What Five Ideals Are Most Important To You?

Do you know the ideals, roles, or things in your life that are the most important to you? Could you list them?

Knowing these things can help you in many ways. When faced with an important decision, having previously thought of your core values and ideals can make the choice more clear. Applying for jobs, making friends, or choosing a spouse can be made easier with your ideals to guide you.

Making a list, and even discussing that list with friends and loved ones, can be very valuable. Many of us, perhaps even most of us, may have some unspoken idea about what matters to us. However, writing them down, or speaking them aloud, can be an eye-opening experience.

Life is complicated, and so are we. As such, having just one, or even two, ideals that you want to embody is probably not sufficient. It might be helpful to think of as many as you can, but let’s start with five.

This exercise can also be aspirational. What would you like to be, even if you aren’t there yet? What would an idealized version of you be like? Once you know what that is, you can brainstorm ways you might get there.

Of course, these ideals or roles may change over time. For example, when in school, it might be important to you to do all your homework, or to get good grades. Once married, being a supportive partner might rise in importance. It’s only natural that what mattered most to you ten years ago might not bear much resemblance to what is important to you today.

But then again, there may be some things that retain their importance over long stretches of time. Being honest, perhaps. Or always giving your best effort. Standing up against injustice. Remaining true to yourself.

What is your list of five ideals that are most important to you?

Related questions: What is important? How have you changed? Do you keep lists?

3 thoughts on “What Five Ideals Are Most Important To You?”

  1. I actually think about this a lot and have more core ideals than these. But if I had to pick five, I’d choose:

    1. Balance: Find collectedness in my core capacities (i.e., physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual health) and the roles I fill (i.e., spouse, friend, public policy director, home economist).
    2. Humor: Don’t take myself or others too seriously.
    3. Reverence: Find awe in this planet and its incredible diversity; work with other to keep the forms of life on it viable.
    4. Doubt: Never believe or act as if I or humanity knows it all; may this doubt fuel my passion to learn more while exercising caution.
    5. Hope: Hope is an active verb. It is the value that pushes me to fight for social, economic, and racial justice as well as to combat humanity’s existential threat in climate change.

    (Justice work requires even more ideals: equity, diversity, inclusion, sharing or abdicating leadership to those with lived experience, etc. But I won’t get into that right now.)

  2. Let’s see:

    1) To be a supportive husband
    2) To be curious
    3) To share that curiosity with people I know (and people I don’t know)
    4) To appreciate the complexity of the world
    5) To be silly whenever appropriate (and sometimes when it is not)

    That’s what comes to mind. That list may be different if you ask me tomorrow.

    1. I realize that last statement makes me sound like I lack conviction. I don’t think that’s true, but years ago I was impacted by a graduation speech delivered by Nora Ephron. In it, she talked about this process of making a list for herself of the five things she valued most.

      She did that at the age of 25. She was just starting out her career, and the list reflected that: always make your deadline; do the best work you can; etc.

      She did it again at the age of 35. She was surprised to see that the list was completely different. Not one of the five was the same. Not that the previous five items were completely unimportant — she still had to make her deadlines, for example — but they were not *the most* important.

      At the age of 45, she did it again, and again the top five were all different. As was her list at 55.

      The point is, that as you learn, change, and grow, what is most important to you changes as well. That’s natural, and should be embraced.

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