"Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner."
It's the summer of 2004, and I'm trying to find a parking spot. It's hot, and there are people everywhere. This is the first time I've ever visited the Minnesota State Fair, sometimes dubbed the Great Minnesota Get-Together. If you are unfamiliar, the Minnesota State Fair is when over a quarter-million people per day walk around outside in the summer humidity to eat food on a stick.
I've never been here before, and I'd like to think it's because nothing about this appeals to me. First of all, it's hot. Second of all, it's shoulder-to-shoulder busy. Third, everything is expensive; I just paid $5 for one corn dog, and that's after spending $10 for the privilege of attending. I simply don't see the point.
I'm curious about how there can be a situation where I literally don't understand what the point is, yet over two million people every summer look forward to it. So I start to ask people what I'm missing.
The answers are all over the place, but there are generally two main reasons. The second most common reason is to try the new foods. The second most common reason is people watching.
To those unfamiliar with people-watching, people-watching is an event where you simply watch people and make fun of them. Generally, those who partake in people-watching will make fun of what people wear, what they eat, how slowly they walk, how quickly they walk, how clueless they seem to be, and what they spend their money on.
In essence, people-watching takes advantage of our misguided belief that everybody shares the same values. Indeed, other people's behavior only looks foolish if we view their behavior through the lens of our own values.
While walking around the fair with my corn dog, which I should add does not come with a plate, I accidentally drop it on the ground. Not only is this frustrating, but as I bent down to pick it up, I noticed people pointing and staring at me. I now realize that those who partake in people watching are also the people being watched by others. You are there to judge others while at the same time getting judged yourself.
Understanding that everybody has different values helps you assume positive intent with others, helping you remain calm and peaceful. It also gives you the confidence to live the life that you want to live.
If you are like most people, you've never taken the time to design your life. Most of us spend our lives reacting to whatever is thrown our way. It's difficult to think about what we actually want out of life when we're spending our time putting out fires and dealing with life as it happens.
Without defining our own values, it's easy for us to take on the values of others. This could be our family, culture, heritage, or even those pesky proverbial Joneses that live across the street. More recently, social media has made it easy for us to pick up on the values of anybody in the world.
It's easy to look at other people who look happy and try to replicate what they are doing. The problem is most people don't share our values. You may know somebody who has had a midlife crisis. This can happen when somebody takes a look at his life and realizes he's been living for somebody else. A midlife crisis is like a reboot button, so to speak.
Spending the time to understand what's important to you and aligning your life and money in a way that supports that takes some time, but it's time well spent.
Determine Your Values
Spend some time thinking about what is important to you. What do you want out of life? Imagine you're looking back from your deathbed and are proud of the life you lived. How did you live that life?
There are many different resources and many different ways to determine what your values are. A simple web search will show you a dozen or more ways to get your values.
If you are interested, I have a website you can use to understand your values. Feel free to use it.
Your Values Are Yours
Knowing what is important to you and what you want out of life helps you design a life around those things. Understanding your values gives you confidence. You won't care when other people judge you because you understand your values and how you're using your money to support your values. You'll simply understand that they must have different values, and that's okay.
Others' Values Are Theirs
Another benefit to understanding your values is knowing that everyone has different values. You will no longer have to get worked up if somebody spends their money in a way that you can't imagine ever doing, or doing things with their time that you find confusing. Let it go. You can stop judging others because you will now understand that they live their lives through a different set of values than you have. They can have their values, and you can have your values, and you can still be friends.
A Word of Caution
A word of caution is in order. Some people may take offense. For example, upon hearing that you don't value something that they value, their default thought might be to think that you are calling their values wrong. If somebody values something very highly and learned that you don't value it, it can feel like you are telling them they have the wrong values. This need not upset you, though. You can calmly correct them by telling them that we all have different values, and just because you don't value something doesn't mean that it's wrong for them. It's just wrong for you.