What do Living Your Values and New Year’s Resolutions have in common?

As the past month went by, I found myself considering the similarities between attempts to live values and attempts to meet New Year’s resolutions.  Both come from a good place, a place of desire for self growth and betterment, both the ideal version of ourselves that we would like to become or display to others.  And, both are so difficulty to live fully, despite our best intentions.  Why is it that we can so thoroughly want something, but we struggle to make it happen?

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“You will probably never meet your ideal self, even if you meet every goal”  

If you look at this from a more psychodynamic approach, one would see that our attempts to live values and meet resolutions are, in reality, overstretching our selves too much, too far, too often.  In these theories (think Freud, Jung, etc.) one has an ideal self that they are always striving towards, a persona they put out to the world.  This is our version of our best self.  it makes sense that we create our goals to help mold us into that self; our goals probably come from that self!We are not trying to set ourselves up fro failure.  We truly believe setting goals that live in the ideal self will help us become the ideal self.

But…that is not a reality.  Our real self, true self, can never fully become our ideal self.  We strive, we fail, we strive, we fail, and eventually we either stop striving or change our goal.

So, how do we moderate this?  How do we create goals that stretch ourselves just enough?  Challenging enough that we change, but not so ideal that we quit or regress?

What a fine line we each must walk to grow.  How fragile we really are.  We can want more than we can meet–setting ourselves up for failure time and again, then taking it personally when we can’t meet our own ideals.

Let me share a secret with you…you will probably never meet your ideal self, even if you meet every goal, every resolution, every hope.  As your self grows and changes, encompassing previous ideal selves, so too does your ideal self–always evolving as you do, always representing the next best version of you.

If you are on this journey of living values with us…please each time you stop to evaluate yourself, your family, and kick yourself for not meeting your goals, or not doing “good enough”, remember that your goals evolve, you evolve, and if you’re always striving to be an ideal you, you’ll never be good enough.  However, take a moment to look back a year, two, five, and see how yourself evolved!  How many ideal selves have you already absorbed into your current self?  How many additional conversations, interactions, and activities have you done with your family as a result of this journey that you wouldn’t have otherwise?

Hang in there…and ENJOY the JOURNEY and the (albeit relatively small) fruits of your labor!

On Cultural Change and Values

One of the main reasons we embarked on this purposeful living of our values was the feeling that life was flying by, and our kids were growing incrementally, without us meaningfully teaching a set of values.  This is a truth that each family shared in their own ways, and as you can read, each family went about discussing, identifying, and living their values differently.  The families shared in two key components:  a belief that living and teaching values to our children is important and a feeling that they could be doing more to engage their children, and themselves, in their identified values.

“Purposeful living of our values represents an intentional manipulation of the life space we choose to create, and engage in, with our children.”

The research supports the assertion that teaching children values is important; in fact, basic values of an individual are, for the most part, fixed by the time one is considered an adult (Baker, Dalton, & Hildebrand, 1981; Inglehart, 1977, 1997; Rokeach 1968, 1973).  Kurt Lewin (1939) discussed Life Spaces, or the psychological space or environment in which a person lives.  Everything that could possibly influence our behaviors is housed within our life space.  We organize, interpret, and enact our experiences both in, and as a reaction to, our life space.  Purposeful living of our values represents an intentional manipulation of the life space we choose to create, and engage in, with our children. As parents, we are responsible for both broadening and refining our children’s life spaces, ensuring values carry across borders, from the life space of home/family to those of school/friends and community/society.

While philosophers such as Marx and Nietzsche predicted a decline in traditional values with the growth of modernization, that hasn’t been the case; particularly as countries or societies move from industrial to post-industrial standing.  This has been found to be especially true of the United States (Inglehart & Baker, 2000).  Despite a convergence of values, to some extent, such as a move towards a higher value on self-expression; there is a persistence of traditional values as well.  This may be due in part to an increased sense of security, allowing for an emphasis on quality and meaning of life, or spiritual seeking (Inglehart & Baker, 2000; Wuthrow, 1998).

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Will you follow the convergence of values or find ways for values you identify as important to persist for yourself and your family?                 Photo by Stas Knop on Pexels.com

This appears to be the case for the families in this study.  As society marches forward into whatever may come post-postindustrialism (values as antiquated, outdated, and unnecessary in the face of individualism)…we as individuals and families are left asking what do we really value, if anything?  That which generations before us valued–safety, security, materials, are not quite meeting the markers we as a generation reported as important in the World Value Surveys (per Inglehart & Baker, 2000), those of finding meaning and fulfillment; so, here we stand, attempting to create, and engage in, life spaces for ourselves and our children, that keep our values at the forefront despite a larger cultural impact that may not maintain the same values, or any values at all in the future.

–Ashley E. Poklar, M.Ed.

Meet The Families

Each family is uniquely its own mini culture, with its own set of values and its own way of teaching these values to the next generation and of upholding its values.  Each family is made of at least two different value systems, thought often many more.  Because of this, the make up of the family matters, the experience, the history, the number of children, the parents jobs, etc., etc., etc.  All of this matters, and so much more.  So, as you join us on our journey, please take a moment to get to know us, each family, our make up, our unique dynamics and set up.  As we go forth, monthly compilations will be written taking these unique pieces into consideration as we explore how values are lived in different families.

So, meet the families!


Family A
Family “A”

Family “A” Profile:

Three early elementary school children, one preschool child, and two married parents. Children attend private faith-based schools.

Mom – Mom is (almost) a Doctor of Psychology with a background as a special education teacher in the southern United States. She was raised in a poor family in the southern United States.

Dad – Dad is an executive at a small (200 people) corporation. He is working on his Business Doctorate. Dad was raised in the Midwest in an upper-middle class home and had his attitude appropriately readjusted at The Citadel.


Family “B” Profile:

Three children, one early elementary school age,

Family B
Family “B”

one pre-K aged, and one infant. Oldest child attends public school, in an excellent school district while middle child attends faith based school.  Family attends a local church. Mom and Dad have a notable age gap.

Mom – Mom is a Nurse Practitioner and has spent her career in the medical field. Mom grew up in Germany and immigrated to the United States in her twenties.  She grew up in a blended family.

Dad – Dad works in construction and facilities. Dad grew up in the Midwest and was raised in a middle-class, blended family home.


Family “C” Profile:

Two (soon to be three children): one early teenager

Family C
Family “C”

from a previous relationship, but the child grew up with mom and dad from year one, one elementary school-aged, and one infant soon to arrive. Both children attend private school, the elementary school age child attends a faith-based school.

Mom – Mom is a nursing student and splits her time between being a very pregnant mom and a care giver in the medical field. Mom grew up in a lower-middle class family in the inner-city in the Midwest.

Dad – Dad is a former Recon Marine Officer who manages special programs at one of the top three rated hospitals in the United States. Dad grew up in the Midwest in an upper-middle class home where he received lots of “motivation” from his Uncle, a 30-year time in service, Chief Petty Officer.


Family “D” Profile:

Two (soon to be three children): two elementary

Family D
Family “D”

school aged and one infant arriving in a few weeks. The children attend public schools and a local church. Family D is blended from dad’s previous marriage. The two children split their time between Family D and their biological mother’s home (with live in boyfriend). Mom and Dad have a notable age gap, and this is a very faith-based family.

Dad – Dad retired from an 18-year career split between the Navy and the Army. Dad spent his last ten years in the Army as a member of a Tier 1 SMU. Dad and mom married after dad retired from the Army. Dad is an executive at a small organization. Dad grew up in the Midwest with his grandparents and mother.

Mom – Mom is a full-time counseling graduate student who grew up in a middle-class home in California. Mom previously worked as a counselor and is very faith driven.


How this all began…

              Much like identity is often not completely and purposely formed, neither are our values.  Most of us have been indoctrinated by generations of “this is how we do it, it’s how it has always been done.”  However, living that way has left me feeling lost, and purposeless.  I get caught up in the day to day grind, the endless days of cooking, cleaning, bedtimes, laundry and I realize that something is missing.  What is my purpose?  My family’s purpose?  How are we teaching our children that there are things in life that are more important than cooking, cleaning and laundry?  How are we teaching them to get the most out of life while also giving the most?  Are we truly living and teaching our values and how to live them? 

I found myself asking what are our values as a family?  Hell, what are values?  We throw the word around ALL the time.  We judge others and ourselves by our values, make big life-altering decisions, fight wars, choose life-mates, and die by our values.  But, what are they?  Where do they come from?  How are they transferred from generation to generation?  I know the big, easy answers to these questions, but not sure how it works in my life, with my family, on a daily basis. 

And, that is the challenge for us, and for each of you, should you choose to accept it:  to understand our own value systems, identify those specific values we want to hold onto and pass on to the next generation, and to purposely teach and live those values.


The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining us!  This blog has been created to follow four families as they attempt to live their values everyday for a full year (beginning September 1, 2018).  Check in weekly for updates and monthly for an analysis of the progress of the four families.  And, always, feel free to contact us, to join us by living your values everyday, and to share your stories and experiences with us as well.

Let’s all try each day to live a little more purposely, so we can all live a little more fully.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton