Provision #249: Express Your Values

Laser Provision

There’s no greater motivation than expressing your core values. When that happens, life has meaning, direction, and purpose. There’s no question as to whether you want to get out of bed in the morning. You are, as they say, “on a mission from God.” So get clear about your values and get going. This Provision tells you how.

LifeTrek Provision

Now I understand why Steve Chandler entitled his book on motivation, “100 Ways To Motivate Yourself.” We’ve come to our tenth and final installment on Ten Ways To Stay Motivated For Life • and ten is just not enough. There’s so much more to say. But having to pick just one more, I want to focus on what may be the most motivating factor of all: our values.

I said at the outset of this series that motivation arises from at least three sources: our needs, wants, and values. It’s not hard to understand how needs work. Hunger motivates us to look for and eat food. Cold motivates us to look for and find shelter. Pretty basic stuff. We don’t have to work hard to find this motivation. It simply comes upon us, from our primitive, reptilian brain.

Our wants work pretty much the same way. They arise either as impulses or goals, depending upon whether they accommodate immediate or delayed gratification. Marketing professionals know all about this. Consumer products focus on impulse buying. Immediate gratification. Where do you want to go today? See. Want Now. Buy. Financial and dating services focus on strategic buying. Delayed gratification. Where do you want to go tomorrow? See. Want Later. Buy. These too simply come upon us, but from our limbic, mammalian brain.

When we enter the world of values, however, the landscape begins to change. Instead of welling up from within, either naturally or in response to stimulation, values introduce us to the world of choice, morality, self-actualization, and transcendence. They lie at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy and they distinguish us from other creatures. Needs and wants are a dime a dozen. Values are uniquely human, coming from our neo-cortex or “thinking cap.”

Perhaps that’s why we have such a hard time understanding and expressing our values. They don’t well up from within, in quite the same way, as do our needs and wants. They are also not quite as universal. The conflicts in our world today make this abundantly clear. What can we say about the sanctity of human life? Is it never to be violated (pacifism)? Is it to be violated reluctantly (just war)? Or is it to be violated actively (holy war)? Enquiring minds want to know.

All three positions represent values. All three positions can motivate the most dramatic and sacrificial of acts. That’s the power of values. Needs and wants will come and go, all on their own. If you have hunger pangs, and if you don’t find food, the hunger pangs will dissipate • usually in about ten minutes. If you are lonely, and you don’t find a partner, the loneliness will dissipate • usually in about three days. Both will eventually return, of course, until, once again, they pass. So the cycle goes.

But when it comes to values, if you either do nothing about them or if you violate them, there arises a more profound and sustained form of cognitive dissonance. You have the lingering sense of not being true to yourself and you can actually lose your passion for living. Values have the ability to take us to tremendous heights and depths. They can be the most motivating and demotivating of human attributes.

What are your values? Unfortunately, most people only have a vague and generic understanding of their values. When asked, they may come up with honesty, fairness, or compassion (to mention only three). But they never do the work to get clear and specific about their values. What does honesty look like? How does fairness play out? With whom do I choose to suffer?

It’s not until we express our values, in clear and specific ways, that we get really motivated by them. Otherwise they just sit on the shelf, gathering dust. But when we identify clear and specific strategies that express our true values, they suddenly have the power to give life meaning, direction, and focus. That’s what got people to fly airplanes into buildings on September 11. That’s also what gets people to hold vigils in front of abortion clinics and defense installations, to stay up all night with sick children, or to take a week of vacation in humanitarian service. They are motivated not by their needs and wants, but by their values.

Perhaps that’s part of what keeps us from acting on our values. We see their power to motivate both demonic and heroic action. Most people do not see themselves as either demons or heroes. They are content to just go to work, do their job, come home, raise a family, and go to bed.

But every once in a while, over the course of a lifetime, there are occasions when people get tired of the same-old, same-old. A life based on needs and wants is fine for alligators and apes, but passion • as someone once said • is the sign of God with us. It answers the questions of why we are here and where we are going. It may, in fact, be the principal gift of our earthly, human lives.

So stop making excuses as to why your life seems empty and void. Focusing on your values will turn things around. There are a myriad of values: beliefs and activities in which people have an emotional investment. Choose one as your theme for the year. Then, design what Coach U calls a “Values Expression Project.” Finally, reorient your life around that value in concrete, visible, and unambiguous ways.

Some people find this thought, of reorienting their life for a year around a core value, to be incredibly intimidating. “I can’t do that,” they say, “that would be too selfish.” Or, “If I were to do that, I would have to change my life a lot.” Or, “What would other people think?” Or, “Who’s going to pay the bills?”

But once you get past your objections and finally get started, perhaps with the assistance of a coach, life will begin to look very different indeed. Instead of drab and dreary beige, life will take on the rich hues of light and dark colors. There will be the proverbial “thrill of victory and agony of defeat.” You will be larger than you are now. You will be motivated by your values • and there’s no greater motivation than that.

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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.

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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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