Everyone places a different value on a person, thing or concept. This line of thought is not to be contested. Even in the absence of money, we inherently assign a measure of value on everything within our radii and thoughts – a mental feat accomplished so quickly that we are only dimly aware that it happened. While you might be willing to put down thousands of dollars for the last ticket to a football match, the same prospect will be met with great reluctance (or complete disinterest) by those less inclined for sports.
But it also isn’t as simple as it seems. Consider the following scenario: You are in a zoo and someone fearlessly saves your life from a rampaging elephant. Since one’s life is infinitely valuable, we should be more than happy to oblige our savior’s request that we immediately surrender the entirety of our personal wealth. Yet, we will scoff at the idea of giving in to such a ridiculous demand. But most of us do want to keep living, and in the presence of a terminal disease, would give almost anything to stay alive. Not in this case though. Clearly, we’ve run into a bit of paradox.
Additionally, what we resolutely value and would give almost anything for is always defined with the conditional ‘if’. For example, you may value your sister a great deal and sacrifice your time and money for her growth, but only IF, she falls within certain behavioral and ethical considerations. You wouldn’t be willing to give it your all if you knew your sister was an unrepentant drug addict. And so, we are always adjusting what we value on the fly. We also don’t know exactly how to rationalise the way we value things, nor can we often put a precise numerical statistic on it.
To complicate it further, how society assigns a value to something is influential in how we behave. Paying teachers a fixed sum at the end of every month rather than per hour is a deliberate and calculated psychological move. A fixed monthly payment incentivizes a more generous approach so that caring for students isn’t calculated down to the very last second and cent. So then, are teachers generous and caring because their pay structure (and training) already strongly encourages such a practice, or are these inherent characteristics? It’s hard to tell.
Also, assigning a value to something abstract or emotional is often the cause of many grievances. Rare are the friends who place equal value on a long standing friendship. Similarly, relationships of the heart can also become particularly difficult because each individual has a different value and expectation. In such situations, what becomes the currency of value? Perhaps it’s money, and for others, it may be time or written words. Good relationships therefore are the necessary merger of two different minds so that they come to value many things equally.
Understanding what we value is necessary not just for economics, but also for our own self-growth. Rather than allow the process to be fully automatic, we should take some time out to examine the things we’ve assigned value to, and if they really make sense. Sometimes it maybe an overestimate or a shortchange, and it falls within our personal responsibility to adjust it. Because other people sometimes depend on that.
So, have you thought about (HYTA) what you value in life?