“Things break down because they were never built to last in the first place.”Dipa Sanatani. “The Merchant of Stories: A Creative Entrepreneur’s Journey”
Today I learned a very important lesson. When we meet someone new, we usually connect with them over our commonalities–where are you from, where did you grow up, what line of work are you in and so on and so forth. This commonality catapults that initial point of connection. Yet, we find ourselves living in a world where barely anything takes root, let alone lasts.
Why is this so?
The answer, when it finally stared me in the face today, comes down to our shared values. The reason why most businesses, friendships and relationships end up fading away is because we’re not clear on what we value and why.
Our values are like the sharp and pointed needle of our own individual inner compass. It is a compass which illuminates the path we should walk on so that we can live lives of great meaning.
Research published by the Association for Psychological Science confirms that when people are guided by a clear set of values, they find it easier to make irreversible decisions with regards to both their careers and their relationships that are congruent wth their goals. They are also less likely to engage in or entertain destructive thought patterns and behaviours. They have a greater tolerance for pain and discomfort which in turn leads to greater self-discipline and forging stronger social connections.
While we may not be consciously aware of our values, I’ve realised that we are all acting and behaving in ways that are in alignment with our subconscious values. And the scariest part–most of the time, we aren’t even consciously aware of it. We find ourselves dumbfounded when we realise that we have done things and said things that are so completely out of sync with our conscious values.
So how and why does that happen? I think that it comes down to what we’ve soaked up from our environment. In order to fit in, get by, or perhaps not rock the boat; we compromise the values we hold dear and as a consequence, we diminish our personal integrity. Even if we are successful by conventional standards, there is this nagging feeling that something is amiss.
We can think of values as the foundation upon which we build everything else that comes. If that foundation–or the ground that it is built on–is either shaky, full of holes, or made of clay; it will not survive. I see the subconscious mind as the ground and the conscious mind as the foundation stone. If we don’t put in the time and the effort to bridge our conscious and subconscious minds, we may well end up violating our values without realising it. This can lead to deep feelings of loneliness, guilt and shame, without us ever quite knowing why.
One truth I’ve come to realise for myself is that while wealth is of extreme importance to me, it is only insofar as it reflects my true values. The pursuit of wealth only has meaning if we can understand that there is no foul in the creation and possession of things that reflect our true values. In that vein, there is great pain that is caused when we are attached to jobs, objects and even relationships that are not in alignment with our inner compass.
For me, a big part of this journey required me to both understand and live out the values of others. We often unwittingly absorb the values of our parents, friends, colleagues and society without realising that we simply don’t share the same values. If we are planted in soil that does not nourish or nurture us, we either wither or die, or find ourselves uprooted.
It is our values and principles that must guide us. At the same time, we cannot expect that others will have the same values as us. The right path for me based on my own inner compass will not be so for everyone. The world will indeed continue on if I choose to walk on my own unique path.
Over the past few years, I’ve gone through numerous transformations, out of which I’ve realised that it’s perfectly normal to experience great irreversible loss as a byproduct of choosing to live by my own set of values. My journey has taught me to discard the bricks that do not fit into the structure of the business and the life that I want to build.
This has allowed me to let go of all that shimmers, but is not necessarily gold. And in its place has come the much-needed opportunity to rebuild my life at the all powerful zero–where all great first things begin.