There’s evidence that our values reflect the life we’ve lived. As thinking beings, we’ll invent ways to make our world view consistent with our experiences, good or bad. Ultimately, however, this makes us subject to our past, and powerless over our mindset, our future, or our experience of life.
We experience intense uneasiness when we’re asked to take action inconsistent with our values. As a rule, we won’t do it except under duress. This can be an intensely limiting thing, and it certainly prevents growth and exploration.
There’s an alternative: we can choose a future, intentionally selecting the life we want to live and the values we want to live by. These are mine. The list is a bit long to consciously keep in mind at all times, but it’s a touchstone to return to when I need focus or clarity. The wonderful news is I can update, revise, add, or subtract as I choose!
You can review my list of values in detail, or skip straight to the bottom of this post to see and do some exercises I recommend for using values as a guide for your life.
I’m a proud member of the Sesame Street generation. The characters of Sesame Street encouraged cooperation, diversity, good manners, healthy eating, good hygiene, and respect for nature and the environment. These are the influences that shaped my values and key factors driving the purpose of this blog. The following values that routinely come up in things I want, things I say, and things I do. They’re also the values that shape my thoughts and my writing.
I once heard Health described as what works and for as long. I know some who would call it integrity: a state of workability. Many think of it mostly as a biological state affecting how they feel, but it applies in any context: organizations, communication, relationships. Nothing is off-limits here.
Precipitant to my second mid-life crisis, I realized my family members and others tend to die of heart attacks and strokes, and I resolved to be healthy (more about that here and here). In the process, I began exercising and experienced classic central Texas allergies as a result of being outside more often. Through the course of early treatment for that, and in response to a lifetime of digestive upset, I eventually received a diagnosis for an auto-immune condition. In the quest for a healthy diet for me, I then identified a bunch of digestive intolerances.
The good news is, in the process I learned a great deal about what represents health for me, and I learned a bunch of things that seem to be less healthy for me. Nothing I’ve experienced is terminal (other than the mere state of being alive), and I can control the negative symptoms of these conditions with good choices. The bad news is my autoimmune condition is exacerbated by the same things that cause issues for millions of people around the United States and the world. Overweight, insufficient movement, and other more insidious preventable causes, kill thousands of people, before they need to die, every day.
Fitness is a state of being appropriate and sufficient. This word has a broad range of uses and is vastly overused today to describe some heightened state of general health or athleticism. Fitness in even those terms simply means the ability to do what one wants to do. Many runners have a high level of fitness for running, but they’re terribly unfit as rock climbers, and vice versa.
In my inquiry into health, I found fitness in many areas that just weren’t going to happen for me otherwise. Today I enjoy triathlon, running, and tandem cycling with my Honey Bunny. We’re both members of Rogue Running and the Texas Beef Athletic Team. I’m a proud InsideTracker triathlete, and a member of Half Fanatics. We’re always looking for more connections and affiliations. If you have advice, information, or recommendations about these, please let us know in the comments below, via twitter, facebook, or LinkedIn!
Bob Dylan (who took his name from the same place my parents took mine) wrote “he not busy being born is busy dying.” The more I consider health and fitness, the more I see this as truth. Birth is the ultimate growth experience, a transition from one stage of existence to a new, completely foreign one. I’ve seen in my own life that if I’m not undertaking growth and renewal, I’m stagnating. There’s no middle stasis possible. Growth requires a relative state of health and fitness to be possible at all, and certainly it’s stressful, but it’s survivable.
On the other hand, growth can’t occur where circumstances prevent it, and one can intentionally cause growth to occur just as one can intentionally stifle it. Growth is unsustainable on a long enough timeline or great enough scale, without consistent intention to continue growing. It’s a constant in my life and the lives of those I keep around me. It’s simple enough, though not always easy and usually a little uncomfortable. By definition, growth requires us to abandon what we have for a new and uncertain future state. Sometimes the most rewarding growth opportunities occur as review and reconsideration of the things I’ve always ‘known’. They represent a choice to make myself uncomfortable and do something new and different.
This word is too often overused as a “green” term, and it’s important in those terms, but also is important in organizations and budget management. Short term splurges can become unsustainable, and, if sustained, can be fatal. I’m committed to good things being sustainable, and I’m committed to creating mechanisms and processes that enable sustainability and efficiency.
There’s an Iroquois (native American) idea that leaders should plan for 7 generations in the future. This powerful guidance is intended to assure success and survival of the community. Others have demonstrated that choices poorly made can destroy entire civilizations in a few generations. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly work out for the Iroquois any more than it worked for the others. What went wrong? What can we learn from both and use for mutual benefit?
We must choose our future and take actions consistent with it. What do you want? I want to know I’ve left this earth and everything in it better than when I got here. Any other outcome means my life came at a net cost and had no positive impact. That could have happened entirely without my existence or participation or contribution. I’m committed to more than that: I believe we were all made for more. It’s up to us to find the courage to help each other find the courage, to make the world a little better each day.
Service is the backbone of 12 step programs and fundamental to a balanced life that’s connected to others. It can be difficult to see the wisdom in service over a more selfish and self-centered perspective and motive, until one’s life is literally falling apart for lack of community.
Ironically, and seemingly to prove the opposite, first aid teaches us to help ourselves first: if we haven’t laid a foundation for our own health and fitness, we’ll be of limited value to others, or we could even be hurt ourselves.
There’s wisdom in service, and there’s a need to take care of ourselves first. Properly balanced, everyone wins. In everything I do, I seek to serve, and to find the way everyone can win. Win-win, or no deal.
An adventure is an undertaking where the outcome is uncertain. If the outcome is predictable, the initiative may be a lot of things — difficult, valuable, important, weighty, significant — but it’s not an adventure. Ironically, for a corporate project to qualify for the US IRS Research and Experimentation Tax Credit, uncertain outcome is one of the primary requirements. For anyone who thinks engineering or business is boring, consider that sometimes R&D is adventure! Furthermore, this essay makes clear that entrepreneurship is adventurous also!
My Honey Bunny and I have begun a lifestyle of adventure, and our plan is to accelerate it. Week-long tours will give way to trips across US states and eventually countries and continents, on foot, by bike, by any means necessary.
Many believe they can’t — do this — or that — and I’m a voice for possibility and — YOU CAN! I’ve been there many times myself. In fact, I’m there most days, in one way or another. I’ve already written about achievements I’ve made in mid-life: losing 50 pounds, running 5 marathons, completing a half Ironman triathlon, receiving awards for Age Group athletic high performance, riding my bicycle 300 miles in a week. As I’ve described elsewhere, I didn’t start as a highly trained athlete — I started as an overweight, sedentary, middle-aged man with no real clue about healthy eating, healthy diet, or what was really best for me as me, not a population statistic. Everything I’ve accomplished was by extending my level of preparation, knowledge, or achievement a little at a time.
In my personal quest for relevance, my intention is this online record will be one of many valuable artifacts of my time on the planet. I see the days pass and know the time left is ever more important and valuable. With that said, I intend to stretch it out as long as I can — 75 more years, at least!
I intend this as a dialogue and a learning opportunity for me and you. As such, I appreciate your opinions and questions, challenges and recommendations, in mutual support. I fail if readers don’t get more than I do: I’ll keep sharing until they do. Let me know what you want and how I can help you get it.
Contents of the blog may change as my understanding of my priorities shifts. However, I think this covers most of it, and it leaves ample flexibility for change, or response to uncertainty. I appreciate your thoughts about what makes sense and what’s interesting or valuable. I’m committed to what works, and I’ll find a way to create the most value for all.
In college I took a rhetoric class where we read the CIA’s Nicaragua Manual and I became aware of the intention by some to influence the thoughts and actions of others. I learned that people so intentioned can have an amazing, sometimes unbelievable, impact, both for good and bad. Every publisher’s goal is influence; the question is, “are they authentic about it?”. As I wrote above, my shares also come from such an intention, but if my values are valuable to you, these words will encourage and empower you to have a life that supports your greatest aspirations! I’ll always leave comments on, so you can share whether I’m having the desired effect for us all.
I will be a positive voice for things that work in this world. Many voices encourage lifestyle choices that are just plain inappropriate for the average person. These voices are often stimulated by huge corporations and lobbies with agendas, or liars and the misinformed. The most sophisticated among them use strategies and tactics like those described in the Nicaragua Manual, and other great books on influence, to great effect. I will write about those things here. As I do, I’ll show the conflict of interest and the conventional wisdom or marketing. I’ll also offer alternatives.
How You Can Use Values To Your Advantage
- Set a timer for 10 minutes. Write the values you live by, and write examples in your life that show those values in action.
- Reset your timer for 10 minutes. Write the values you want to live by (if there’s a difference between what you want and what you’re doing). Write new actions you can take that would express those new values.
- Set your timer for 10 more minutes. Write activities or interests you’d like to pursue that you’re not currently pursuing. Write down the values they reflect or represent to you.
- Choose and declare a final set of values for yourself (don’t worry, you can change them any time). Put a line in the sand and live!
- Share Your Values:
- in the comments box below.
- with 5 people who care about you.
- with 5 people you care about.
Share advice, information, or referrals on this topic in the comments box below. I appreciate your contribution and will use it to improve!
Also published on Medium.