I’m fortunate to have been born in America, to two strong parents in suburbia Pennsylvania. I was also born a white male, which gave me yet another decided advantage in life. It was as if I was born five feet from the finish line, when others in the same race start from 100 miles away. Life is not fair. Many of the most successful people, by general standards, had a decided advantage that they had nothing to do with. I feel strongly that I am one of those people. Now, I do feel I’ve taken advantage of opportunities given to me and I have worked hard. Success can be easily lost, and often is for those who were basically gifted it from birth. I can at least say, at age 38, that I feel I have not squandered that gift.
As I have matured in my career, I have had a great deal of help from those people I call mentors and those who have mentored me without knowing it. Any success I may boast of likely has more to do with those around me, and the advice of others, than it has anything to do with my own actions. I share this because the best decision I’ve made is to think, meditate, pray and rest on what my real values are. More specifically, how, no matter what circumstances I find myself in, that I live them consistently. This is something I chose, it was not a gift. This is a choice I personally made and I personally must live out. It is something that everyone of any persuasion can do. The external world does not have influence over this, therefore it can be universally applied by all.
My top 3 values:
These are the filters through which I choose my behaviors. They aid in fine tuning my emotional intelligence. One is relatively easy for me. Two of them are not. Without these values I would be rudderless. Left to wander and use other people’s perception of ‘success’ as my own. Those I consider truly successful consistently live out the values they have deliberately chosen, and in that I feel they are giants among humans.
Living out thoughtful values is a challenging feat. For instance, compassion and selflessness are two of mine that are in direct conflict with my inherent needs and drives. I have a drive to compete, battle, win, be independent and solve problems. This can, and often does, lead me to selfish behavior. Or, in my pursuit of a goal, to those who are underperforming by my standards, I can lack compassion. These types of behaviors are inherent and are emerging before my conscious mind can make values based adjustments.
In pursuit of becoming more compassionate, I do my best to find people who cannot possibly hope to tangibly help me or pay me back for any kindness. Recently I have provided an ear to hear and a meal to a homeless man. I’ve also stayed present, which is very challenging for me to do, with someone who simply needed to be heard. These experiences are ways to practice the selflessness and compassion that I value, regardless of my predisposition to behavior in those ways. I challenge you right now to think about which of your inherent drives and needs work in opposition to your values?
I encourage you to know, and quote, your top three values. Keep them in front of your face, and give them to people who care about you. If you want guidance on some techniques to determine those values, reach out to me and I can share a few that have worked for me and others. The key here is to stay with the challenging, searching, question of your reason for being. What you materially accomplish in this world will pale in comparison to how you behaved on the road to those achievements. A person of values and character is built in inches everyday over a lifetime. It can, and will be, exhausting at times. What I can promise in full confidence is that it will be worth it.