Setting goals without clarifying values is like building a house without a foundation.
Values are important because there will be trade-offs that you have to make in life and you have to find out what you assign ultimate importance to. Pressures, demands, expectations, and tasks push on all sides. We find ourselves rushing through life. Our problem is not always the volume of demands or lack of scheduling skills but that the demands and schedules are not consistent with our values. Our values are reflected in how we use our resources - time, treasures, and talents. Values are concepts, ideas, and beliefs that play a part in defining us. Values drive our behavior and govern our decisions. Most people are unhappy because they are living in conflict with their core values. Not organizing your life around your values would be like climbing a ladder only to realize that it’s leaning against the wrong wall. Another way to look at it is if you were building a home but forget to tell the contractor what kind of home you want, don’t be surprised if the house is built with the wrong number of bedrooms, the wrong lighting, and the wrong size kitchen. It’s probably not going to fit what you want because you never took the time to articulate it.
We take on certain values because of conditioning and social expectation. The problem occurs when our uniqueness rubs against those systems. We all have different gifts, temperaments, personalities, ways of operating and sets of priorities. Occasionally when I go out with friends, we might catch a movie and after the movie go to a restaurant. They would ask, “Where do you want to go?” I’d say, “I don’t know.” At that point, they would suggest a restaurant, and I would say, “I don’t want to go there.” Then they would say, “I thought you didn’t know.” The truth of the matter was that I knew where I wanted to go. I just hadn’t taken the time to discover where that was. Values work the same way. A value is a basic principle or standard that’s important to you - something that you never want to live without. Values are not determined by what’s right and wrong. It’s about what’s better and what’s best to you. It’s not always a matter of conscience. Sometimes, it’s a matter of comfort and being the right fit.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to spend time with and work with different people from different walks of life. I’ve noticed a common haziness or instability around what people’s values are - what they hold most dear to them - what they believe are the most important things in their life. The same way that I had to take the time to figure out which restaurant I wanted to go to, we all have to figure out and settle on a set of values that we will use to organize our life and define our success. (See chapter 12). A part of establishing your life plans should be discerning and reflecting on your personal values. They are part of your compass. Once you have your compass, you can set your goals, and begin planning weekly and then daily with a greater level of clarity. True success will often elude people who are not clear about what they hold most dear to them.
In the previous chapter on the false self, we discussed how the false self causes people to spend their lives focused on other people’s wishes and wants. Parents, coaches, teachers, and leaders in the community exist to help you live the life that you are called to live and equip you with the tools to do that. I’m going to go on record and tell you that NO HUMAN BEING should tell you what you SHOULD want to do or be in life. That is something that you need to ultimately land on. You can be encouraged, motivated, and influenced by people and you can even use their life as a framework to order your steps. But you need to make the final decision and come to the conclusion about how you will live your life. It’s nice when what people want you to do or be is the same as what you want but at the end of the day, it is up to you. I have lost count of how many people I know who wanted to do something different with their lives whether it was their academic life or their professional career but ended up following the direction of other well-intentioned but misguided or even manipulative people. Those mentors might have meant well, but they didn’t do right and as a result of that advice, so many people have been influenced to stay in positions they hate and make them miserable. They choose to live a life from which they want to escape. This needs to stop, and you have the chance to learn from the mistakes of so many other people. The first section of the book was the start of drilling down to finding your calling and discovering your authenticity. Take the time to review the first section. Review it as often as you need to so you can decide what your next steps will be as far as your life’s calling and career with as much certainty as possible.
What researchers have discovered over time is that people who become successful and fulfilled in the path of life that they pursue have a self-sustained motivation and desire. In other words, they truly wanted to do what they did. For example, Kobe Bryant wanted to play basketball. Steve Jobs wanted to work with computers. Mark Zuckerberg wanted to be a computer programmer. People may have opened the door for them, but they stepped through with self-determination and a clear sense of their values. Your values help to light your way and sometimes you have to go deeper into the darkness to see the light. All these individuals had dark times in their lives on their journeys, but with a clear set of values, they were able to respond to priority instead of circumstance. The more you care about your values, the stronger you can be. Your strength is not predicated on feelings but acting on your values in spite of your feelings. The test of your commitment to your values will come and those moments will be the great revealer and if you respond courageously, the great strengthener.
Personally, I worked a lot of jobs that were not the right fit for me. I learned a lot from those experiences, but I could have saved some time and trouble by knowing what was important to me in my day-to-day life. I want to save you the trouble by giving you the tools that I didn’t have. If you don't have a set of values and principles that you live by, you'll compromise when you are pressured. On the next page, you’ll see a list of values. It’s not a complete list, but it’s something to help you start your search for values. As you continue to do the work of digging for your values, your self-awareness muscles will get stronger over time.
Accomplishment o Achievement o Accountability o Accuracy o Adventure o Positive Attitude o Beauty o Calm o Challenge o Change o Collaboration o Commitment o Communication o Community o Comfort o Compassion o Competence o Competition o Connection o Cooperation o Coordination o Creativity o Decisiveness o Delight of being, joy o Democracy o Discipline o Discovery o Diversity o Effectiveness o Efficiency o Empowerment o Excellence o Fairness o Faith o Faithfulness o Family o Flair o Flexibility o Focus o Freedom o Friendship o Fun o Global view o Good health o Gratitude o Greatness o Growth o Happiness o Hard work o Harmony o Honesty o Improvement o Independence o Individuality o Inner peace o Innovation o Integrity o Intuitiveness o Justice o Knowledge o Leadership o Learning o Love o Loyalty o Management Maximum utilization (of time, resources) o Meaning o Modeling o Money o Openness o Orderliness o Passion o Perfection o Personal Choice o Pleasure o Power o Practicality o Preservation o Privacy o Progress o Prosperity o Punctuality o Purpose o Recognition o Regularity o Relationships o Reliability o Resourcefulness o Respect for others o Responsibility o Results-oriented o Safety o Satisfaction o Security o Self-giving o Self-reliance o Self-thinking o Service (to others, society) o Simplicity o Skill o Solving Problems o Speed o Spontaneity o Standardization o Status o Structure o Succeed; A will to o Success o Teamwork o Techniques o Timeliness o Tolerance o Tradition o Transformation o
Tranquility o Trust o Truth o Unity o Variety o Wealth o Wisdom
From the list above, choose five values that are your top priority. If they are not listed, you can choose your own. Then write a clarifying statement that makes your intent crystal clear. When you clarify your values, you can see your highest priorities clearly and can live your life with clear intention. Make it a practice to regularly review your values and clarifying statements. This is a great exercise to guide you in deciding what you should make a priority to live a life that is personally meaningful. Go into the arena with a clarity of values.
Clarifying Statement: I will seek out people who have different perspectives, opinions, and backgrounds from me.
How do you stay grounded in your values?
1. Read biographies and watch movies about people who stayed faithful to their values in spite of their pain. Recently, there was a remake of the 1970s mini-series, Roots, about an enslaved African named Kunta Kinte who demonstrated tremendous courage as he arrived in the United States and during the time of his enslavement. One particular scene shows his slave master beating him while telling him to recite his “new” name – Toby. He is repeatedly whipped while stating his true name, Kunta Kinte – showing such courage and strength to hold on to his identity. For him, the value was heritage and identity. I draw tremendous strength and encouragement from this story. Where do you find yours?
2. Interview people you know who have strong and consistent values you admire and have for your own life. I love to speak with folks who demonstrate courage in how they pursue their values and even suffer difficult consequences for them. They could be your family, friends, a leader in your community or a public figure.
I have a friend who works at a prestigious company. He makes about $150,000 a year. He was offered a promotion that would pay $250,000 a year, but it would require that he relocate his family and go to a part of the country where he would have to leave the community he's been in for many years. His kids would have to leave their school and their church, which is a pivotal part of their lives. This situation is a great opportunity to assess one’s values. If money is his main priority, then leaving is the best option. If family, stability, and his faith community are his main priorities then staying is the option. If the values are at odds, then there will be a need for deep reflection and long-term thinking about what’s most important, which requires a deeper values assessment. Do you see why this chapter is so important? The reason why you need to know your values is because none of this is easy. There will be people who disagree with you. There will be moments when you feel like quitting. You may go through confusing points of your life. All this means is that you have to decide in advance what you assign importance to so you can strengthen yourself daily to remain firm in living out those values. You must be committed to holding on to your values and also seek wisdom on how to remain flexible in how you commit to your values. You’ll find that if the nobility of your values is great enough, you will be able to deal with the tough circumstances of life.
3. Pay attention to how you feel physically. Your body is a major prophet, not a minor prophet. Maybe you have muscle tension, a headache, and knots in the stomach in different moments in your life. Sometimes, what’s going on in your body will tell you what your values are and if they are being violated. This is not the only way to determine your values, but it’s a part of the value assessment process. On a daily basis, take the time to ask yourself how your day went and which moments brought you tremendous joy and which moments made you feel uncomfortable or uneasy. Journal your answers and use them to reflect periodically. Your answers over time will give you an indication of what you find important and which frustrations you need to think about addressing more intentionally.
4. Remind yourself that you are a guardian of the values. You have to nourish them, and then you have to protect them. Historically, the people we remember most are the ones who paid the price for their values: The Nelson Mandela’s, Martin Luther King Jr.’s, Rosa Parks, Steve Biko, etc. These are my heroes. Find some heroes of your own. List them below.