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.