If you’ve read my stuff before, you know that I advocate living by your Values as the most effective way to build confidence and authenticity.
Discovering your core values and learning what it means to live by them allows you to become confident in yourself over time. You won’t need to ‘win’ or get approval from others. You won’t need to tell yourself positive affirmations (lies) to feel good. And you can always get back on track when you have an off-day.
Values are easily confused with many other concepts, which is why people struggle to find authenticity. We are misled to believe that we are living by values through deceptive concepts like virtues, goals and outcomes.
The best way to learn values is to first un-learn what we currently believe they are. What remains after that will probably be a stronger understanding of how to live by your values, how to be authentic, and therefore how to be yourself.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VALUES AND ‘VIRTUES’
Virtues appear to be Values themselves, but actually represent an authority’s perception of a) which values are most important at all times, and b) how these values must be manifested.
No one Value is more important than any other overall. However it helps to decide which is most relevant in a specific context. For example, the value of ‘courage’ may be more important than the value of ‘caring’ in a situation that requires you to stand up for yourself, but overall caring is just as important for a balanced and successful lifestyle overall.
How you live by that value is an in-the-moment decision, not a pre-planned and pre-agreed action (i.e. a virtue). Sometimes courage means standing up for yourself, other times it means walking away, and there are an infinite number of other possible expressions of courage.
Virtues are more like laws; an authority prioritizes certain values over others, and then dictates guidelines as to how these values must be lived by – what action you have to take. Organized religion is an example of a system based on virtues. The Church tells you the ‘rules’ that you must live by and how to live by them, such as the 10 Commandments for Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
The most significant distinction is that a virtue requires the approval of others. Living by your values does not.
I’ve already spoken at length here why allowing other people to have complete power over what you believe is ‘right’ reduces confidence rather than builds it. Therefore, if you agree that confidence must be self-contained and self-regulated, then you will need to let go of the concept of living in a virtuous way.
Gaining society’s approval does not align with authenticity or confidence, and is not a requirement for enjoyment of life.
COMMON VIRTUES TO BE AWARE OF
– You stay with one sexual partner for life, even if you lose interest in them (a mistaken understanding of the value of loyalty)
– You must sacrifice your own enjoyment to avoid ‘embarrassing’ your family (a mistaken understanding of the value of respect)
– You must have a stable job with predictable income (I don’t even know what value is trying to be lived by here!)
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VALUES AND ‘GOALS’
Living by your values is not something that you can actually ‘achieve’ completely. You will not be able to one day wake up and say “I’ve been honest enough now, I never have to live by the value of honesty again”.
Goals on the other hand are defined by their very ability to be completed; you can finish a goal, but you cannot ever finish a value.
Quite often we are led astray by goals set too far in the future, even when they were originally based on values. We change over time, so what it means to be authentic of course changes with us.
The most common example I see of this misunderstanding is the pursuit of money. By calling money a ‘career’, people chase the almighty buck from one source of stress to another, reassuring themselves along the way that they are doing what is ‘right’.
Pursuing money as if it was a value is like pursuing large biceps as if they represented good balanced health. Big biceps seem healthy, and it is considered by society to be a virtue of health, but in reality they are no reliable measure of health at all.
If you can establish an understanding of your values before you set goals, then your goals will support your authenticity. Instead of chasing money to feel confident, you can cut out the distracting middle-man by pursuing confidence directly.
COMMON GOALS TO BE AWARE OF
– To become financially secure (a mistaken understanding of the value of peace)
– To become physically attractive (a mistaken understanding of the value of caring)
– To become socially popular and accepted (a mistaken understanding of the value of leadership)
If you’d like some guidance to figure out what your values are, check out the free sample chapters of my book The Legendary Life
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VALUES AND ‘RULES’
A rule is something you use to explain your perceived limitations of the world, something that dictates your options for behavior and restricts what you can do.
Rules are another example of how our brain likes to be lazy, to simplify a complex world by pretending that there is a basic understanding of how we can and cannot interact. The unique rules that exist inside your mind have more negative impact on your ability to enjoy life than just about anything else.
Rules have the short-term reward effect of making life seem simple and understandable, however like any short-term reward system there is a long-term punishment: slavery. For a rule to exist, freedom must be sacrificed, because rules remove the abundance of choice by reducing options.
People live by their rules and think they are being authentic. We even congratulate ourselves on our ability to follow our own rules, never stopping to ask whether or not the rules should be tested.
The most effective way to build confidence is to strategically set about discovering and breaking all of your rules. It’s like chipping away at the walls of your prison – each day you’ll slowly increase the amount of freedom in your life.
Side note: in my experience most ‘rules’ are aimed at social acceptance. Most people I’ve spoken to let most of their rules go when they are alone.
COMMON RULES TO BE AWARE OF
– I cannot engage socially with people unless there is a relevant reason (a mistaken understanding of the value of respect)
– I cannot do something that might offend someone else (a mistaken understanding of the value of caring)
– I must agree with authority figures (a mistaken understanding of the value of respect)
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VALUES AND ‘OUTCOMES’
Our values are lived through action, which causes reactions, or ‘outcomes’. Sometimes we see a certain outcome as being the only measurable proof that we are doing things ‘right’. We get locked onto this one outcome and over time lose track of the original value we were trying to live by.
Outcomes are the manifestations of you living by your values, not the values themselves.
A large financial windfall may be an outcome of living by the value of determination, but it’s not the only way to measure whether or not you are determined. Having sex with someone new might be the result of having been courageous with that person, but getting laid is not the only measure of courage. Receiving encouragement and praise may come from showing respect, but you do not need recognition to be respectful.
When we aim for an outcome rather than to live by values, we assume the outcome will guarantee a valued-living system. But often our single-minded focus actually creates the opposite: an outcome-based system.
School trained you to believe that you are only doing ‘good’ when you get positive results. The ‘Red Pen Effect’ that I briefly referenced in my book The Legendary Life is that feeling of shame you get when the teacher punishes you for getting the answers wrong. Notice how little praise is giving for making the effort to figure out an answer by eliminating incorrect answers, even though this is the way the real world works?
We were all raised on a system that taught you to use outcomes as a measure of how ‘good’ you are as a person, how ‘worthy’ you are of love, respect and happiness. Well, that’s just a big load of shit.
Values focus entirely on the process of living, not the outcomes. Values are a guide as to how you can live in each moment, which will create reactions both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ by other peoples’ standards.
The more authentic you become, the more suitable results and outcomes you will experience. You will start to trigger reactions based on an honest representation of your authentic self, which will encourage results that match you specifically. They may not be outcomes that are approved of by others, but they will often be outcomes that you enjoy.
Let go of the idea that there’s only one possible outcome for living by your values… because there are billions!
COMMON OUTCOMES TO BE AWARE OF
– Marriage and children (a mistaken understanding of the value of caring)
– A management position at work (a mistaken understanding of the value of leadership)
– Feeling comfortable (a mistaken understanding of the value of integrity)
SO WHAT ARE ‘VALUES’ THEN?
Values are the simple motivational drives behind your actions’ they’re a guide to what is the ‘right’ thing to do. They take into account the unique moment of time you are in.
Values are themes that represent different sides of your authentic self. Imagine that ‘authenticity’ is a large multifaceted globe; values are the different sides or faces of authenticity. At any given time one value will be more helpful and relevant than the others, only to be replaced by another as the moment passes and a new moment begins.
Values are the vehicle that brings your authenticity into the real world in a measurable, impactful way.
Learning to live by your values is a life-long process, so you don’t need to worry about fully knowing or understanding them right now. The very act of trying to live by your values is authenticity – it’s your best attempt with the information available to you. That will be the most authentic you can ever be.
‘Just be yourself’ usually invokes the idea that your ‘self’ is a set structure, a thing. Living by values opens up the understanding that ‘yourself’ is actually an effort you make, based on values.
To help you figure out your values listen to my interviews in the Endless Confidence program with the Menprovement Academy (there are two free interviews on values and authenticity!)