Note to self
Figuring out what's important ... I think, therefore I am. Photo: AFR
Our ability to live in line with our values and remain true to ourselves is a mark of character. Learning to do this gives us the strength to say ''no'' and can affect the quality of our relationships, our happiness and how successful we are.
Yet, many of us struggle with it, author and human development speaker John Demartini says.
The plethora of technology and information we are bombarded with each day can cloud our judgment and if we aren't clear on what our values are, we end up prioritising those that aren't ours.
Many of us struggle to stay true to our values.
Understanding what our values are may not be as simple as it sounds, Demartini says. They are not what we would like or think they ought to be, but what we actually act on and prioritise in life. ''Every individual … lives by a set of priorities - whatever is highest in their values,'' he says.
The danger, he says, is adopting other people's values in place of our own. For instance, when we put someone on a pedestal, we feel inferior and inject their values.
''As soon as you put someone on a pedestal, you start doing things that sacrifice your highest priorities,'' Demartini says. ''Our own true values recede into our unconscious. We then try to be like them - someone we're not. We hear ourselves saying 'should', 'ought to' and 'have to' … instead of living congruently with our true priorities and doing what we say we love.''
Deferring like this can also cause resentment. ''When we do this, we judge our values relative to theirs … which results in internal conflict,'' he says.
It's interesting that Demartini, who appeared in the polarising film The Secret, talks of thinking in extremes. The controversial figure and author of 40 books says he has learnt that embracing the whole spectrum of ourselves and others gives us a clear perspective and, therefore, clarity about what is important.
''Every human has two sides,'' says Demartini, who was in Australia recently on a speaking tour. ''A one-sided view where you're always positive [or negative] is always delusional.''
Seeing ourselves or others as one-dimensional - good or bad, better or worse, right or wrong - might be delusional, he says, but it's all too common. One study, presented in January, found that envy is rampant.
The study of 600 people, a collaboration between the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Technical University of Darmstadt, also in Germany, found that witnessing friends' holidays, love lives and work successes on Facebook can cause envy and trigger feelings of misery and loneliness. This grass-is-greener mentality stops us from seeing reality.
''Whenever you have a fantasy about how you think your life should be instead of being grateful for how it is, you split yourself in two,'' Demartini says. ''The fantasy appears to be more positive than negative and, as a result, you compare your reality to it. You then become sad and depressed whenever you perceive that your life doesn't match the unrealistic ideal in your mind.''
The trick is to have realistic expectations and understand that everyone is equal.
''We become our true selves to the extent that we recognise ourselves in each other,'' Demartini says.
So what really matters to you?
Values, in this context, have nothing to do with morals and ethics. Give at least three answers to each question. Remember, your life demonstrates your values.
+ What do you fill your space with (home and office)?
+ How do you spend your time?
+ How do you spend your energy?
+ What do you spend your money on beyond set monthly expenses?
+ Where are you most organised and ordered?
+ Where are you most disciplined and reliable?
+ What do you think about or focus on most?
+ What do you envision or dream about most?
+ What do you discuss internally most?
+ What do you discuss externally most?
+ What are you most inspired about?
+ What do you set goals towards most?
Count the duplicated answers. Whatever gets the highest score is your highest value (where you are most dedicated, focused, disciplined and ordered). Generally, your top three values will be where you put most of your energy and attention.