Sunday, November 04, 2007

“What We Pay Attention To” is a Good Indication of Our Values

Recently while talking to a friend who read all three of my novels, she told me that she noticed that all three of the main characters not only pay attention to the intimate issues of their relationships but they also pay attention to what they pay attention to. That indeed is true for Marcia in Fear of Feeling Loved and for Diane in If Ever Again… It’ll be for Love – my last two novels. In my first novel, My Sweetpea: Seven Years and Seven Days, after her divorce from Troy and trying to get on with her life, Sheila’s close girlfriend mentions to Sheila that she wonders why Troy is still so important to Sheila. “What makes you think he’s still important to me?” Sheila asks. With a grin, her friend quips, “You mean other than the fact that you talk about him a lot?”

For years I have argued that what we pay attention to is a good indication of what is important to us – basically, what we highly value. Briefly, let’s inspect the term, value. Value is a concept that describes the beliefs of an individual or culture. Moreover, a set of values may be placed into the notion of a value system. Values are considered subjective and vary across people and cultures, and the types of values include: ethical/moral values; doctrinal/ideological (political, religious) values; social values; and aesthetic values.

In my pop-psych book, Living Life, Anyway, Chapter 15 Living Life, Purposefully, addresses the interface between what people pay attention to and what they value:

“What we pay attention to (in thought as well as action), is the best indication of our values”, is one of my favorite expressions. What we see as the purpose of our life and how our sense of purpose translates into purposeful behavior and thought, are vested in our values and our priorities. Those things that I honor, highly respect, regard, treasure, cherish, love, and esteem, are important to me, and as a result I attend to them, expend energy on and toward them, and consider them with a sense of worth and merit. I also liken the expression, “Ultimately, people do what they want to do, and don’t do what they don’t want to do.” Simplistically enriched and expanded, “.... because it is important to them.” Consistent with this line of thinking, Stephen Covey recommends, in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Additionally, living life purposefully also requires that we know and appreciate the way we prioritize our values. (p. 111)

Question: Do you pay attention to things in your life commensurate with how important they are to you (e.g., your significant-other, children, family, health, job, hobbies, etc.)?


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