Thereâ€™s no better way to find out what your values are than to ask yourself a simple question:
â€œWhat am I willing to fight for?â€
If youâ€™re willing to fight for something – to take a stand, to risk getting hurt by someone else just so you can defend what you believe in – then you, obviously, must believe in it. You must value it. And, if you value it, then it must be an ideal that makes your life worth living.
People always talk about â€œbeing part of something greater than yourselfâ€. Defending your values by fighting for them, by being willing to stop others who are violating what you think is just, is being part of something bigger than yourself.
No, youâ€™re not defending your country by doing that. Youâ€™re not protecting religion. Youâ€™re doing something greater: youâ€™re protecting the things that are dearest to you. Youâ€™re standing up for principles that make a life worth living possible; youâ€™re protecting life, in a way.
What I Think Is Worth Fighting For
Well, what do I think is worth fighting for? Iâ€™m glad you asked.
1. Love: No, I donâ€™t mean just romantic love and trying to preserve it at the behest of your crazy, controlling parents a la Romeo and Juliet. Iâ€™m talking about all love, and keeping together relationships (assuming the love is mutual, of course) in the face of obstacles. Even when separated by significant distance, love can be kept alive if you try hard enough and youâ€™re willing to invest enough time into the relationship. Itâ€™s a fight, sure, but if the person loves you too theyâ€™ll appreciate you taking the initiative and will reciprocate, and the relationship will grow because of it. This applies for all your relationships – family, friends, lovers, mentors, whatever you can think of. Even if people or extenuating circumstances try and keep you apart, keep fighting. They cannot win until you let them. Hereâ€™s a caveat, though: if you try to keep a relationship alive and the other person just lets it die, they may not care anymore. It takes two to keep a relationship going and if theyâ€™re not intent on preserving it, you should quit wasting your time and energy.
2. Justice: Whatever you think your concepts of justice are, you should fight to make it a reality in your life. My concept of justice is that people who are good deserve a reward – praise and other forms of encouragement – and people who are not deserve nothing. Literally, nothing. I donâ€™t believe in punishment (mostly because it doesnâ€™t work), and, really, the only punishment that I can justly inflict on someone is to not give them any of my time or energy. Any other form of punishment, i.e. anything designed to cause pain to the other person, is off-limits for my conception of justice.
3. Health: Itâ€™s a strange thing to fight for, sure, but make no mistake about it: itâ€™s a battle to maintain my health. At every instant, there are hundreds of things that I could do – drugs, eat ice cream, forego sleep – that are very attractive to me (well, not drugs) and would make me feel good in the short run. They are incredibly tempting, as Iâ€™m sure you know. However, I know for a fact that feeling healthy constantly in the long run feels way, way better than the short-term rewards that unhealthy things give me. That makes my health worth fighting for.
4. Integrity: Do I even need to explain this one? Itâ€™s a challenge to stay true to myself and to not give into societyâ€™s expectations, but I do it anyways. Feeling good about yourself because of who you are – not who society thinks you are – is the most gratifying feeling in the world. Bonus points if you can find friends who really love you for who you are, rather than hanging around with you because of your perceived social value.
While those certainly arenâ€™t the only 4 things Iâ€™d fight for, theyâ€™re great places to start. Ask yourself what else youâ€™d fight for.
What the Fight Looks Like
Fighting for something can be waged with words. You can argue all you want on the behalf of justice, you can talk all you want with your close friends and family about how important love is to you, you can talk all day about your knowledge of nutrition and health, and you can speak about how much you value authenticity. By becoming a spokesman for these ideals, you can fight for them as a missionary would for their religion, forever evangelizing and never really connecting with the essence of the ideals themselves.
The real fight is waged with actions. Just like a war of words between nations isnâ€™t really a war until soldiers are deployed and bombs are dropped (this is why the Cold War wasnâ€™t really a war), the fight for the ideals you hold dear isnâ€™t really a fight until you start acting.
If you want to fight for health, be healthy. Sleep well, eat even better, and work out hard. Be an example for others to follow, and others will believe you whenever you start preaching – especially when your devotion to health makes changes that they can see.
If you want to fight for integrity, have it. Stay true to yourself, speak your mind, and live an honest life. Own up to your mistakes. Be humble, but donâ€™t be too modest about your abilities. Know thyself. Be freely expressive. Be you, and donâ€™t give a damn what other people think of you.
And so on. If youâ€™re willing to fight for something, starting being it. Embody it.
That way, every action you make will be part of the fight, and get your ideal closer to being realized. The closer the ideal gets to being realized, the closer the fight is to being won.