Jayson’s post, Living by a Code, combined with my after-lunch coffee 🙂 , got me all kinds of excited. This is, by far, one of my favorite subjects. As Peter Marshal (1947), Malcom X (not sure of the year), Alexander Hamilton (1978) and others have said, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”.
Think about what that means. If you, as an individual, have not established and committed to your core set of values, you are much, much, much more likely to simply “go along” with any apparently attractive idea — without consideration of whether the idea is actually beneficial for you or those who depend on you. If you have not established your core set of values, you have no framework for weighing the pros and cons of life’s toughest decisions.
Let’s say, for example, that I’m back in high school. It’s Friday afternoon, and I have an unfinished paper due on Monday. All of my friends are planning to attend a birthday bash that is expected to be the biggest and best of the year. My friends mean only good things when they implore me to join them. The social possibilities for the night seem unlimited. Every girl in school will be there!!! (LOL) … What should I do? More importantly, WHY should I do it? … While it’s easy to say that I should finish my paper, it’s much tougher to actually do it, especially while the birthday party looms as a beacon of adolescent bliss. Even if my parents lay down the law and force me to stay home all weekend to work on the paper, they cannot force me to put my heart and soul into my work… This is where my set of values needs to kick in. I must understand why it is important, to me, to finish my paper on time and with the best quality of which I am capable.
Any of us could look back on the last days, weeks, months or years of our lives and glean hundreds of examples. Many of our examples would be more thorny, controversial or even critical to our immediate safety. At least mine would 🙂 … But ALL of our examples, at their root, are subject to a decision-making process that is driven by our core values. If we don’t have that set of court values, then we may as well leave life’s crucial decisions up to the flip of a coin. Most of us would not treat life’s decisions with such frivolity, so most of us would wholeheartedly agree that it is super important that we each: 1) know what our core set of values are, and 2) commit to living by those values every day of our lives.
The above said, I’d like to challenge anyone who reads this.. What are YOUR core values? From where did you get them? Why are they important to you? … Quickly enumerate your core set of values, without the benefit of quickly referring to any other source. Don’t worry about forgetting one or ordering your values by priority. Just list them out as quickly as you can as a reply to this post.
I’ll go first. Here are the values by which I live my life and make decisions, both trivial and crucial, on a daily basis:
- Respect every person, unless their behavior indicates they are not worthy of your respect… I initially got this one from my dad. At a very early age, in a variety of ways, he instilled in me the belief that respect is everything. So many accepted principles, whether they be rooted in religion, culture or law are elaborations on the principle of interpersonal respect. For instance, I believe in not infringing on another’s right to live. That covers stealing, murder and all sorts of betrayal… As with all things, however, there are limits 🙂 . I am not necessarily a gentle soul in response to people failing to conduct themselves in respectful fashion 🙂 .
- Believe in yourself. Never let anyone else define your worthiness to pursue the life that you desire to pursue… My mother planted this seed when she helped me to see that some of my characteristics, which made me a pretty weird kid by many accounts (LMAO), actually make me special. I began to understand that we are each unique, and we each bring something different to the table. Both of my parents, at various times during my young life, highlighted those aspects of my makeup that enable me to do things that not everyone else can do. As the IBM commercials used to say “What makes YOU special?”… One of the most important things any of us can do is to understand our strengths and weaknesses, as well as how we are each valuable members of our chosen communities.
- Be true to your word. Only make promises that you believe you can keep. Do everything within reason to keep any promise that you make… I’ve heard or read this from many people; but this value has been instilled in me by life, itself. I’ve learned that key to any collaboration is trust among participants. We cannot realistically expect that anyone should believe in what we state unless we have a track record of living up to what we say we will do. Sure, there are times when a leap of faith is required. There are many more times, however, when a person’s or organization’s track record tells us what we need to know… If I want my track record to tell a story that is commiserate with how I desire to be perceived, then I need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
- Advocate for and defend yourself as well as everyone who depends on and is true to you… My friends and family taught me this. When we advocate for ourselves and for groups with which we associate ourselves, we affirm our belief in what we say we represent. When we do not advocate for ourselves, we tacitly express a wavering belief in that for which we stand… Before “yo mama” jokes became socially acceptable (and hilarious LOL), to mention another person’s mother or father in anything but a positive light was, in some neighborhoods, to risk your life. Beyond the obvious emotional attachment most of us have to our parents, there is something else at play here. Many of us identify with our parents. When someone assaults their character, they assault our character. When we stand up for them, we are standing up for ourselves… The same goes for teams, companies and circles of friends. By advocating for our group, we advocate the values for which that group stands.
- Always seek to improve… If I’m not getting better in some way, I truly feel I am wasting the gift of my life. This one just feels right!
- Never quit… My understanding of this principle was actually solidified by negative examples, which I will not specify in this public forum. I’ve experienced many occurrences of people quitting on themselves. There are many ways to give up, and they may not all be obvious… For example, consider a person who is facing seemingly insurmountable debt, and decides to rob a bank. That person is giving up. That person is very likely to be imprisoned for a substantial amount of time. Anyone who depends on that person will not, at least for the length of that person’s imprisonment, be able to depend on that person. That person will, by force, be precluded from continuing to pursue a “normal” life… The examples are too numerous to enumerate here. The point is that, even when life seems to present an unsurpassable dead end, we cannot allow ourselves to simply quit. We have to continue to seek alternative routes; and we need to do everything within our power to do so in accordance with our core values. Even if there is no magically happy ending in sight, we can at least look ourselves in the mirror and respect what we see, and maintain belief in ourselves.. As long as we can believe in ourselves, we are never completely “out”, and there is always hope.
Your turn 🙂 …