Ours is a time that seems to be fermenting from the fumes of judgment as it bombards our media, politics, and entertainment. One way to break those bonds is to focus on value.
Judgment is a vicious cycle of unintended consequences. Placing judgment on something automatically creates an attachment to an implied “should.” If it’s not that, then it “should” be this. Attachments perpetuate limitation against an opposite, a “should.” The trouble with limitation is that it will always provoke disappointment and uneasy feelings for someone, somewhere.
Goals also create attachments that can limit your possibilities. They present a box that you hope to land in. But if we’ve learned nothing else from the 21st century thus far, we’ve hopefully learned that life is unpredictable. So why limit our experience to a box when we’re living in circular times? In my work with artists in the development, we create benchmarks instead. Benchmarks are basically goals without the finality attached. They allow you to measure value and identify progress. I call it a value judgment.
Value judgments are a tool to measure your own feelings toward a present opportunity and the choices you make around it. It is a judgment, but not one with a limiting expectation attached. It is merely a measurement of the moment. Your worth is invaluable so value judgments are not always monetary. It may take different forms in different situations, but whatever it is, make it quantifiable. You don’t have to expect it or even ask for it, but know your value when you offer it to the world.
“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.” I heard this from a clinical psychologist suggesting that if there must be a measure of value, the only sustainable scale is you.
He explains: “Identify yourself not with the initial state of order (a particular way of looking at the world) … [nor with] the state of chaos when everything collapses around you, but identify yourself with the process of transformation, from order through chaos. So the way that you confront the fact that reality is continually transforming is that you allow yourself to transform with it.”
This is another way of living in the moment, the only solution I’ve found to effectively banish judgment from my life. Winnie the Pooh is a lovable embodiment of this concept.
In the film Christopher Robin, Pooh plays a game called “Say What You See.” It’s as simple as that, saying aloud what is in front of you right now. By leaving behind the chaotic mindset of building attachments, Pooh is merely zooming into the moment. You can watch the scene here to see how your ego resists the moment.
And it usually is ego standing in the way of you getting what you need. Or it’s a fear of success, fueled by ego. So when you’re weighing the value of every opportunity, ask the question: will it help me become a better person than I was yesterday? Only you can answer that, and it requires listening to your heart, not what society or any outside influence will tell you. Not ego.
The case of drug addiction
Let’s look at a case study on the drug epidemic. Most people agree drugs are limiting in the long term, including addicts themselves. But what has the value been to judge drug addiction as “bad”?
Has social judgment helped prevent addiction? Overwhelming research suggests not. Consider the Pew Research Center’s findings from 2018: “As fatal overdoses rise, many Americans see drug addiction as a major problem in their community.”
In response to one of the worst drug epidemics in Europe, Portugal adopted an aggressive drug treatment program, decriminalizing all drugs in 2001. They attempted to remove the judgment attached to drug addiction and started revaluing what that meant in their country.
In “Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it?,” Susana Ferreira explains: “Portugal’s policy rests on three pillars: one, that there’s no such thing as a soft or hard drug, only healthy and unhealthy relationships with drugs; two, that an individual’s unhealthy relationship with drugs often conceals frayed relationships with loved ones, with the world around them, and with themselves; and three, that the eradication of all drugs is an impossible goal.”
Sixteen years later, statistics showed a dramatic reduction in drug addiction primarily by de-stigmatization.
I invite you to throw out judgments and goals. Replace them with value judgments and benchmarks, placed only on the opportunities currently being presented to you. One day at a time.