Many entries in this blog point out the importance of connecting personal values to coping actions. Of course, this principle raises the question: “How do I know if my values are appropriate for effective coping?” That’s a valid question. After all, what if someone values dishonesty as useful; or manipulation of others; or arrogance; or being guided by – as someone once said – “alternative facts”? How are we to evaluate our values as useful in coping with stress? It’s actually pretty straightforward. Just ask yourself, “Do my values motivate me to focus on reality instead of speculation? Do they encourage me to be accountable in my actions and humble in my successes? Do they inspire me to develop empathy for others?” If you answer “Yes,” your values are appropriate for good coping.
Raymond is a college professor. His course in Themes in America History is among the most popular at the university. What’s his secret? “Well,” says Raymond, “I have always felt that this course is a reflection of some of my values, and students like that.” When asked to list those values, he wrote, “Respect for students; Awareness and appreciation of diversity; Consistency and clarity in presenting ideas; Expose students to differing perspectives, but never indoctrinate them into accepting one view as best.” He paused and said, “I could add more, I’m sure, but this gives you an idea of my standards as a professor.”
“So, you believe those values are reflected in how you teach the course?”
“Absolutely. I believe in this course and the historical themes I try to develop. I hope the students learn how the themes express American democracy. I think they respect the fact that I don’t advocate any particular point of view. I respect each student’s perspective, and in class discussion I try to validate their perspectives by showing them how their views would fit in the context of each course theme. I think this gives them a sense of ownership of the class material.”
“Do you think reflecting your values in the course is at least partially responsible for the popularity of the course?”
“I suppose so, although I don’t measure success by how many kids sign up for it. I encourage students to express their opinions. Once they learn that I respect their opinions and am not interested in indoctrinating them into a particular point of view, they really open up. I present information, pose what I hope are questions that trigger critical thinking, and the result is usually exciting and productive discussions. When I point out to students how their divergent perspectives bring teacher and learners together as problem solvers, I think they see the value of mutual respect when sharing different opinions. That makes it all fun. Education, you know, should be challenging, but it should also be fun. I have fun, and I think it’s contagious.”
Link your values to your workplace. The consequences should be quite rewarding.