Editorial: What really matters

By cultivating our intrinsic values we can build society around what matters most to us, says Seán Dagan Wood

In our readers survey last year, we asked for your views about Positive News and we’ve been using these to help plan our future. Some of the most fascinating information you gave us was about your values.

Put simply, you’re a lovely bunch of people. The most commonly shared values among you were those associated with kindness, inclusiveness, freedom, peace, justice and connecting with nature.

It’s values such as these that led the teenage Malala Yousafzai, as her father Ziauddin recounts, to turn an assassination attempt against her into a deepened effort to empower girls through education, and to continue expanding her compassion.

And it’s compassion even for the natural world, as well as for people, that in our new EcoHustler column, Matt Mellen says is the key to creating more sustainable societies.

The value that sat at the bottom of your choices (drawn from a list compiled from decades of research by psychologists), was wealth. This echoes a YouGov survey, which found that across all of society people say that the nation’s happiness is more important. The economy dominates political discussions, but we need to focus more directly on how to help people live fulfilling lives, say Action for Happiness, who commissioned the poll.

There are practical things we can do as a society to increase our wellbeing, such as creating social equality or developing health services and education. But fundamentally, we also need to “shape economic systems around things which feel right and natural to us,” as Lucy Purdy puts it.

It’s by cultivating our intrinsic values that we can build this foundation. Here, we may find that “the quiet intelligence of nature” that she refers to, is something that also runs through us; that knowing of what really matters.

So I hope the summer issue of Positive News sparks those values you cherish the most. It’s what the world needs.

This editorial appeared in the summer 2014 print edition of Positive News. To receive a copy, please become a member