Values and Vocation

This weekend is our semi-annual weekend vocation retreat for UST law students and alumni. The goal of the retreat is to help each participant reflect on how God might be calling him or her to use his or her gifts and talents to serve others in the study and practice of law. The weekend is always a wonderful experience for all of us.

Our discussion focuses on a number of elements of discerning vocation. One important aspect of that discernment task is determining what are our values. It is difficult to talk about uncovering our vocation – unless we identify what it is that is most important to us – what are our life values. Once we know what those values are, we can make better decisions about how we can best organize our lives in a way that maximizes those values.

Considering our values seems like a pretty basic task, but the reality is the many people do not spend a lot of energy focusing on their personal life values, instead looking outside themselves for what is of value. This is easy to do – organization success criteria have a seductive habit of becoming group norms and unconsciously assumed success criteria. Personal values and success criteria of a law school or a law firm (most relevant for my students) may be very different, but one can easily become too busy to notice the discrepancy, even for years, unless one purposefully stops periodically and really thinks about it.

But the reality is your time here on earth is finite and you don’t want to waste it living someone else’s life. And often people keep themselves in a state of continual agitation by refusing to make focused value decisions. But unless we seriously focus on our values and how we prioritize those values, it is difficult to choose and organize our work life in a way that maximizes those values.

At the retreat, we do an exercise with the participants to help them get in touch more deeply with their values. It is always a part of the retreat that participants come back and tell me about how valuable it was for them.

What about you? Do you take conscious time to consider your values? To periodically assess, not only the values, but how well your life choices reflect those values?

If not, why not?