As a younger person I always had a plan for the future as to what I wanted to do with my life. Each year my birthday resolutions would be a great list.of things to do and projects to embark on. So many of the things on those lists never got done. Likewise my life on a daily or weekly basis had always been one of never-ending ‘to-do’ lists all neatly categorized into work, family, self, and community; then sub-categorized further into urgent, non-urgent and pending.
When I turned fifty, I resolved that I did not want to focus anymore on what I wanted to do, but rather on what I wanted to be. This was an enlightening moment for me and included such things as being optimistic, assertive, determined, dependable, kind, and moral. Ten weeks after my husband left me I revisited those commitments, resolving to hold onto my core values and to develop a framework of principles and beliefs to live by. I did that over a twelve month period. I have set up a page with links to the posts on those reflections.
During that reflective period, when I came to ‘higher’ principles such as peace, freedom and democracy, I became stuck. Even though I knew I believed in those things and had openly stood up for those beliefs in the past, it seemed they would require from me such strength of moral conviction and character that at the time seemed quite beyond me. I even felt I may have lost those values. I know now that is not the case.
What I believe now is there are four levels of living by your own core values and these are:
- thinking (holding a belief or value)
- stating (resolving that belief is true by writing it down or saying it)
- committing (having a plan to act on it)
- acting on them.
Even the very best of us would struggle to act on more than one or two core values at a time; although several other values can be held one or two steps down at the resolution level. When I was back in the pain of grief it was taking all my energy to act on one value only and that was the value of courage. Two steps behind, I freely stated other values and beliefs such as kindness, responsibility and dependability; intending to act on them whenever i could. However, for the values very high up, it hurt to just think about them and, at the time, I could not think of any way I could act on them. They were held at level 1.
I have moved on.
At my sixtieth birthday celebrations with my family I spoke freely of all my values (level 2). When I came home I went one step further and committed to act on five of them: courage, kindness, fairness, responsibility and appreciation. I wrote down several ways of how I could act on those values and I drew up lists of those committed actions, what I resolved to do. I will be exploring those commitments over my next series of posts.
In some ways this may seem like going back to where I started from. Back to to-do lists, rather than to-be lists. However, it is different because the to-do lists are now underpinned by those to-be wishes. In my commitments I have added that little word …. ‘why’…. the purpose behind the actions.
As for those higher values?
1. Over the past six months I have seen myself browsing the internet and reading about world-wide issues that need resolving such as famine and poverty; I have engaged in discussions on issues of national and community importance with others; and I have commented on posts and articles. I have moved those values from thinking to stating.
2. Whilst holding every respect for those who commit to and act on global, national and community issues, I no longer consider those values are any ‘higher’ than other values. There is much honour in acting with grace and dignity throughout a personal crisis; or indeed acting with integrity throughout normal everyday life. I do not feel I have to solve world peace to live authentically as me.
Lovely Elizabeth – I totally agree, we bring what we value with us wherever we go and so we can be who we wish to be right now, don’t you think?
Yes, I hope so.
I learn so much from you!
And I from you.
Love those posts on the birds, by the way.
This is what stood out for me: There is much honour in acting with grace and dignity throughout a personal crisis; or indeed acting with integrity throughout normal everyday life.
We forget how much healing we bring to the world simply by being who we are and by acting with grace and dignity through our own circumstances.
Agreed. Thanks for adding such kind words of wisdom.
Hello. I thought I would let you know that for some reason my comments on you blog are not showing since you changed your theme. I have tried a few times. Thought maybe that they are being recognised as spam for some reason. 🙂
oh, I will go and look right now.
I found one in the spam folder and approved it just now so hoping this will solve the problem. thanks for letting me know
Thoughtful post. I agree with your last point no. 2, those issues are not more honourable or noble. To prevent them requires people to practice their values in their own backyard.
So correct. We forget that sometime, to aim for prevention. Thanks for commenting. I really appreciate it.
I think we can pray and hope for better world situations. We can also be proud of ones who tackle them. But, I feel that trying to handle on a smaller scale, justice and kindness, will also be a benefit to mankind. If we all tried to live, as you said in your post, using “grace and dignity” than that is a fine contribution! Smiles, Robin
That is correct. We can all practice kindness in our own backyards.
What a wonderful, thought-provoking post, Elizabeth. I was at a 65th b-day party for a friend, and during lunch one of the others talked about returning to core values. I was surprised and silent when the birthday girl snapped her fingers and ordered more wine for us all…and a double for anyone who could make a list of core values she could consider. She laughed and said that at 65, she deserved pleasures over core values that would tarnish the joy she wanted at this age.
Several around the table lifted their glasses in agreement.
It was a grandly planned and presented luncheon and party…and one of the saddest and most awkward events I’ve ever attended.
Definitely there is a two-edged conflict within us all. Remember the cartoons with the little angel on one shoulder and the little devil on the other?
I suppose I try and listen to the angel most of the time and that should not mean we cannot enjoy ourselves as well.
By that I mean it should not have to be a choice of one over the other although sadly it seems some people believe that it does.
Another thought-provoking post, Elizabeth. I agree with your statement “I do not feel I have to solve world peace to live authentically as me.” As a young person I had high ambitions to make the world a better place, and something of a missionary zeal for doing good deeds in a social-work kind of way. But that kind of work requires tremendous energy and personal sacrifice. And the person doing the sacrificing isn’t merely the “worker” but all the family and friends who would like more time with the do-gooder. Sometimes I think the work we tend to label as “higher” is called that only because it’s more attention-getting. I know people who have neglected their own children in order to serve the needs of strangers.
I think we’re each called to be who we are, where we are. It doesn’t have to be any grander than that in order to have a high purpose.
By the way, if you send me an email, I’ll email you back about my forthcoming books. tracyleekarner (at) gmail (dot) com
You raise some goods points and in fact Nelson Mandela addresses this in his autobiography and admits the strain placed on his marriages, relationships with his children and not being there for his mother in her old age.
Elizabeth, I love the way you think and the way you present your thoughts. This being Women’s Day and all, I believe we need to be kinder to ourselves and recognize the fact that each and every one of us has a lot to offer the world. The big gestures and accomplishments always get the most attention, but it’s the everyday little things that make it all matter.
I hope I can call you a friend, because I feel like I’m getting to know you better with every post. x
I am honoured that you would consider me a friend and am delighted to accept your offer of friendship.
I too believe I am getting to know you and would love one day to venture your way and meet up in person.
Great post! Thanks for sharing your experience and growth. It is inspiring …
Thanks for your support 🙂
You go, girl:)
What an insightful look at values!
Getting back to basics is probably what I am really doing 🙂
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