If you know me personally you probably know that I am obsessed with social work. Like, mega obsessed. I think social work is the best thing on the planet. After I get my Masters I’ll get to work with people and help them achieve their own goals for themselves?! Ugh, yes. Sign me up. Or just let me pay a lot of money in loans throughout my life. Either one is fine really.
Something we talk about a lot in social work school is how to respect other people’s meaning. In order to work with people, my teachers say, it’s important to understand what other people value as meaningful aspects of their experience and support them in their efforts to live their best lives. In other words, what makes me excited about living might not be the same thing that makes my client excited about living, and I need to bolster their version of what’s important in life in order to be a good social worker.
I haven’t always been the best at this.
I won’t go into any identifying specifics for anonymity’s sake, but I had a client once who I thought was in serious danger. I believed very strongly that this client needed to tap into a certain service in order to maintain her health, but she adamantly refused. She felt that this service would prevent her from feeling independent and happy, and she simply would not go through the steps necessary to attain the service. I was a wreck.
I went to my supervisor about this situation, inquiring for tactics I could use to sway her towards acceptance of my plan for her.
But my supervisor told me something I’d never forget: Not everyone values the same things. Not everyone finds meaningfulness in the same way. Not everyone is fulfilled by what fills you up.
While I was valuing my client’s health over her feelings of independence, her worldview prioritized her independence over her body. And that’s okay. Once I realized this, I was better able to support my client in the achievement of her own goals. She never got the service I wanted her to get, and that became absolutely fine with me.
The reason I’m writing about this is because the same is true for living a meaningful life.
What makes me excited to wake up every morning will not necessarily make you excited to wake up every morning. My values are not your values, and your values are not your friend’s values or your neighbor’s values. Everyone cherishes different aspects of their experience, and that’s wonderful. It’s part of what makes the world a diverse, fun place to be.
So with that, my hope is for this blog to serve as a roadmap not for the achievement of specific goals I’ve outlined in advance, but instead for the discovery of personal goals, based on your individual context and background.
That’s where true meaningfulness happens. When someone is able to identify what they want out of life in their own terms and then achieve those aspirations, their fullest life is lived.
BUT, I do have to throw in a disclaimer. Because I am a human being who comes from a particular lived experience, and because I value certain things, my biases towards what I find important will inevitably come out in this blog. I’m sorry for that, and I’ll try to limit how often it happens. But it will happen. So be ready for that, and don’t let me color your thought space too much. 🙂
Disclaimer #2: I am probably going to talk a lot about social work on here. A lot. Because it’s really the best thing ever. But you don’t have to think so, and that’s okay…I guess.
How do you avoid impressing your values on other people?