It makes a difference.
Values are a core part of knowing who you are, they’ve become an accepted part of the self-awareness journey, so why aren’t things changing for you?
Like boundaries, values can be co-opted as a space holder.
What I mean by that is: there’s a difference between saying you have values and acting in line with your values.
There’s a difference between just saying you’ll adhere to boundaries and doing that in every scenario. Especially when you’re feeling fear.
Similarly, there’s a difference between having values and knowing which value to align to in each moment. A certain amount of this will come naturally when crunch time hits, but how do we cultivate this behavior in our lives when things seem sultry and slow? How do we do this when fear has beset us?
It has to be integrated and learned so deeply in your behavior that it comes as second nature. Cultivate it. Practice it when the heat is off, so when the heat is on, your body doesn’t have to ‘think’ to perform this task.
The difference isn’t because one person is ‘bad’, ‘narcissistic’ or ‘toxic’, necessarily.
The difference is that they haven’t integrated those words — the values, into meaning in their lives and therefore there is an incentive to act from that place, there is no incentive to be mean and cruel because deep down we all know that those don’t get our needs met, they are a form of protection.
Now, there may be underdeveloped aspects of the person which we could label narcissistic, for constructive and destructive reasons, which might help us to understand that person, why it happened and whether we want to be a part of it — or more crucially, whether we are safe in that environment.
Once we understand them, we can know whether we are aligned to their way of life, whether it suits us.
Behaviour is much more likely to happen consistently when we attach meaning to it.
Take the value of kindness as an example. We cannot be kind to everyone that we meet, it’s impossible because kindness is an impact on a person based on their perception of what is constructive to them.
If you finished a plate of food in China, for example, you wouldn’t have been kind to the host, you’d be saying to them that they cannot afford to satiate you at their table. In the West it is the opposite, it is kind to finish your plate to show that you enjoyed it.
So kindness relies on like-minded individuals who share a perception of what kindness means.
Take those individuals as an example, perhaps your wife, husband, or children. When you act in an unkind way and they verbally or physically convey the pain that you’ve caused them, they are giving you a consequence to your actions, they are letting you know the impact of those actions on them.
If you accept and integrate this knowledge into your consciousness, the next time you think about being unkind, these impacts will also be apparent in your thoughts and you’ll be less likely to be unkind.
Values are much more complex than we would like to admit, most things are.
Even considering the fact that kindness doesn’t look the same in someone else’s eyes directly challenges the identity that you are a kind person. Someone who doesn’t share your perception will not think you to be kind.
That’s not going to feel good.
This is where cultivating a sense of resonation is key. Finding the people that share your idea of kindness, and being kind to them. Working out what other people’s idea of kindness is and understanding if you can serve them in that way.
When we have an endless list of values, we tend to be stagnant and stuck, the reason being that there is always going to be conflictive interest in our values.
When faced with a situation, do I act in kindness, or do I act in providing for my family?
Hopefully, these two things align, but I know plenty of history tells us that they often don’t. Which one would you choose?
When faced with a complex situation that has conflictive interests in it, we tend to distract from it or ignore it until it’s too late to do anything other than take the easy way out; the way we’re forced to take.
This phrase is confusing because the easy way out is often very hard, and not as easy as it would have been to make a decision that makes you feel like you have autonomy and integrity.
Having a core value is beneficial in those situations. You get to align to the core value and keep making small steps towards the goal.
A side note: There are times when listening to conflictive interests is a good thing, if it consistently doesn’t feel good to you, then maybe you’re not supposed to be doing it.
Back to the main point, it’s useful to narrow down your values to a top seven, or a top ten. We’re not being linear or rigid here, some people have ten, others have seven. A way of directing the energy of your life into those areas.
Then, if a complex situation arises and you notice you’re stuck, allocate a core value in this area of your life and proceed to take small steps forward, aligning with that value.
When clients come for coaching they are often presenting an issue that turns out to be complex and conflictive between their values.
Helping them to pick through the different aspects of their situation often allows clarity to emerge around what value they’d like to align to most, and then the forward movement comes back, they know exactly what to do next.
We are naturally forward-thinking as human beings, otherwise, we wouldn’t have evolved so much in such a short period of time. Trust in that.
In grateful service.