Values: Why Passing on a Life Compass Matters

In my last blog, I wrote about the importance of values, especially related to how we can influence our children and other important people in our lives.  Today I want to get a little more specific about why having values and imparting them to others is so helpful and also suggest some practical ways you can do it.

First, here is a breakdown of the benefits: 

1.  Helps you make better decision

Life is a constant stream of decisions. Should you accept the new job offer?  Should you begin or end a relationship? Should you move your family to another state? These can be tough decisions that, in and of themselves, may not have a clear right or wrong answer, but considering what you value will help guide your choices.

2.  Identifies circumstances and people that do and don’t support your values

If you’re values-focused, you want to associate with people who will add to your life in positive ways.  As they say, it is better to soar with eagles than to run around with turkeys. We teach our kids the value of hanging with the right crowd, and it’s still important when we are well into adulthood.

3.  Gives you greater peace and a clear conscience

If you have ever done something and then felt uneasy about it, chances are it wasn’t consistent with what you value.  Living in alignment with your values will produce a peace and sense of satisfaction that will greatly improve your quality of life

4.  Gives clearer direction to goal setting

As with decision making, our values provide a highly effective template for our personal and professional goals.  Once you decide to “live with the end in mind” as we discussed in Part 1, your goals could change radically.

5.  Fuels passion and enthusiasm

In order to exude passion and enthusiasm day in and day out in your business and personal life, your attitudes and actions must be aligned with your values.  It takes far too much energy to “fake it” for the long haul, and constantly ignoring, or fighting, what you value will eventually take its toll.

So you see, values serve as your compass for life.  Once you have identified and embraced your own values, how do you influence people to do the same?

1.  Tell your own story

Everyone has a story.  What’s yours? How did you get where you are today?  What worked and what didn’t?  Failure is often a better teacher than success.  Don’t be afraid to admit you goofed, because your legacy will grow deeper if others can relate.  My father was very good at telling his story; in fact I often tell people that I remember my dad’s childhood better than my own!

2.  Walk the talk – Modeling

Humans are natural imitators – especially children.  The degree to which others learn what we attempt to teach them is in direct proportion to how consistent our actions are with our words.

  • If you value generosity – never stop giving
  • If you value education – never stop learning
  • If you value honesty – always tell the truth
  • If you value family –spend time with them and speak well of them whether they’re present or not
  • If you value compassion – readily help others in need

Life’s most important lessons are more often caught than taught.

3.  Confront misdirection

Don’t stand by when you see the signs and symptoms of misdirection.  Children who are behaving in a way that doesn’t reflect your family’s values need consistent reminders: “I don’t expect this behavior from you.  Stop and think about who you are and what we value, and then behave accordingly.”

4.  Family Meetings

Take advantage of teachable moments.  Life events, movies, TV, news stories, song lyrics and school lessons are all rich sources of opportunity to discuss how your family’s values compare and contrast to the world around you.

5.  Provide inspirational material

The books my mother gave me, starting in childhood, strongly influenced the development of my compass for life.  I enjoyed reading about people – real and fictional – who overcame terrible odds, who chose the high road, and who learned great lessons from their lives and circumstances.  Learning about heroes made me want to be heroic.  Good guys made me want to make wrong things right.  People who achieved great things made me want to succeed.

6.  Create a historical legacy

Leaving something tangible for posterity can be priceless.  My mother told her story verbally and she journaled regularly.  This gave her children and grandchildren a real sense of where we came from.

My grandmother created a video of her story and what she valued most and a copy will be given to each of my children.  There is no doubt they will treasure it.

You can do the same for your family.  Write a brief autobiography emphasizing the values that guided your decisions.  Record yourself talking to your children and future generations.  Keep a journal of your day to day life or just the high points.  Not only will it benefit your children, but it will also help you keep your own life heading in the right direction.

7.  Create a family mission statement

Mission statements, also known as family constitutions, strategic plans or family codes of conduct, can range in length from a single sentence to multiple pages. They can address everything from inheritance to religion, education and conduct. One goal of mission statements is to draw up moral guides so your kids and grandkids will inherit values as well as material things.

8.  Give visual reminders

Life offers many opportunities for gift-giving; use them to reinforce your family values. For example, I have a fascination with hour-glasses.  To me, they represent the passing of time and the importance of measuring every hour and not wasting this precious, finite resource.  I have several in my office I received as gifts.  Other treasured gifts include bookends that support my love of reading and a wooden gavel that appeals to my sense of justice for all.  These are daily reminders of some things that are important to me.

If you are already intentionally navigating your life with a compass of strong values, I congratulate you – and the people you influence will thank you!  If you’ve been drifting, today is the day to begin planning how you will influence the generations that will follow you.  It’s not too late to be sure people will say good things about you, and mean them, at the funeral!

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd


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