Now the real basis for my “Things I Believe” series of posts is Personal Values. There are more than 8. They are the foundation and platform upon which all other values and beliefs in my hierarchy are built. They are my personal internal compass. You may find this to be true for you, too.
There are, it seems, dozens of “values and beliefs hierarchies” out there. Two common examples are Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, to Tony Robbins’ alignment of values with individual goals through neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). They all have great merit and add perspective to understanding values and beliefs.
For me, I have found another hierarchy to work. One that is a bit more pragmatic and basic. Simply put, it is my “applied values” model which structures my thinking and actions. Values are important but they can be exhausting and stressful if you think about them too much.
We should not have to think about our values and beliefs for every day to day action we take. Instead, our values and beliefs should become more instinctive, with practice. We can build our own pragmatic values and beliefs system to become innate through experience, and the constitution of our experiences and thought. To do so, reduces the potential for cognitive dissonance in our own mind and through our actions.
“Cognitive dissonance is: […] the feeling of discomfort when holding two or more conflicting ideas, beliefs, values emotional reactions simultaneously.” Source: Wikipedia.
What does that all mean? It’s really not super complicated – in fact it is simple. Take a moment and ponder, then write down, your own beliefs. Categorize them, and arrange them the way your mind likes to build and align hierarchies.
Perhaps my “Things I Believe” series has got you thinking about doing this anyway. Here’s how my hierarchy fits together.
Your Leadership, Strategy and Management Values reflect – and are built upon – your own system of personal values and beliefs.
11 Things I Believe – Personal Values
As you read mine, remember, this is not a complete list. Also, put yourself in the shoes of one who is both applying and living these values, and in the shoes of someone who is experiencing one who exhibits these values. If that sounds like “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you” thinking, that’s good, it is very close. These are in no particular order.
Pay it forward, with grace. This is defined by actions, not a statement or words. It is something you must strive to do, constantly. Not something you just “say you do.” Be cautious of others that repetitiously talk about paying it forward, when their actions don’t show it. Justice is good, mercy is better, but giving with grace is greatest above all.
Give more than you take.The law of giving has been proven over and over that you always get more than you give. The Lennon-McCartney line: “And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give.” is not exactly correct – the truth is you get more love than you give.
Consume less, and you will have fewer problems. Consuming stuff is overrated. For many, early on we race to acquire “stuff.” That is, “stuff” our childish inner self felt we were deprived of. Stuff we thought would make us happy. Most realize this path does not lead to happiness. Others continue to consume without considering the cost and distraction from doing good for others (see “Give…,” above). In the end, consuming and owning too much stuff is a burden. Set yourself free – consume and keep less “stuff.”
Value the time you have been given. Time is the one thing that you cannot hoard, the more you have, the less you have. It is methodical, and is the only constant in our lives. Make the best use of it now, as it will feel like it is accelerating as you get older.
Be modestly humble, not confidently arrogant. In the long run, and in the short-run, everyone sees through the facade. You know those around you that have to talk all the time, be the center of attention, hog the spotlight. Those that for all intents and purposes, feel the world revolves around them. Avoid those people in your life. It will bring peace, and enable you to be truly humble and sincerely giving of yourself.
Love everyone, but associate with people with shared values.To give more than you take, you gently evangelize others to understand your enlightenment. Nurturing a community of people with shared values will ensure you have support when you have a crisis. And, we know that there’s nothing like a crisis to find out who your friends and family really are. If they don’t share your values, they disappear in times of crisis, as you no longer have something to offer them to consume.
Accept responsibility when things go awry. Be the first to apologize when things are not right. It changes the tone of the conversation from one of argument and blame to one of common ground and resolution. Apologize both swiftly and fully. It’s a form of giving that will keep on giving back.
Teach others the difference between goals and projects.Goals deliver recognizable and significant contribution. Projects are just tasks and activities. Achieving a goal is far more valuable than finishing a project. When a project becomes unnecessary or can be innovated out, then it is no longer worth completing. Teaching others to recognize this will ensure more accomplishment in life.
Forgive others often and swiftly. Forgiveness is for the forgiver, not for the forgiven. Learn and teach others that in life, forgiving others is a liberating experience. With practice it becomes easy to do, and to see the value, outcome and results possible from forgiving and moving on. Humans make mistakes and fail regularly. If you want a second chance, you must be able to give others second chances.
Speak the truth. Now more than ever, social transparency exposes the truth, and uncovers deception. The only way to keep it all straight and not be perceived as inconsistent, insincere, unbelievable or false is to stick to the truth. Truth builds trust.
Build trust by giving trust. If you want others to trust you, you must trust them. Somewhere humans lose their memory of how instinctive it was for them as an infant and child, to trust their parents and adults around them. You must be perceived as trustworthy, by telling the truth. You can earn trust by first trusting others with responsibility. Empowering others builds trust. This is an exercise that involves risk, but there is no alternative. The rewards exceed the risk.
I have friends who went through a bitter divorce. Both had equally contributed to this eventual step. The path for divorce included horrible custody battles and no permanent resolution. Neither party could allow the other to move on. It was a horrible stalemate that damaged both the husband and the wife. Worse yet, it permanently damaged the children. After years of bitter disputes, judge-refereed court battles, and more, the wife forgave the husband. For her it was the opportunity to move on, and begin the course of recovery.
The forgiveness did not absolve responsibility for the failure that the husband had contributed. Forgiveness was the letting go and recognition that holding bitter blame would lock the wife into cognitive dissonance that could not be survived. The couple did not get back together. And, the husband did not forgive the wife. He remains bitter. But the wife is no longer burdened with the self-inflicted guilt and shame that kept her bitterness alive. She is able to move on and has set an example for others. Her relationship with her children continues to recover also.
Now you have seen my hierarchy of values and beliefs. I’ve tried not to make this too complicated or academic. Although, I have presented them in a bit of a backwards order – somewhat intentionally. I was not exhaustive, as no one can be in this exercise. It is a process and journey of discovery that doesn’t end, but keeps on growing. Take this opportunity to think about your values – write them down. As humans, we are predisposed to only remembering the last few most recent thoughts. If you begin to write them down, you will begin to develop your own hierarchy of values and beliefs. Doing so is an important project to do again and again, in order to make your actions follow your values more instinctively – it is the practice that I mentioned earlier.
Please leave a comment and share with others your experience with personal values.