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Know Your Own Values

By Bill Harris, Centerpointe Research Institute

Your internal map of reality, for those of you who are new to my writing, contains such things as your beliefs, values, internal strategies, ways you have of filtering information as it comes in, along with ways you have of sorting it, storing it, remembering, and retrieving it, as well as internal strategies for making decisions, along with the decisions themselves. All of these things operate unconsciously, outside our awareness, to create our experience of life. Since we don't choose how this map is structured (it pretty much happens to us as we grow up, as a result of all our experiences), it might give us the exact experience of life we want, but usually a fair amount—and in some people, a lot—of what it creates is what we don't want.

The process of becoming conscious of all of this material allows us to discover how we are creating what is happening in our lives, and to make conscious choices of how to do it in such a way that we create what we want, instead of whatever was planted in our minds by past experiences.

Our values are extremely powerful in determining what we create in life, and also in diagnosing where changes are needed. It is sometimes said that such and such a person "has no values," but this is actually impossible, because values are what we think is important in some area of life, or in life in general. Since everyone thinks some things are important, everyone has values. They may not be the values you think they should have, but that doesn't mean they aren't values.

Values are important for a couple of reasons. First, because they define what is important to you, they determine how you spend your time. You spend your time on those things you value the most. This means that values determine what you accomplish with your time—the results you get. If there is something you are not accomplishing, it must not be important to you, or at least it is low enough on your list of what is important that you don't have enough time to get to it.

In other words, values are the source of motivation. If you think of times when you were highly motivated, and think back to what feeling you had right before you got the feeling of motivation, you will find a value. Typical examples might be "excitement" or "challenge" or "possibility" or "I thought of my family."

Someone who is getting rich must have "accumulating wealth" fairly high on their values hierarchy. Because of this, they are motivated to spend their time pursuing wealth. Someone who is in super-good physical shape must have "health", or at least "being is shape" fairly high on their list. Someone with poor health may not have health very high on their list, or it may not be on the list at all, and as a result they may not be exercising, or may be eating junk food, or they may be drinking or taking drugs, or in some way behaving in a way that indicates that health is not valuable to them.

So because they motivate us and determine how we spend our time, values are very important.

The second thing values do is give you a way of evaluating what you did, after the fact (and also evaluating what others have done). Values, then, give us standards by which to judge our behavior.

Sometimes, we do something that, upon reflection, we wish we had not done. This would indicate that we might have two conflicting values, and followed one in becoming motivated to act, and then another (one that was incompatible with the first value) to evaluate the action. These conflicts in values can create problems in life, giving us conflicting messages and causing us to sometimes create one thing, and at other time create the opposite.

Another problem area when dealing with values is that often what we value actually represents something we want to avoid, rather than something we want. For instance, if one of your values was "friends," you might say that friends are important to you because they enrich your life and help you laugh and have fun. Or, you might say that without friends, you would be alone. In the first case, you are moving toward something you want, but in the second instance you are moving away from something you don't want (loneliness).

This is a problem because to avoid loneliness, you have to focus on it, you have to think about it, and in doing so you give a signal to your unconscious mind to create it, since your mind just sees whatever you focus on as an instruction to create more of it (it can't tell if what you focus on is something you don't want).

Sometimes, people have more than one answer to the question of why a certain value is important. Someone with "friends" as a value could have both reasons listed above, which would mean that part of the time they are focusing on what they want and part of the time on what they don't want. This causes the actual results they create to vary, depending on what they are focusing on.

In looking at hundreds of lists of people's values over the years, I notice that there is a strong, direct correlation between values that contain these "away from" components, and a life that isn't working very well.

Here is a typical list of values, placed in order of importance, with the answers to the "why is this important" question:

1. Peace of mind (important because I don't want to feel anxious; important because I function better when I feel peaceful)

2. Family (important because I feel good when I'm with my family, and because without them I would be alone)

3. Integrity (important because without integrity, I would not be a good person, and because I want people to trust me)

4. Fun (I feel great when I have fun)

5. Challenge (I get a charge out of meeting a challenge)

6. Financial security (without it I would be poor, it allows me to support my family)

7. Spiritual connectedness (it helps me grow, and without it I would feel lost)

and so on.

You can see, I hope, that this person (who I just made up, by the way), is moving away from feeling anxious, not functioning well, being alone, not being a good person, not being trusted, being poor, and feeling lost. I gave this person a fair number of "away from" reasons for having these values, but this is not at all atypical. Lots of people have values structures like this, and when I see this kind of thing, there are a number of conclusions I can draw.

One is that they have been wounded or traumatized in some way. The reason someone would move away from what they don't want is that at some point they have had negative emotional experiences that told them "there is potential danger in the world, and I have to watch out for it so as to avoid it." Then, in watching out for it, they have to focus on it (this happens almost completely unconsciously, out of a person's awareness). Focusing on it, as I said above, causes the mind to say "Hey, no problem. We can (create that, draw that to you, cause you to behave in such a way that that happens, attract people who will do that to you, etc.)."

Then, because the person gets more of what they don't want, they conclude that they haven't been watching out for the danger enough, and they focus even more on avoiding it, which just creates even more of it. After a while, whatever is being "avoided" is an old friend, and the person is utterly convinced that whatever it is is a fixture in their life—whether it's difficulty with money, emotional health, relationships, thinking, health, or anything else.

So here's what I have suggest you do:

1. Elicit your life values by asking "What's important to me about life?" and then writing down what comes to you.

2. When you run out of answers, dig a little deeper, and another level will probably come out that you didn't think of the first time. Add these to your list.

3. Think of a specific time when you were totally motivated, and think back to what happened right before the feeling of being motivated. The feeling that happened right before you felt motivated is almost always a value, because values are what motivate us.

4. Repeat this a few times, until you start to get the same values. Add these to your list.

5. Put these values in order of importance, from most important to least important. You do this by picking what seems to be most important on the list, and then (to be sure you've got the real #1) comparing it to all the others by saying "Is this really more important than that?" If you're not sure, ask "If I could have A, but not B, would that work?" and then ask the opposite: "If I could have B but not A, would that work?" Then, trust your intuition to tell you the answer.

6. Then, choose #2 and compare it to the others, just to make sure, then find #3, and so on, until you have a complete list. Generally, those past 8 or 10 are not important enough to bother with. In fact, the top 4-5 generally take most of a person's attention, but it's worthwhile to work with about 10.

7. Once you have the list, in order, ask, for each, "Why is this important to me?" and record the answers. Ask this several times for each value in order to get several answers. We're looking for things attached to each value that you might be moving away from, as I described above. These away froms tell you that there are past traumas to be healed, and healing them generally causes some pretty dramatic changes in a person's value hierarchy, and even bigger changes in their results in life. Just creating this list usually causes big changes.

8. Then, look to see if any pairs of values seem to be in conflict with each other. A typical example is family and money, where to make money it seems that you have to take time away from your family, or money and spirituality, where you think you can't be spiritual and also make money. These conflicts also need to be healed, and doing so can cause huge changes in a person's life.

You can see that doing this exercise has a number of very substantial benefits. First, it makes you consciously aware of something that is very important in determining your results in life, but has been running unconsciously. Second, it is a very revealing way to diagnose what is behind problem areas in your life.

One of the benefits of daily meditation with Holosync is that it resolves the kinds of problems this values exercise reveals.

But do take some time to do the above exercise. I think you will learn a lot about yourself.

Be well.

Bill Harris, Director Centerpointe Research Institute

Click here to go to Centerpointe

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