The problem in my life and other people’s lives is not the absence of knowing what to do but the absence of doing it. Peter Drucker
By now, my readers are familiar with the metaphor of the Snowman. It’s injunction that our thoughts generate our behaviors and, ultimately, produce resulting feelings has been reviewed previously. Today I’d like to introduce another application of the “snowman principle.”
This time, we’ll apply it to the concept of VALUES. The personality theorist and counseling practitioner, Carl Rogers, centers around the relationship between values and thoughts. He tells us that when values, thoughts and behaviors are aligned, they are said to be congruent. But what exactly are values and what is their relationship to our thoughts? Let me suggest a somewhat unusual definition for values.
Values are thoughts which involve ACCEPTED beliefs and ultimately generate resulting actions or behaviors.
That may be a little too murky to process easily, so let me submit an example or two.
A man drives past an armored car, which is being loaded in front of a bank. As the driver passes, he wistfully fantasizes that the armored car driver forgets to latch the back door and, as the vehicle pulls away, a bag of money (filled with unmarked and untraceable bills, of course) will soon fall out. A passerby could stop, grab the bag (unnoticed, of course) and drive away with a fortune.
Harmless and pleasing fantasy, perhaps. Yes, a pleasant thought. But let’s impose values on top of the thought. What’s the likelihood that the original driver would circle the block in order to get behind the truck, just hoping for such a moneybag to fall out of the truck? And if the unlikely miracle did occur, would the driver scoop up the money without any pang of guilt or fear of being apprehended? I doubt it. If we return to the above definition of values, we understand, in the above example, that the average driver wouldn’t circle the block in hopes of collecting an errant bag of cash. And if the money did tumble out, would his internal value system (and conscience) allow us to keep the money? We might hope for a big reward, perhaps, but wouldn’t keep the money, either because of our values or out of fear of getting into trouble. And notice that accepting a reward for the good deed would likely fit into most people’s value system and be congruent with their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings.
OK, we get the idea about values and our thoughts. But what is the punchline to today’s newsletter? Simply this. It’s time to examine our operative beliefs, particularly in relation to our internalized value system. All of us have values. These are learned concepts, from our family, our schools, and our culture. When we act according to those values, we are happy and generally content with ourselves. Finding a bagful of money was fun to contemplate, but would it really generate greater happiness or values-driven contentment?
Fantasies are located in the “”toy department” of our minds. When we mentally invest in “playing games” rather than act according to our values-driven activities, we easily become lost. Indulging in an occasional, fanciful detour may be harmless, but when we travel too far down that path, we do lose ourselves.
I entitled the last chapter of my book, ”Do the Right Thing.” Why? Simply because it is the surest path to values-driven happiness and contentment. So what are your “big ideas?” Are your major operative beliefs rooted in your fundamental values or are you investing your mental space in fanciful notions and unlikely situations.
Congruence both suggests and demands that we do so.
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony – Gandhi