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.

Image courtesy [nongpimmy]

31 thoughts on “Priorities

      • Interesting– you always make me think deeply.

        Now I’m wondering, in cases were we lose trust/respect, do we lose our commitment to the values of trustworthiness and respectfulness, do some people in our life, by their choices and actions, lose the trust and respect you had given them? If that’s the way it went–the loss is theirs (although the grief they caused will be something that shapes us). I mean, maybe respect and trust are something we give, not something we lose, unless we behave disrespectfully or chose to be untrustworthy.

      • Now you made me think. In the beginning I had thought I had lost trust and respect (shown to me) and it is the acceptance of the fact that I probably never had it in the first place that is extremely hard to bear. What has been lost is the trust and respect previously given to other people which, as you say, is their lost. However it takes a LONG time (I am two years down the track) to re-commit to those values of my inner being and to live again by them, which has two halves of being trustworthy and being trusting.

        I wrote a post on trust about a year ago:

      • Our grandparents and the legacy they leave us! I had an autograph book! I wonder where that is? It’s too bad kids don’t have those these days, but I guess there’s facebook and people leaving their comments all over that…

      • So true… somehow face-book is not the same. My autograph book has some fairly silly comments from my school friends yet some treasured ones from my Dad, grandmother and others who have passed on. I used to LOVE reading my grandmother’s own autograph book because it had quotes and drawings and comments by people I did and didn’t know and it gave me insight into their character and personalities. Here is one of my favourites from one of my aunts..

        “A few little lines about love….
        ____ ____ _____ ____ ___
        ____ ____ LOVE ____ _____
        ____ ____ _____ _____

      • awww that’s awesome! You’re right about autograph books and their messages from the past. Geesh I hope mine is still around… I want to read it now.


      • Oops, WP mucked up my last comment. Did you receive it? Here is the bit they mucked up which was at the end of the message, and I have now tried to correct it 🙂

        “A few little lines about love….
        ____ ____ _____ ____ ___
        ____ ____ LOVE ____ _____
        ____ ____ _____ _____ ____

      • Yeah I did see it! Although the lines are in a different pattern now…am I missing a message within a message somehow? Oh lines about love! d’oh it’s morning here – forgive me!

  1. What a great post Elizabeth. Love how you honed your list down to essential and non-essential, and then identified your core values. Great insight and inspiration.

    I also find it fascinating how those pivotal moments in our lives, those instances where it would appear, ‘all is lost’, become the defining moments where we see what is, or isn’t, important in our lives.


    • Sometimes I think I could have done quite well without all my “all is lost” defining moments 🙂 yet they have definitely taught me who I am, what I am made of and, as you say, what is most important to me.
      I have a vivid picture of your story from 10 years ago when you were all alone and made the decision to survive so I know that you understand how “defining” those defining moments really are. Thanks for your support.

  2. I like how you took the time to identify your core values. They can provide a lot of guidance and direction. I know that businesses often identify core values, and I really like the idea of individuals also thinking about their core values.

    • Sometimes your values are just there, you simply live by them. However, sometimes you need to carefully examine them and either accept them again or reject them. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Excellent, Elizabeth. So much self discovery going on here. I commend you your insights on the value of being, & being true.

  4. Dear Elizabeth,
    In a world fraught with pain and troubles, so very few rise up from the ashes to rebuild their lives around virtues. The virtues of kindness and courage, fairness and wisdom. Oh my heart is warmed up and inspired by you today! I haven’t been here in a while but your journey into your highest self makes me want to squeeze your hands in joy. For are we not warriors together?Making something beautiful out of our lives. Much love, Sharon

  5. You are truly showing that you are following the quote’s essence, by being kind, leading a good life, I do believe in your journey and continuing to grow and learn along the way. I am sure I could become more kind, show more courage and lead a better life. This is very inspiring and I am sending you hugs!

  6. Elizabeth, the entire post is insightful, valuable, and helpful. What I appreciate most–in addition to all the other appreciative comments made–is the focused to have ~ to be ~ to give ~ to do ~ and I would add one more ~ to embrace.
    I like this post very much.

  7. Kindness and courage are such important qualities in forming a good character. It is very important to empathize with others, caring about them, but finding the courage to act and go beyond one’s comfort zone… that is the real act of courage!!

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