I have written values. They are as follows:
- Kids first
Values are a prism through which one can view life, set goals, and make decisions. Values can help you get and keep your life on track. In short, having set, written values will allow you to more easily navigate through life. I can’t say that I exemplify everything on my list… in reality, some of them (especially under the “self-mastery” category) are there because I am trying very hard to integrate them more fully into my life.
Kids first: I’ll not dive too deeply into this one, as it is self-explanatory. Simply, I make my kids my unquestioned first priority and motivation for most everything I do. Really, nothing more needs to be said.
Self mastery is a constellation of several things… self-discipline, grit, kaizen, positivity, growth mindset, and stoicism.
Self-discipline: My personal discipline is an ongoing struggle, especially when it comes to being consistent over an extended period of time (I suppose that’s true for all of us, though) (so maybe I shouldn’t be so damn hard on myself when I stumble, huh?) (anyway…)
Discipline applies to so many things; not just getting to the gym, eating right, or showing up to work on time. Ultimately, it boils down to doing what you should do, when you should do it… whether you feel like it or not.
- It’s about standards.
- It’s about execution.
- It’s about being consistent.
- It’s about self-control.
- It’s about goals, little and big.
- It’s the difference between mediocrity and excellence, between success and failure.
Grit is the ability to keep going over time, even when things get rough, even as one’s initial motivation wears off and the shine dampens on that goal.
Growth mindset is the difference between “I can do better” and “I am the way I am”. A person with a growth mindset sees their self as capable of evolution. Someone with a fixed mindset feels that if they meet a challenge that they can’t overcome initially, that’s it. Game over. The growth mindset person comes face-to-face with failure and considers how they might change to meet and overcome that challenge. This is something that I am working on quite a bit of late. Having read Carol Dweck’s book about this subject, I can see where having a growth mindset would be the foundation for a lot of personal development.
Kaizen is closely allied with the growth mindset. It is a Japanese word that roughly translates as “constant and never-ending improvement”. To me, it means ‘better every day”. My goal is to do something each and every day that will improve me and/ or my life in some fashion. That can mean many different things.
- One more rep or a little more distance in a workout (or maybe trying out a new yoga pose!).
- Polishing a scene from my new novel.
- Work on getting better organized.
I could go on and on (and on and on and on) with this. I will spare you the details. Ultimately, the phrase “better every day” is what matters here.
By positivity, I don’t mean a pollyanish/ rose-colored glasses outlook 24/ 7/ 365. To me, it’s more about making sure that I don’t default to the negative, admittedly a hard task at times.
Stoicism is something I have only recently begun studying. Ultimately, it’s less about being like Mr. Spock and more about choosing one’s reaction to the ebb and flow of life. In short: “Men are disturbed not by things, but the views which they take of them” (Epictetus, Enchiridion).
I have long been a practitioner of cognitive behavioral therapy. The main thrust of CBT is identifying and challenging negative, unproductive thoughts… thoughts that can lead one down the path to anxiety and depression. Stoicism exemplifies that.
NOTE: I plan to cover CBT in more depth in another post.
Intelligence: I value intelligence in myself and others. It’s important to devote time and energy to learning and enhancing one’s cognitive skills… everyday (see Kaizen, above). Granted, there are those that seem to have a greater degree of natural intelligence than others. Good for them, but I am more concerned with, as above, valuing intelligence along with prioritizing intellectual growth and development. So do a little something on a daily basis to expand your mind:
- Learn a new word (and use it).
- Make it a point to learn something new everyday.
- Watch a documentary.
- Take an online course about something of interest to you.
- Conquer a challenging brain teaser or some other puzzle.
- Listen to some music that you might not normally listen to.
- Read non-fiction when you usually read fiction.
- Read poetry when you usually read prose.
- Just read. A lot.
Being “dumb” is not funny. It’s not cool. We were all born with a certain amount of native intelligence, and I believe that we all have a certain amount of responsibility to ourselves and those around us to work diligently at developing it.
Integrity is two-fold. One, it’s all about treating others as I would want to be treated (to act in any other way is, in my view, a bit hypocritical). Two, it’s simply about being honest and doing right by yourself and others. Fortunately, the two typically go together.
I don’t like it when people are rude to me or those I care about, so I won’t treat others that way. I don’t like it when people try to take what’s mine, thus I won’t do that to anyone else.
Ultimately, it’s very simple: fair is fair.
Harmony: I’m not one to argue just for the sake of arguing. I believe that life is much easier when people at least try to get along. Yes, I will stand up myself and my beliefs when necessary, but I carefully pick my battles. Striving for harmony has become more important as our nation (and world) becomes more divided. So many people are consumed with labels and being right all the time. They insult others merely because someone dares disagree with them.
We need more people who at least attempt to get along with others. Ultimately, we are stronger when we band together.
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that translates to “reason for being”. Having an ikigai to consider can have a powerful, galvanizing effect on your life. My children certainly give me a reason for being, but I also strive to encourage and inspire those who struggle in life, as I have.
As I stated above, your values can act as framework for decision-making as well as a guide to how you conduct yourself. Take for example, the current state of political discourse. I see people become unhinged and hurl insults at one another, all as a result of differing opinions. Some post memes and links with no attempt to verify any “facts” therein... information that defies credulity. There are those who try to appear authoritative, yet exhibit sub third grade English skills. Being mindful of some of the value above could help in any of these instances:
- Before calling that person on the other side of the ideological aisle an “idiot”, or throwing out the insult du jour, why don’t you stop and think? Does insulting this person advance your cause or boost your argument? Name calling helps no one while deepening the divides between people.
- Prior to posting that meme about the other side’s candidate, take just a moment to do a little research. A quick Google search will generally give you a sense of whether your post is factual or not. A minimal investment of time and effort will help prevent the spread of untruths.
- I have seen comments on political posts that are so poorly written as to be incoherent. Take a second to capitalize, punctuate, and put that spell check to use.
Take a moment. Take a deep breath. Think. Acting completely on the emotion of the moment helps no one and serves nothing. Exert just a bit of self discipline and rise above the this mire. Use your intelligence to make certain that your comment is, at least, legible. Consider whether jumping into that argument is worth disturbing your harmony. I could go on, but I don’t wish to belabor the point.
There are times that one’s values can conflict with one another.
Navigate using your values as a road map, and your life will certainly be richer and more peaceful.