Saturday, March 26, 2016

Values and Decision Making

When your son or daughter goes to Open Sky Wilderness the expectation is that the family will do as much therapeutic work as the kids. The concept is referred to as a "parallel path". The premise is that a family cannot expect their child to mature and grow and do all the necessary work and then be put back into an unchanged family environment. The workbook we were asked to complete is 75 pages in length. It contains a reading list and links to several podcasts and a slew of assignments.

One of the first assignments we were asked to complete was to define our top-five values. Each of us were to  identify our own and then we were to sit down as a family and "negotiate" what our collective values are. The first part of the task was fairly simple. My top five are health, family, honesty, growth and creativity. Simple.

One observed condition of kids like Jack is that their decision making is flawed. Obviously, when you're 15 and decide that school is no longer for you, that's a bad decision. The things these kids are drawn to are often dangerous or detrimental to one's health. The catalyst behind the poor choices is stress. The problem is this - the poor choices conflict with the kids' unspoken, unidentified value structure. This causes a dissonance that creates more stress. A cycle has begun.

The program helps the kids identify their own values to help them with better decision making. As you can imagine, when a teenager leaves their regular life and enters a program there are a lot of patterns to break. Having the individuals ground themselves in values provides a solid starting point. Many new decisions will need to be made in the first few weeks in the field so this work is vital.

I invite you to try the exercise. Sit down and make a list of 10 or 12 things you value. Think about it and then review the list to narrow it down. Get your list to five top values. Once you've completed that, it's easy to look at your behaviors and habits and identify things you do that conflict with your list. Maybe some of the unidentified angst and anxiety that you cope with is really self-inflicted. That is, perhaps some of your behaviors conflict with what you hold dear and , in turn, create a dissonance in your head and heart.

For me this exercise has initiated a significant change in how I operate. I know that some of the anger that seeps out, in subtle ways, was just a manifestation of having violated my own values. Having identified what my top-five values are and considering them daily has helped me become more peaceful. It feels good.

I'm sorry if this post is a bit preachy. Try the exercise. I think it may help you become more peaceful.

Consider contributing to one of these funds so families that need help can afford it.

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