Life is mainly froth and bubble. Two things stand like stone; kindness in another’s trouble; courage in your own. Adam Lindsay Gordon
Having determined my purpose in life was living to my highest self, I thought it timely to look at who I felt I was by reflecting on my earlier stated values, beliefs, and attitudes. When exploring these I had started with over 200, crossed off ones that didn’t apply, categorized, and gradually reduced the list to ones I felt most important.
I was amazed how closely my chosen values compared to what philosophers and theologians describe as virtues. Virtues refer to moral attitudes, something ‘good’. Each virtue has either a ‘bad’ opposite, a vice (honesty vs deceit) or is the moral mid-point between a deficiency and excess (courage vs cowardice or foolhardiness). Virtues stated historically across civilizations and cultures are faith (belief), hope, charity (kindness) , wisdom, justice (fairness), temperance, and courage. There is no choice in virtues. We either have them or we do not.
In contrast the more recent term values imply a freedom of choice, with no good or bad, no virtue or vice. Any opposite is simply a different chosen way of living (spontaneity vs caution). With an emphasis in society on freedom of choice, and living by chosen values in order to reach lifestyle goals; values have become personality preferences aimed at something to have (health, wealth, success, prestige, popularity, happiness).
Conversely virtues describe something to be (honest, kind, considerate). As virtues become habits, they make the foundation of character. They become something that to give (trust, respect, courtesy) and guide us on what to do (show courage, care, fairness). They make us who we are. Virtues are what is now often termed ‘character strengths’.
Getting back to my own stated values, beliefs and attitudes; how was it that most of the ones I picked out could be regarded as virtues or character strengths? My upbringing had something to do with it as I am a child of the 60’s where these were taught at school, church and home. My circumstance contributed, as suffering a huge loss of my marriage ending changed the way I valued things. However, I feel the main reason was the inner priority I placed on my values, and the core guiding principle of someone to be as opposed to something to have.
My original lengthy list of ‘values’, was reduced down by thinking of situations where I had to prioritise, where I had to choose between my own values. In an ideal world I value many things – finishing tasks, excellence, good health, orderliness – to name a few. However, when a loved one becomes ill, if a family member or friend needs my support; some ‘values’ disappear. To me, punctuality, having a tidy house, or finishing a work project are of lower importance than being caring, kind and dependable. Without realising at the time, I was prioritising my values. I was dividing them into essential and non-essential. I was placing more importance on the values of ‘being’ how I wanted to be, and thereby ‘doing’ what I considered the right thing, over what I wanted to ‘have’. My stated lists were in fact my ‘core’ values, my top priorities, those values that always mattered, those values that I feel should never be compromised.
If I was to prioritise further, I would regard my top four priority values are to be courageous, kind, fair and wise; so that I may act with courage, kindness, fairness and wisdom. This is the way I feel I should be living my life. These values will enable me to “live to my highest self”. It is these core values that I feel will guide me to be the person who I want to be.
My core “Values”, “Beliefs”, and “Attitudes” are listed and linked in 40 steps to me.
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