There's a Rudolf Serkin story where he and a violinist were waiting on a cab to take them to their performance. Instead of waiting, Serkin went back inside for 10 extra minutes of practice. When the cab arrived, the violinist asked, "Will that really make your performance tonight any better?" Serkin replied, "Yes. Ten minutes better."
This anecdote epitomizes one of my favorite proverbs: "Take what you want and pay for it." I love this Spanish proverb because it addresses so many of life's conflicts. How many problems are caused by being unaware of what it is we really want or being unwilling to pay the price?
Having values means knowing your priorities and allocating your time and effort accordingly. It means thinking hard about how to gain and keep what you really want in life, instead of just drifting and hoping for the best. The value is what we want and time and energy are the price we pay for it. And since time and energy are limited, we have to find creative ways to employ these resources, as well as make decisions about what gets precedence in our life. We also have to make sure what we want is in line with our long term goals instead of just momentary whim. I think most people, myself often included, sell themselves short by being unaware of how these ends and means align.
If you want job fulfillment, are you willing to think hard about your long term goals and work towards them? If you want relationship fulfillment, are you willing to put in the time and attention to build something really great; to give someone else that much priority in your life? If you want robust health, are you willing to give up all that junk food and go to the gym regularly? In other words, are you willing to focus and act thoughtfully, instead of going with the flow and settling for mediocrity or worse?