What you truly believe has consequences. What you think about over and over in the "stories" you tell yourself eventually comes out in your behavior. It comes out in the things you say and the things you do. Your beliefs also powerfully shape your feelings. Your feelings in turn also come back to shape your beliefs. This happens in part because your feelings wind up being shaped by the feedback you get from the actions you take.
Ultimately, your beliefs create your values and your habits. You can simply try to choose new beliefs, but until your change your behavior and your patterns of thinking, they won't stick. You still really believe something you don't want to own up to. You'll be a hypocrite to one extent or another. When your thoughts, feelings and actions all basically agree with each other then you can honestly say you believe what you think you do.
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
– Mahatma Gandhi
Values are the principles that you use to help you choose what to do. They have a strong emotional component to them. They have you as much as you have them. This means that your core values are discovered and not "made up" by your choosing, deciding or simply saying that they are what you'd like to think they are. This also means that you already have them and need to recognize them for what they are.
As you recognize them, you will be happy with some of them, but when you find yourself "compromising your values," you're really in the process of discovering that you have more fundamental, and less attractive, values that you need to own up to. You can't become the person you believe you are or want to be otherwise.
How to Discover Your Core Values
This isn't something you can just do in your head, so grab a sheet of paper and title it "My Core Values" Then ask yourself the questions: "What are the most important things in my life right now?," "What is most meaningful to me?," "What do I really like?" and other similar questions.
As you write your answers down, think about how and when you've acted on those assumed or apparent values. Also think about the times and ways you haven't and have "compromised" them. What uncomfortable values are reflected by those choices?
After you have your starting list, ask yourself, "Why is ______ important to me?" or "What does ______ mean to me?" Think about how these answers reflect more fundamental values you need to consider may be your core values. Are you starting to see any common themes in your answers? These may help you identify your values better.
When you are satisfied with your list for the time being, put the items in order of their importance to you. Do any of them require that any of the others come first? Pick the first 3 to 5 and make a "good copy" of them to hang up somewhere you can see it regularly. Refrigerators, bathroom mirrors, front doors and dashboards may be good choices.
When you see your list remind yourself of each point and notice how you react to it. How do your feelings for each of them change or develop over time? Do you need to update your list? Remember this is a process of discovery. It is also an opportunity to be more aware of what you really want and who you really want to become.
How to Change Your Values
Changing your values starts with paying attention to your choices. What are you choosing? What led up to a choice you're not really comfortable with? How about the ones you're really happy with? Do you still need to own up to some bad values?
The most important unattractive or bad values we commonly have, don't notice or don't want to admit to ourselves are (1) simple laziness, convenience or pleasure in the moment and (2) people pleasing or avoiding trouble with others.
Changing our values starts with recognizing the feelings we are left with after we've made our choices and acted on them. Our values will automatically shift as we start to live them and let them shape our choices in the future. Ultimately, our values become our habits.
B. J. Fogg's Change Tips
"How to practice the right way."
- Pick the habits you want to create based on what you genuinely want, not should do or need to do. Start with what you have energy and a desire for.
- If what you're practicing isn't really working, look for ways to revise it. Experiment with parts of it to make it work better. Expect that you won't get it right the first time. "It's a design challenge, not a motivation challenge."
- Have fun with it. If you're too serious, uptight, stressed or perfectionistic about it, you reduce your ability to change. Be playful and light to be open to possibility. Be flexible and adapt.
Why Tiny Habits Work
- We start to see how small changes start to make a big difference.
- We notice we are having better days more consistently.
- We realize how easy it can be to change.
- We feel less stuck.
Procrastination – We keep putting off what we say we want or need to do. This tends to keep us stressed and makes us even more stressed when deadlines loom.
Dysfunctional Independence – We indulge or inner two year old and defiantly say to ourselves, "I don't have to!" No, we don't have to, but we're the ones that keep losing out.
A Bad Solenoid – We just find excuses to not get started. If we remember that we'll actually enjoy what we would be doing more than we think and would definitely be happier when we got it done, we'll start more reliably.
Drugs, Alcohol and Addictions – These just keep us trapped looking for or waiting for our next opportunity. They also damage our relationships.
Unhealthy Habits – Bad eating habits, a lack of exercise and poor sleep rob us of the energy we need to live life with more enthusiasm. We don't more forward because we don't feel as good as we easily enough could.
Not Paying Attention – We live too much on autopilot. We let our negative habits roll on. We don't make connections between what we're doing and the consequences, especially the feelings, we experience. We miss opportunities to enjoy life, and we feel stuck.
Poor Self-Talk and Poor Thinking Habits –
We beat ourselves up, downplay our abilities, give in to our fears, don't think realistically and miss our chances for making things better and happier because we're stuck on the negativity channel.
A Lack of Healthy Relationships – If you have no friends or a few bad friends (who accept or encourage your bad habits), you lack one of the most important ingredients for making life happy. Start looking for people you like for their good qualities. Start talking to them and build new friendships. Spend more time with people you can admire.
Seven Emotionally Healthy Habits
"Remember to put your own oxygen mask on first."
– Your Flight Attendant
- Calmness – If we practice staying calm in the middle of misbehavior, weirdness and life's difficult moments, we can stay responsive to others and learn be present with our own feelings. Learning calmness enables us to make better choices. We can be aware of our emotions and not have to act on them.
- Selectiveness – We need to learn to be selective to what we say yes to. We need to say no, not just to bad or inappropriate things, but to some good things to respect higher values and priorities. We need to manage our time, busyness and not create a hectic, frantic life around us. We need to leave room for the better things that will come along.
- Cheerfulness – We need to build cheerfulness into our lives. Fun, humor and a dose of silliness are important to living well, maintaining perspective and even being healthy.
- "Allness" – We practice "allness" when we are "all there", when we are fully present wherever we are and in whatever situation we find ourselves. Multitasking is not a good thing for our relationships. We need to put our phones and electronics away when we're with others. We need to be emotionally present, pay attention and listen. We need to invest time and energy into those around us.
- Forgetfulness – We need to practice "selective amnesia". We need to accept our mistakes. We don't need to live in them. We do need to ask for forgiveness, not make excuses and not accept laziness or sloppiness in ourselves, and we need to move on to what lies ahead. We can stop beating ourselves up.
- Curiosity – We can learn to ask questions gently and curiously about what's happened rather than making statements forcefully and judgmentally. You can be curious and listen or closed and talk. We can ask questions or give opinions. You can practice humility or arrogance. What does the other person need in this moment?
- Courageousness – We need to become open, authentic and transparent with those we are close to. We need to have the courage, the heart, to tell others who we are, including our secrets, hurts, habits, hang ups and mistakes. (Our shame always keeps us prisoners.)
(Section adapted from Craig Jutila's
Seven Habits of Emotionally Healthy Parents)
Questions for Journaling
- What do you value more than anything else? What comes second and third? How do you live out your most important values every day?
- When have you found yourself compromising or being inconsistent with your values?
- How do you share your values with those you know? What values do you want your children to learn from you?
What one small thing could you begin doing this week to make life better?
- How can you remind yourself to pay more attention to what you’re doing and the choices you’re making this week?
Christopher D. Connors, The Value of You: The Guide to Living Boldly and Joyfully Through the Power of Core Values (Patricia William Publishing, 2017)
James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones (2018)
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Random House, 2014)
Stephen Guise, Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results (2013)
Stephen Guise, How to Be an Imperfectionist: The New Way to Self-Acceptance, Fearless Living, and Freedom from Perfectionism (2015)
Joanna Jast, Hack Your Habits: An Unusual Guide to Escape Motivational Traps, Bypass Willpower Problems and Accelerate Your Success (2016)
Gregg Krech, The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology (2014)
Robert Maurer, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way (2014)
Quotes for the Week
Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
Ursula K. Le Guin
It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.
Remember: we all get what we tolerate. So, stop tolerating excuses within yourself, limiting beliefs of the past, or half-assed or fearful states.
Henry David Thoreau
I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.... We need not wait to see what others do.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?" Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You're playing small does not serve the world.... As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Verses for the Week
How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.
James 3:13-14, 17
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show it by his good behavior, and his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.... But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering and without hypocrisy.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing: fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, the things that are right and pure, whatever is lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of talking about and celebrating.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Do not be conformed to the everyday world. Be transformed by renewing your mind, so that by testing you can discern what God's will is, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
2 Peter 1:5-8
Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer for the Week
Help me pay attention to the choices I make this week and see the values that they reflect. Help me see the impact they have not only on me but on those around me. I want to practice being a better me this week. Help me replace the habits that hurt me and those around me with habits that build us up. Help me build new habits that reflect my real values and that make my life stronger, happier and more energetic. I want to be an example to those who know me. Amen.