This blog post has been adapted from Dr. John Maxwell’s personal productivity resource, Today Matters. John Maxwell has been one of the world’s foremost leadership and personal growth experts for more than 40 years, and this guidebook for success planning contains invaluable insights. You can pick up a copy here.
George H. Lorimer, onetime editor at the Saturday Evening Post, said, “Back of every life there are principles that have fashioned it.”
Those principles that guide your life are your values. After all, a person’s core values are nothing more than principles that he or she has internalized. And those core values are critical to success because they function as an anchor, keeping you grounded when life gets choppy – a guiding North Star directing your way – a reflection of your inmost being.
How to Live Authentically in All Circumstances
But managing your life according to your values isn’t easy. Why? Because your values will be tested daily by those who do not embrace them. Negative people may discount you when you display a positive attitude. People without families may not understand your devotion to your family. Unteachable people won’t understand your dedication to personal growth. And those whose priorities are different from yours will try to convince you to follow them or make unwise compromises.
But it’s certainly not impossible. The more we review and reflect on our values, the more they become a natural part of who we are – and the easier they become to live out.
To become better at embracing and practicing your values every day, follow these guidelines:
1. ARTICULATE AND EMBRACE YOUR VALUES DAILY.
How do you manage something as abstract as your values? You begin by putting them in concrete form. Once you’ve created your list of values, write a descriptive statement for each one explaining how you intend to apply it to your life and what benefit or direction that will bring to your personal growth. Keep that document where you can see it every day. Think about your values often to help them “soak in.” As you go through your day and face decisions, measure your choices against your values. And whenever it’s appropriate, talk about them. It not only cements your values in your mind and helps you to practice them, but it also adds a level of accountability.
When you embrace your values wholeheartedly and articulate them continually, you dramatically increase your chances of living.
2. COMPARE YOUR VALUES TO YOUR PRACTICES DAILY.
The gap between knowing and doing is significantly greater than the gap between ignorance and knowledge. A person who identifies and articulates his values but doesn’t practice them is like a salesman who makes promises to a customer and then fails to deliver. He has no credibility. In business, the result is that the person loses his job. In life, the person loses his integrity.
In 1995, Girish Shah, an assistant controller for a division of a Fortune 500 company, was charged with embezzling $988,000 from the company over an eight-year period. He pleaded no contest in court, and he was prepared to repay $728,000 immediately and borrow additional money from relatives to repay the rest.
The CEO of the company was outraged. To court officials he wrote:
“I view Mr. Shah’s crime as particularly egregious. Not only did he steal from the stockholders of this Fortune 500 company, but he breached the fiduciary duty placed in him by the company and his supervisors. . . . I urge you to impress upon Mr. Shah and those others who commit similar crimes that wrongdoing of this nature against society is considered a grave matter by the Texas Court and will not be condoned.”
You know what was ironic about that statement? It was made by Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski, the man later charged with looting $600 million from that same company with the help of two other executives.
Discrepancies between values and practices create chaos in your personal growth journey. If you talk your values but neglect to walk them, then you will continually undermine your integrity and credibility. And that will happen even if you are unaware of your behavior and are not doing it intentionally.
3. LIVE OUT YOUR VALUES DAILY REGARDLESS OF YOUR FEELINGS.
Many people get into trouble when their values and their feelings collide. When you’re feeling good and everything’s going your way, it’s not difficult to consistently live out your values. However, when your values determine you should take an action that will hurt you or cost you something, it can be harder to follow through.
If one of your values is integrity and you found a bank bag of money on the street that you suspected was stolen, you probably wouldn’t have too difficult a time turning the money in to the police. But what if you saw your boss stealing from the company you work for and you knew that calling attention to it would get you fired? That choice would be more difficult, especially if you knew that losing your job might cost you your house or ruin you financially.
Successful people do what’s right no matter how they feel about it. They don’t expect to be able to feel their way into acting. They act first and then hope that their feelings follow suit. Usually that doesn’t involve anything dramatic.The tough decisions are the everyday ones. For example, if good health is one of my values, will I exercise even though I don’t feel like it in the morning? Will I refrain from eating a big piece of chocolate cake even though I really want it? To be successful, my values—not my feelings—need to control my actions. Ken Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale wrote in The Power of Ethical Management, “Nice guys may appear to finish last, but usually they are running in a different race.” Living by your values is running in a different race.
The best way to consistently live out your values is to commit to personal growth.
Day to Grow is coming! That’s right… August 14th is the day. Orlando, Florida is the place (we also have virtual event tickets available). John Maxwell will be joined on the stage by Atomic Habits author James Clear, Peloton personality (and Today Show contributor) Ally Love, author and speaker Juliet Funt, and Ryan Leak. All of these incredible guest speakers will share valuable insights to help you live out your values and grow to your potential. Ticket options here.