I thought I’d be a little heart-warming today. I was inspired to write something that could restore our faith in humanity after receiving a pamphlet on how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse. Seriously. I was waiting in line to watch Rocky Horror Picture Show, surrounded by enthusiastic fans in lingerie and heels. I am totally not kidding. The whole context was so odd I can’t even make it up. Some guy researched, wrote, and printed up a short, step-by-step manual on how to prepare for the inevitable rise of the brain-eating undead, and handed it out. (Quick side-note: When a man can pull off lingerie AND heels as well as a woman can, I am truly impressed, and maybe a little jealous).
Anyway – when I got to work on Monday, I checked out some of the data we’ve been collecting for our Values Test. The goal was to better understand what men and women cherish and appreciate; the principles they wish to uphold as humanity progresses through the 21st century. What I discovered was surprising, to say the least. Hunters and gatherers we were, but hunters and gathers we are no more – at least not in the traditional sense. Rather than collecting grains we collect companions; instead of hunting for meat we hunger for enlightenment.
We assessed six major values (Social, Aesthetic, Traditional, Theoretical, Realistic, and Political), which were further broken down into 34 sub values. The following are the top ten values that men and women consider essential:
(Note: Scores range from 0 to 100 – the higher the score, the more important the value).
Top 10 Values for Women
1) Empathy (Social Value) – score of 80
2) Family & Friends (Social Value) – score of 79
3) Altruism (Social Value) – score of 77
4) Hard work/Diligence (Realistic Value) – score of 76
5) Acceptance/Belonging (Social Value) – score of 76
6) Stability (Traditional Value) – score of 75
7) Community (Social Value) – score of 73
8) Socializing (Social Value) – score of 73
9) Ethics/Morals (Traditional Value) – score of 71
10) Innovation (Theoretical Value) – score of 68
Top 10 Values for Men
1) Hard work/Diligence (Realistic Value) – score of 70
2) Empathy (Social Value) – score of 70
3) Innovation (Theoretical Value) – score of 69
4) Stability (Traditional Value) – score of 68
5) Family & Friends (Social Value) – score of 68
6) Intellectualism (Theoretical Value) – score of 66
7) Acceptance/Belonging (Social Value) – score of 66
8) Community (Social Value) – score of 65
9) Altruism (Social Value) – score of 65
10) Ethics/Morals (Traditional Value) – score of 64
Let me put these results in perspective. What we’re seeing here is a return to values we once treasured: the importance of connecting with other human beings, of hard work, integrity, and expanding our knowledge. Men and women may disagree on a lot of things, but we’re similar on the things that matter. And notice what’s not on the list – power is not in the top ten, and neither is competitiveness or any form of self-interest. Even the desire for financial security is not as important, ranking 15th for men and 17th for women. The news may focus on countries battling for power and wealth, but at the core of most human beings is a desire to return to what’s truly important.
Although our research does show that the importance of power and recognition is stronger in younger age groups, the significance of these values decrease with age – and the desire for knowledge and the importance of scientific exploration increases. More egocentric values, like pride, sense of entitlement, and the desire to compete and conquer become less and less important as people get older. It could be that once these values have been fulfilled, we choose to move on to more altruistic or wholesome ones. I’d prefer to believe that the happy by-product of getting older is that we become wiser, and realize that life is so much more enjoyable when we put more energy into principles and actions that benefit the world rather than ourselves.