01.06.2007

finding your values

Finding your Values Being true to our passions makes life surprisingly easy and fulfilling, suggests Dr Peter Dingle.

Finding your Values Being trueto our passions makes life surprisingly easy and fulfilling,suggests Dr Peter Dingle.

"The most important thing inour lives is to seek morality in all our actions."Albert Einstein

Thereis no doubt that we have certain real needs, such ashealth, food, water and nutrition, security, and otherpeople. Once we have met these basic needs we have achoice to focus on what we want and value. Unfortunately,we are so busy in our lives that we don't get time toidentify our core values; we have lost touch with ourdeeply held values that matter so much to us. What isreally important to us? We spend so much of our timeresponding to external demands that we lose touch withwhat matters most in our hearts.

Our values are what drive us and give us directionin everything we do, and thus enable us to make ouractions consistent. Our values give us the ultimatedirection and can become a compelling driving force.Values are what are important to us and enable us todefine the most important things in our lives. Theyare the reasons we do what we do and enable us to becomethe person we want to be. Without defined values werisk becoming the person others, including the media,want us to be. Your values are the things in life thatmatter most to you. They make your life meaningful andfulfilled.

Discovering and following our values allows us theease to make decisions, dissipates stress, and givesus our direction and motivation in life. Immense energycan come from one's connection with his or her deepestvalues. The opposite is also true. The biggest drainin our lives is investing energy in pressing mattersthat are not based on our values. Values save us timeand energy. If we act consistently with our values,99 per cent of our decisions are made for us and ourmind does not need to work out whether or not to takean action.

Many people I know have achieved great financial successin their lives, but still crave for something more,something deeper and more fulfilling. When we violateour values we create a gap between what we want to beand what we are doing. This gap then generates painthat we feel. To avoid the pain we need to eliminatethe gap. A simple example is that few people want tobe overweight and, as a result, feel bad about theircondition. They have some pain. Reducing weight willreduce the gap between what they are and what they wantto be and as a result reduce the pain. The only wayto do something about the pain is to do something aboutthe gap.

Following our values, we don't have an internal debateevery time we need to make a decision, and we don'thave the sleep-interrupting debate each night aboutwhether what we did was right or wrong, or if we couldhave done it better. As our mind can only focus on onething at a time, being true to our values saves ourmind from flitting back and forward between variousoptions and possible actions.

Our values give us our major directions in life. Stressdissipates when we identify our values and follow ourpassion. When we are consistent with our values, weare healthy and well. It is when we are not consistentwith our values that our health seems to turn againstus.

Our values give us a strong sense of purpose, whichbuffers us from the storms of life. They are like theroots of a tree, keeping us steady and grounded evenin stormy weather. But they are hidden beneath the groundso we don't see them, and sometimes we forget aboutthem when everything appears to be happening on top.

When we have our values aligned we have a natural congruencewith life. Some call it luck or coincidence or synchronicity.I call it serendipity. Things seem to fall into place,stresses disappear and things seem to work out.

Our values become a major motivating factor and sustainus. Not knowing what our values are is like drivingto an unknown destination without a road map. Consistentwith this, in the extensive research on goals, thosethat are self concordant - that is, the goals chosenfor personal reasons - achieved the best outcomes. Researchon centenarians is also now showing that positive valuesare consistent with living longer and enjoying lifemore. Centenarians are not saints, just people who havelived by their values.

There are many examples of personal values influencingthe life and work of people - and, on the other side,examples of societal values influencing people. Thereare also examples of people aligning their values withtheir work. The best example is the people who go intothe caring and nurturing professions, particularly nursing,teaching, social work, and so forth. These are all stressfuljobs and these people often could be earning more moneyin business. So why do they do it? For most of them,the work aligns with their values. They are giving andcaring. There is little doubt of the value of thesecareers, particularly if our family or we are in needof their caring. But it is not just here and now; forexample, teachers have become the custodians of ourculture and societal values. Our work and life shouldbe consistent with our core values in order to bringus happiness.

Many politicians and business leaders have talked aboutvalues, but I don't believe many of them have actuallythought about them. There is a lot of emphasis on valuesin business, although all too often these values areeasily overlooked. At a leadership conference I attendedsome years ago, four of the six speakers were Australian.After five years, each of those Australians had beentaken to court and was in jail or had a deferred sentence.That is not leadership.

A large multinational network marketing company sellsproducts and, as part of its advertising campaign, oftenreminds people that the owners have more than enoughmoney for themselves and so should be trusted by consumers.However, recently the owners have been found guiltyon multiple accounts of tax evasion in the millionsof dollars. This is not uncommon, as greed can corrupt.Unfortunately, fear and greed are the two most commonnegative driving values that are now preached eitherdirectly or indirectly, and they have become a mantrafor many people.

To exacerbate this, the media presents a distortedview of what our real values are, based on what theadvertisers want. Working closely with the media, Iam frequently told what I can or cannot do, or someof my criticisms are edited out, for no other reasonthan they are not consistent with the "values"of a particular newspaper. In a recent land contaminationissue, the local state paper stopped writing articleson the issue because the articles were considered honestbut "anti-development".

The more governments and the media create a perceptionof fear and insecurity, the more we are willing to compromiseour core value of true happiness. We become willingto put our core values on hold, for a day until thenight comes, for a week until the weekend, a year fora few weeks' holiday, or even a lifetime for a few yearsat the end doing what we want to do. Fear and insecurity,whether real or perceived, take away our personal control.The more we fear something, the more power we give toit and the less power we have. Most phobias restrictpeople from doing things, as does a simple fear of goingout for a walk at night. We often base our securityon something external. Safety comes from inside. Howdo we create safety that cannot be lost? The researchon ageing and Maslow's famous research highlight thedrive for self actualisation and self realisation, thatis, finding the creative and spiritual side of who weare. On average, as people age they become more spiritual,worldly, generous and interested in helping others whilepursuing more creative endeavours.

Our values should revolve around simultaneously benefitingourselves while benefiting others and the world. Theyshould concentrate on things that sustain and nurture.This does not mean only helping individuals, but alsothe provision of materials and services. It may alsomean assessing our work and asking whether it is reallyhelping humankind. As a general rule, I would say, forexample, the creation of weapons, tobacco and even junkfood is not based on positive values. Each of thesekills millions of people around the world every year.

We need to identify and define our values then findways to reconnect with our values. Once we do this weneed to revisit our values on a daily basis. Ask thequestion at the end of the end of each day, "Wasmy behaviour consistent with my values?" Becomeaccountable to yourself for your actions. These area couple of quick questions I ask myself when I havea decision to make:

* What would my best friend who really cares aboutme want me to do?
* Will this action be positive or negative for thepeople, plants, animals and the planet?

Then ask:

* For what do you want to be remembered?
* Who are the people you most deeply respect and why?

And from here you can develop your own values.

Advertisement