There are a lot of books that talk about identifying your values and then clarifying them so that you can live your life on purpose. The idea is that, if we only know for certain what we believe, we can then live out our life with the purpose and meaning we all crave.
They claim the remedy to an unfulfilled life is simply a better understanding of what you want in life. Find this and everything else will follow.
While I do believe it is important to understand values and beliefs, until we use these values and beliefs to determine our recurring behavior we aren’t really living by them.
I have known people throughout my life that say one thing and do another. They say that it is wrong to lie but will quickly tell untruths whenever it is convenient. Ask them about core values and they will say honesty and truthfulness but look at their behavior and we see something quite different.
Or we hear someone talk about family being the most important thing and then they abandon their family to go on some personal journey or they succumb to greed or indulgence and get led away from their family.
Just knowing what is important to us isn’t enough. There are many forces that pull us in different directions and many times our values aren’t actually what drive our actions.
In Unbeatable Mind, by former Navy SEAL Mark Divine, he says, “Values are just words. SEALs take the words and make them habits, turn them into virtues and eventually their character, and so must you. When you do this, you’re actions will truly express your character, which will forge your destiny. You will stand out from the average like a lighthouse on a stormy night.”
I love what Diving says there. Stand out from the average like a lighthouse on a stormy night… great concept. Seeing so many with values that don’t correspond with their behavior we can start to understand just how unique it is to have someone aligned in their values, behaviors, virtues and character.
But most of us will never attempt anything like SEAL training. How can we better align our values and behaviors so that we can live on purpose?
I have found that anyone can start to make the shift to be better aligned. But we have to take control of a key element. Habits are what drive our behavior for most of our actions. We may think we have total control over every movement and response but really we tend to rely on previous behavior to determine future behavior.
This starts to form patterns. The patterns tend to be easy for others to see. They see several times we told a lie and then start to string them together to form an opinion of us. We likely see all individual situations with justification for each lie.
So we have to start to use the systems and habits approach to improvement in order to mold our recurring behaviors. This can align what we do and what we believe in a way that can be powerful.
We can start to experience the difference between saying something and following that up with the hard work necessary to truly exemplify that principle. We can start slowly, step by step in order to slowly become aligned. Then we will truly understand what it means to have our values align with our actions.