Achieving alignment between our higher values (moral principles), beliefs (what we accept as true) and behaviors/actions in a daily challenge for us, but is worthwhile for the long term peace of mind it provides.
When there is a misalignment between our highest values and our beliefs we leave ourselves open to inner turmoil and negative feelings such as guilt and shame, which do not serve us but can be our way of punishing ourselves for not behaving in accordance with our higher values.
Example to illustrate the point. We know deep down that all men are created equal and should be treated as such. However, we might hold beliefs which conflict with this value, which cause us to act in discriminatory ways – racial, age, gender discrimination. These beliefs can arise from social conditioning or difficult life experiences and being aware of these influences helps greatly in modifying our behavior.
Developing a moral framework/belief system which is consistent with our higher values can also improve the quality of our decision making. For example, in the world of big business there are potential conflicts between the interests of shareholders, employees and the wider community. Using higher values as a reference point gives us a better chance of getting a ‘fair’ balance between competing interests where such conflicts arise.
So how do we know when we are acting in accordance with our higher values? There is no easy answer to this but the following elements will tend to be present when this is the case :
– impact on others and/or the common good are key considerations
– long term consequences of our actions are considered
– we are clear and honest (to ourselves and others) as to our motivations
– we have a high level of awareness of our higher values, and try to live by them
– we are open to challenge/feedback on the impact of our actions
– we are true to ourselves and demonstrate self respect in our behaviors
Conversely, if you find that your key drivers are lower values such as desire for material possessions, power, fame or other ego centric behavior this should cause you to stop and reflect on the long term consequences. If fear is a key driver for us this should likewise give us ’cause for pause’.
None of the above insights will save us from occasional mental torture associated with difficult choices but at least we give ourselves a solid moral framework by which to live in harmony with ourselves, not to mention those around us.
Reality check – it is a bit Utopian to think that we will live every day in accordance with our highest values, although we should try. Therefore, one of our higher values should be self – forgiveness !