Most of the time Popeye was a big pushover. Maybe he felt like he had to be — who dresses like, anyway? But when push came to shove (literally), he always rolled up his sleeves and got into the fight. Can you remember his catchphrase? It was:
“That’s all I can stands, cause I can’t stands no more!”
What do you stand for? What are you willing to roll up your sleeves and get into the fight for?
Those are foundational questions that form the basis for your fundamental values- the issues and aspects of life that are so important to you they motivate the core of everything you do, see, and say. Do you know what your fundamental values are? The things that drive you, fuel you, irritate you and inspire you?
Most people find clarity to their fundamental values by looking into their backstory and discovering something they lacked. You might hear someone say: “I really care about kids who don’t have father figures, because I didn’t have a father figure,” or, “I’m all about helping women understand how worthy they are, because I didn’t get that message when I was growing up.” Sometimes what we didn’t receive becomes a core driver for us. Or you might have had an exceptional, uncommon experience that shaped you positively and realize most people don’t receive what you did, so you want to share that with them.
The thing is, without understanding what you stand for, it’s hard to know what to fight for. It’s hard to find clarity about what to do with your life- how to spend your energy, your time, where to invest your learning, or what to do with your creativity.
Students are deciding who they are, and where they’re headed in their lives during middle and high school. They deserve an opportunity to reflect and find clarity on their most important values- to process them in writing and conversation. We need to challenge students to explain them, to share where they come from, why they’re so important to them, and present how they’ve used their values to decide what to do. We can build these exercises into their core curriculum especially in English and Social Studies classes.
Here are a few prompts to help you and your students clarify your fundamental values:
What did you not receive in your childhood that impacted your life negatively? What would be different if you had received it?
What did you receive in your childhood that impacted your life positively? If other people received what you did, how would it impact them?
Finish this sentence: Everyone deserves…because…
Finish this sentence: What really ticks me off is…because…
What do your responses to those prompts say about what’s most important to you?
What do you stand for? What are you willing to fight for? Why?
If you work with students or are a parent, one of the most important things you can do is share with them what your fundamental values are and where they come from. They need to see someone older than them share about what drives them and reflect on what led you there. If you struggle to know if you’re making a difference, know this: you’re making a difference!
For years we’ve been studying what a young person needs in order to transition into a healthy, thriving adulthood.
They're uncommon sense ideas, really.
Download this checklist and use it with your students (or kids).