick, boasting hundreds of items that they bought with a 38% savings at Value-rama.

Generally these people are also the most likely to have a pantry stocked with good deals and year-long supplies of canned goods, and gallons of frozen milk in the deep freeze. You may call them hoarders, but I will be calling them up for a place to stay in the event of apocalypse. Their thriftiness might be the salvation we all need when the zombies show up.

Environmental/Social Imperative

The world is cut-throat. Dog-eat-dog. In this uber-capitalistic world we live in, some people get trampled underfoot. some ecosystems get ravaged. But there is a school of thought out there that says consumers of goods and services do not need to patronize businesses who disregard the planet and its denizens in order to make their millions.

Arguably, if you are going to live a life entirely focused on using products and supporting businesses that do not damage souls or destroy habitats, you are going to have to work for it. The price tags on these eco-friendly items are generally half again as much as the items made without conscience. But the moral imperative weighs heavy on some psyches, and this footprint-based perspective is a good way to live a life that you know is not going to destroy the lives of others, be they animal, vegetable, or mineral.

Health Conscious

Should you really be eating that hamburger? Are those potatoes going to give you cancer? What is really going into that meal?

Focusing your life on health can be all consuming. There are people spending hours in the gym, slamming all-natural energy drinks, chomping chalky protein powder, and logging their nutritional and aerobic activity daily. It is as if everything hinges on the trans-fat they do or do not ingest on any given day. And to them, it very well might.

In my general experience, health driven people are a little intense. Maybe it's all those extra endorphins running through their system. Maybe it's that they have to keep moving like a hummingbird, lest they collapse in a pool of their own Gatorade flavored primordial ooze. Or maybe it's the satisfaction of a person who knows that they are still going to be running marathons as they celebrate their one hundred thirty seventh birthday.

The health conscious people are likely the ones who will be changing the diapers of the rest of us as we decay into our preservative-filled deathbeds. Whether that is a positive or a negative I'll let you decide.

Time and Experience Oriented

Time is a powerful thing. What is the fastest? How can I get this chore out of the way quickly, so that I can move on to other things? How fast can I drive in order to get on to something that I will enjoy. It's an eternal balance of minimizing the inconveniencing activities and maximizing the experiences you enjoy.

People who are time oriented will prefer to spend a little more money to have someone else care for their lawn and their laundry. They'd prefer to lose a little fuel efficiency in order to shave 20 minutes off their drive. They'll opt for the more convenient grocery store over the health food store.

If you want to live your life to the fullest, isn't it worth it to pay someone to take care of the unpleasant parts? Find one of those financially focused people and pay them to clean your house. Then you can spend your time doing something that you enjoy.

Where is YOUR Focus?

Are you financially focused? Do you see yourself as an environmental/Moral advocate? Do you eat sleep and breathe your health? Maybe you focus your time on having the best experience possible.

More than likely, you are a little bit of all of these. Maybe a couple of these categories resonate with you more than the others. Perhaps there are other ways of looking at the world that I don't even mention here. That's what is so great about a theory like this.

I will say right now that I am a weird amalgamation of all of these. If I had to break it down, my life might look like this:

35% Time/Experience 
25% Finances
25% Environmental/Social
15% Health

For me this is not the ideal place to be. I'd rather have a little bit more health nut in me and a little less financial worry. But I am in training after all.

Where do you focus your life? Where do you want to be focusing your life?

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