Conditioned values are sufficient for a successful material life; however, they cannot guide your intention to be free. Often we declare a desire to change with great gusto and conviction, but may find that within a few days or weeks that enthusiasm (root: God within) to change has almost completely dissipated. Why is this so? How can we make great choices and sustain permanent change?
The core of the issue is that, although our intentions are good, the way in which we use our values to direct those intentions is subject to both individual and collective conditioning; hence, the purest objectives can be misdirected by ego, and we end up essentially back at the beginning where we started.
Intention is classically defined as the aim or anticipated outcome of an action. Your intention to awaken to authentic joy, however, will be completely ineffective without a supportive decision-making process. Though you mean well, your values and the way in which they are arranged can't support or manifest your best intentions. To sustain the conditions for awakening to authentic joy, your decision-making structures–your values–must be capable of influencing and guiding a pure intention to awaken.
When our values and the way in which we use them are the domain of ego, lasting transformation is difficult, if not impossible. Values are core psychological structures by which all major decisions are made and, as such, they greatly influence your world. Values that are selected and organized by the ego are sufficient for a successful material life, but completely inadequate to support an awakening to authentic joy. By looking at your current life situations you can uncover proof of what you value and of what is important to you–you can determine what your current values and intentions are by simply looking at the tangible evidence for them in your life.
Many who consider themselves genuine seekers on the path spend significantly more time engaged in activities that support the ego than they do in support of their awakening to authentic joy. What the ego calls "a balanced life" is often one of mediocrity and compromise when viewed from an awakened perspective; you may realize that your values are arranged by the ego to suit its ends.
Conditioned values cannot direct pure intentions, because ego-values and awakened intentions are drawn to parallel outcomes. For example, if your values are focused on a productive career path, and you also have an intention to awaken to authentic joy–it will be impossible for you to manifest the latter without first being clear that your values are capable of directing that intention.
The most humble of wishes would be to awaken to authentic joy, also known as freedom. This potential exists within your free will and when you are clear about your values and their arrangement, you can create a direct link between your intentions and a destiny of authentic joy. This method of consciously aligning your values can only deliver you to a destiny of authentic joy. All other outcomes you wish to manifest with the power of intention may occur, but their rewards will only be temporary and they will not free you from unnecessary suffering.
To stabilize the conditions for your pure intentions and to yield changes that "stick," you must reclaim consciousness that will otherwise be consumed in a continuous struggle with ego-based outcomes. Liberation from the effects of hand-me-down values is the outcome when those values are rearranged into one conscious group. When the primary value of this single hierarchy supports and guides your intention to awaken to authentic joy, that will be the outcome. This sustains the conditions for awakening by reclaiming your awareness that would ordinarily be lost in on-going attempts to resolve the outcomes of ego-based choices. These consequences always appear in the form of good or bad karma.
The primary value you select for this single hierarchy always represents your interest in awakening to authentic joy marginally more important than other interests in your life. Making a decision-an awakened choice-based on such a conscious primary principle will produce an awakened effect. This new arrangement also supports all other necessary aspects of living because your subsequent values can include money, security, family, love, creativity, learning, etc.
An awakened person's life is centered on a clear, single hierarchy of values, and when asked, she could instantly identify her primary value. She may, however, have some difficulty determining what her second and third values are, as these will vary from one major decision to the next. Her primary value however, will be consistent with awakening to authentic joy, and significant choices made in her day-to-day life will give consistent and tangible proof of this arrangement.
To create the conditions for awakening to authentic joy, you can align the outcome with that intention by placing a primary value, such as freedom (from suffering), fulfillment, or potential, over and above all other values on a single hierarchy.
By making all major life decisions according to a primary value, such as freedom, the intended outcome will be realized regardless of the circumstances surrounding the decision. You will discover that awakening to authentic joy is not dependent on options or outcomes, but on how consistently your intentions to live such a life are directed by a conscious primary value.
Eventually, it becomes clear that you are "choiceless", and you will approach change, transformation, and the evolution of your own consciousness with unbending confidence, because you now know that your intention to awaken to joy is always going to be your outcome.
Conditioning, on the other hand, segregates values into distinct and concurrent groups - related to career, home, family, friends, hobbies, etc. The ego does this in a futile attempt to manipulate reality. For example: A working mother would have different groups of values for decisions about her job than she would for decisions about the welfare of her children. The struggle you experience with major life decisions and their subsequent outcomes is the result of the conflict between all of these groups of ego-guiding principles. It is also important to understand that not only does each group have its own divergent agenda, but, at the time of deciding, each group will also have its own presiding primary value.
This arrangement ensures that the ego remains in firm control of your life experience. You regularly "put off" big decisions, vacillate between your options, "run scenarios," or seek the opinions of others. Then, having made a decision, you often "change your mind." Frequently you will "shop around" for opinions until you hear one that you think is the "right" one. At other times you are unable, or unwilling to follow through on the choices you made because you realize they were not "the best ones" you could have made.
Because most of us are not aware of the existence of these multiple groups of values, we experience great anguish and confusion in times of making important choices. "Not knowing what to do" is a clear manifestation that the ego is entrenched in values. An awakened person can make major life decisions in a matter of seconds with no worries or regrets and without fear that a decision may need to be "revised."
Stressing over choices is a reflection of conditioning as it drains your attention with compelling and conflicting alternatives. The ego controls your decision-making process by offering you the most important conditioned values from these multiple and conflicting groups, and then it lets you "duke" it out! The point of this internal struggle is to deplete your energy so that the ego can continue to manipulate you with "short-term solutions and quick fixes." In this way, the ego easily orchestrates your actions-and your fate-as you try in vain to "weigh all the options," "consider all the alternatives," or look to the past for patterns or to the future with tarot cards!
Whatever the original intention may have been, it is now lost, the outcome is conditioned, and because of this, lasting changes never seem to "stick." Your future looks just like your past, filled with conditioned outcomes you have to "overcome." The continued existence of these multiple groups of values precludes you from discovering and expressing your full potential by following through on any wholesome resolutions you may have.
As you awaken to authentic joy, it will become apparent how the first big decision you ever made independently of your parents was based on the existence of multiple groups of values; the result of a conditioned intention; and a product of the ego. You may also realize that you have essentially been doing this ever since.
Real-life example: After a carefully planned career path, Josh received an incredible offer for his dream job. He had also recently gotten engaged. He and his fiancé, Diane, loved their first apartment together, the city they lived in, and being close to her family. However, they were both torn about what was best for their relationship, and his career goals. Josh decided to accept the offer because he arranged to spend four days per week at his work location and three-day weekends at home. He sincerely thought his first value was love, but by the evidence of this choice it was actually career.
After about six months of flying back and forth between Seattle and New York City, both his work and love life were beginning to suffer. When four more months passed they both acknowledged that things were just not working out and decided to separate. One year later, Josh realized he was lonely in Seattle and that maybe his primary value was indeed love. Now he was considering returning to New York. When he mentioned this to Diane, she admitted that she no longer trusted him, because it was obvious that he could not trust himself to make sound decisions.