“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
One of the five jckrbbt principles I wrote about in Back From Heaven’s Front Porch: 5 Principles to Create a Happy and Fulfilling Life is to know thyself—that wonderful insight and advice offered to us by the philosopher, Socrates, so many years ago. But how can something so simply stated in two words require so much focus for us as human beings on this journey called life? I believe it’s a principle that is never fully obtained; it’s a work in progress.
Our values are created as we experience life and grow through childhood into adulthood. There are varying thoughts on as to when our values are uncovered. For me, I believe we begin to connect with our values, in other words—to determine and judge what’s important—early on. I’ll always remember a time when I was in grade school and called the girl up the street a very mean name. Somewhere inside me, I knew it was not a good thing to do, but I did it anyway. And it hurt, I mean I know it hurt her, but it hurt me too; in my Soul it was not right. Maybe the peer pressure of my other friends influenced my choice—and it was my choice…and a poor one. After my Dad “communicated” with me that calling her that name, and hurting her was not a good thing, I rode my bike to her house and apologized to her in front of her family on their back patio as they were having a cookout. As I rode back home, a few connected values became clear for me, empathy, compassion and caring for others.
As I moved through high school and my college years I realized I did not like structure and routine, so my values of autonomy, spontaneity, freedom and flexibility took root. Although upon graduation, I took jobs early in my career that went against my values, simply because I did not know my values. I took jobs for money and security, when at that time in my life I didn’t value them. One value that was formed early on for me was harmony—which for me is a lack of conflict. While this is a great value, and our world needs more harmony for sure, it also has the potential to influence your choices away from what you truly value, just to “keep the peace”, and this is why I took a few of those jobs. Then I lived in accordance with some of my strong values for two years: Fun and Experiencing new things. I lived into these values on the beaches of Avalon, NJ in the summer, and the slopes of Aspen, CO in the winter. Ahhhhh, peace. My mom would often ask me on our calls when I was in Aspen, “Well, Daniel. Did you find yourself yet?” I would smile, tell her I loved her, and add, “Not yet, but I did ski fresh powder yesterday that was up to my butt.” One thing I learned during reflection of that time is that while living into those values, I should also have paid more attention to the value of security and financial stability. We’re most fulfilled when we are balanced in our values.
I also have always been blessed with the intuition that there is a God, some divine energy available to us in this life. An accident at 28 years of age solidified this belief for me, so my value of Faith, is my strongest. So after having done values work—and again, it’s always a work in progress to stay conscious of your values, and hold up the mirror of self-reflection to be sure your life is in accord with your values, my top values are:
- Faith, Spirituality
- Integrity - Truth
- LOVE / Intimacy – to give & receive
- Empathy, Compassion and Caring For Others
- Autonomy, Spontaneity, Freedom and Flexibility
- Family and Friends
- Innovation, Vision and Creativity
- Health / Fitness – Mind, Body, Soul
- Self-reflection and Being Still
- Fun, Adventure, Travel, Spontaneity
- Fulfillment (this is the achievement of the “right things”)
- Learning & Growth
- Security / Commitment
Want to do some value work? If yes, click here to visit a a list of some major values and identify maybe 10-15 that resonate for you. You’ll see that some are connected for sure, and it’s okay to use the language/words that work for you.
Reflect on times in your life when you were very happy and fulfilled, and then identify the values you were living. Then think of times in your life you may describe as “dark” or “in a rut”, and what values were lacking. This should give you a good starting list. Next, think about your present state of life and put a number of 1 – 10 next to your values; 1 meaning you are way out of alignment with this value, and 10 meaning you’re doing wonderfully living into that value. Be thankful for your 8’s, 9’s and 10’s…then review your other values and ask yourself, “What needs to change in the way I’m thinking to change my feelings to change my actions…to move this number up?” Then get to work!
So, how can one take the principle of know thyself, and do the work to enhance the quality of their lives, and likely the lives of those they interact with? There are many ways, but the one that I believe is a great place to begin is to be sure you know your values…your judgment of what is important in life. Peace!