I hope the answer to this question is, “YES!” The bottom line is this; if you want to make your life better, you are the only person who can do it. Because you are the only one who knows what better really means to you. It could mean more happiness, more money, more security, better relationships, more spontaneity, more adventure, doing what you love, you name it. Your world is limited only to your imagination and your drive to make it happen.
I want you to take a few minutes and think about what is really important to you right now and realize that what’s important to you now is driven by how you have stacked your personal values. If your personal values are #1 Professional Success, #2 Financial Independence, #3 Family; then it’s very likely that you will miss an important family occasion instead of missing a work trip or an opportunity to make more money. Conversely, if your #1 value is Family you will likely do everything in your power to make it to that birthday or anniversary, even if it means rearranging your schedule and putting something else on the back burner.
I’m not saying that having success as your #1 value is wrong. If that is how you want your values stacked, and many, many people do, then it’s perfectly fine. What I would like to point out is that many of us grow up learning our values from the role models in our lives, both positive and negative ones. We basically inherit many of our values through our experiences without thinking about which ones are good and which ones are bad, which ones support our goals and objectives and which ones detract from them. Most of us don’t take the time to think about what we want our values hierarchy to look like and we don’t actively choose our own values. We just pick them up along the way in life’s journey.
The good thing is that they are not set in stone. We can, at any time, rearrange our values to support our own life’s goals and objectives. We can simply change the hierarchy of our values to reflect what we want them to be, in order to promote our most important goals and objectives. I did this myself with great success. As an example: When I was young education was not high on my values list, as anyone who knew me back then can attest. Now it’s regularly one of the top five.
Think about your values. What is really important to you? What feelings do you want to experience every day? Many of the values at the top of my hierarchy are arranged to support ones that follow. My top ten values are:
- Gratefulness and Appreciation – No matter what happens, I’m always very grateful for everyone and everything I have in my life. Wayne Dyer said, “If you aren’t grateful for everything you have then don’t need anything else. Why would you need one more thing to not be grateful for in your life? I feel that being grateful and appreciative is essential in getting the most out of everything else that follows.
- Love, Warmth and Family – My family means more to me than anything. And I include some of my close friends in my definition of family. I will do anything reasonable and in my power for my family.
- Health, Fitness and Vitality – Without health, fitness and vitality you cannot pursue life vigorously and passionately. You cannot do the things that you want to do. You simply don’t have the drive and energy to get to the top of that mountain. This one value supports me in the pursuit of all the rest of them.
- Education, Learning and Intelligence – This one is really important to me and put a lot of my energy into pursuing this. This is my #1 hobby. Some people watch sports, go fishing, go out partying; I spend my time learning new things that I am interested in knowing and developing my mind. If you want to stay in shape physically you exercise your body. If you want to stay in shape intellectually you exercise your mind. A lot of studies show that people who are lifelong learners live longer and fuller lives than those who don’t continue to exercise their minds. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi
- Achievement, Action, Breaking Through – I love the feeling of knowing that I’m taking action, breaking through barriers, and achieving my goals. With each goal that I achieve, small or big, my drive and resolve to achieve my other goals is strengthened. Leonardo Da Vinci gave us an observation that should be required learning, he said, “It came to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat around and waited for things to happen to them, rather they went out and happened to things.” I challenge each person to go out and happen to the things that matter most to you.
- Success – The definition of success is different for each of us. To me success is living the values that I have listed here. If I can experience one or more of these values each day, then I feel I have succeeded. Lots of people feel unsuccessful because of the rules they have in order to allow themselves to feel successful. Set the rules up in your favor. Don’t make it impossible for you to experience the feeling of success.
- Honesty and Integrity – This is an important value for me personally. I like to think I have a high degree of honesty and that my integrity is unshakeable. It’s is important to me that when I tell someone something, they have no reason to doubt me. Not all people hold this value high though. Not long ago, a person I called friend, and even considered him an extension of my family, decided to violate my trust in him by not honoring an agreement we had and essentially stole almost $8,000 from me. I was shocked. As I thought about it, I wondered what would make a person take advantage of a close friend in this way. Then I realized it was his values. To him, money and greed were more important than friendship. To me, honor and integrity were more important so I severed my relationship with him, knowing that I had acted according to my values and he had acted according to his.
- Adventure and Spontaneity – Tony Robbins theory of the Six Human Needs says that the first two needs are Certainty and Uncertainty. You need certainty to feel secure, but if you feel too secure you get bored. So you need to balance your certainty with uncertainty. The surprises in life that give it spice and make it more interesting. I go out of my way to be spontaneous by taking last minute adventures/vacations to places that my wife and I want to see. Sometimes being spontaneous can be as simple as just saying, “Let’s go out to nice restaurant for dinner, go get ready. I made reservations at six.” Just be sure to keep it in balance. Too much uncertainty can freak some people out.
- Playfulness, Fun and Happiness – I’m serious about what I do, but I try not to take anything too seriously, including myself. I try to stay in a playful and fun mood as much as possible. I think there are some definite health benefits to being playful and fun. Conversely there are major negative health consequences to being too serious all the time.
- Contribution and Sharing – If you really want to feel abundant, then contribute to help others. By offering what you have to help others in need, it gives you the feeling that you have enough. In fact, you have so much that you can afford to give some away, be it your time or money. I make donations to my favorite organizations regularly. One of favorite is Make-a-Wish Foundation because they help children with terminal illnesses experience their wishes, wishes they may not otherwise get a chance to experience. I also donate copies of my books to charities like the Wounded Warrior Foundation and occasionally I donate my time and services as a speaker to help charitable organizations.