DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 2 years ago
Having spent over four decades teaching and traveling around the world, I estimate that over 90% of people unconsciously attempt to live according to socially acceptable ideals derived from some individual or collective authorities’ higher values.
More often than not, people end up living by duty or according to what they think they “should”, “ought to” or “must” do - more than what they would love.
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. According to Lawrence Kohlberg, a prominent psychologist, human beings go through various stages of moral development from birth.
He breaks it down into several stages:
1. The first and lowest moral structure is avoiding pain and seeking pleasure.
In other words, if something is painful, you’re likely to avoid it; and if something is pleasureful or sweet, you are likely to seek it. This is a natural part of our survival animal nature and the most primitive form of moral structure.
You can often see this stage demonstrated in the first year of a child’s life as he learns to navigate the world around him by seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
Once the child learns to crawl and walk, his parents are likely to begin saying “no” to certain actions – sticking his fingers in plug sockets or reaching for hot cups of coffee. In doing so, they project their own values onto the child, which leads to what Kohlberg refers to as the second stage:
2. Subordination to individual authority.
Up until the age of about 12, children tend to subordinate first to their mothers, then fathers, then preachers or spiritual instructors, and then teachers.
During this time, children are likely to inculcate and inject some of the values of people they depend on.
3. Subordination to collective authority.
The next phase takes place around 13 years of age or during puberty when a teenager’s friends start to become more important than their parents.
It is during these critical years that teenagers mostly try to find out where their independence lies as they are not yet financially independent and tend to go back and forth between fitting into society, peer pressure and their family.
This subordination can then move from the local community to the city, then the state, then the nation, and then the world.
This tends to last until they are in their forties, which is about the age of the people they subordinated to when they were children.
At this age, some people may end up having an identity crisis or midlife crisis, because they are now at the age their parents were and tend to start questioning what it is that is truly important, valuable and a priority to them.
So, it tends to be a soul-searching and introspective reassessment of their own core values that may or may not lead to the fourth stage:
4. Transcendence – having the courage to be yourself, question authority, and question conforming to whatever people are saying and expecting.
This can be a very challenging stage and many people might not reach the transcendent stage. Instead, they may be stuck in the first, second or third stages.
Why? Because many people are instinctually frightened of being abandoned, abolished, or removed from the group.
As such, they may attempt to conform, dress a certain way, live a certain way, and fit in where they can in order to avoid being rejected.
A fear of rejection can be a powerful motivator.
As a result, a large majority of people will inculcate and inject the values of whoever they depend on, whoever they look up to, whoever they admire, and whoever they subordinate to. In the process they are most likely to inject that person’s values and try to live in their values instead of in their own core values.
Any time you hear yourself saying, 'I should', 'I ought to', 'I'm supposed to', 'I got to', 'I have to', 'I must', or 'I need to' – that is likely to be the imperative language of an injected value of some authority, as opposed to your own highest core values.
If you want to master your life and transcend, you would be wise to begin by being honest with yourself.
Not that ‘honesty’ is the value itself, but it would be wise to be honest with yourself in the assessment of what is both important to you and a priority to you.
Determining your own unique set of core values can be done on my website at no cost. In essence, the Value Determination Process takes you through 13 very specific questions:
- What do you fill your primary personal or professional space with most?
- How do you spend your time primarily when you are awake?
- How do you spend your energy most and what energizes you most?
- How do you spend your money?
- Where are you most organized and ordered?
- Where are you most reliable, disciplined, and focused?
- What do you inwardly think about most?
- What do you visualize, and then realize, most?
- What do you internally dialogue with yourself about most?
- What do you talk about most to others in social settings?
- What inspires you most?
- What is common to those individuals, insights, experiences, or events that have inspired you the most?
- What are your most consistent long-term goals that are already coming true?
- What do you love learning, reading, studying, or listening about the most?
When talking about your core values, I am talking about what your life already demonstrates.
Answering those 13 questions listed above will help you identify what your life already shows as evidence of being a priority instead of what you think SHOULD be a priority or something you presume might help make you feel happier, more successful, or more fulfilled.
In other words, you will be able to better identify your highest values.
If you set goals, priorities, objectives, intentions, and attentions in the direction of what is truly highest on your hierarchy of values, you’ll be most likely to excel.
This is when you’ll tend to awaken your power, your leadership, and your genius, while also expanding your space and time horizons.
As a result, you’ll tend to give yourself permission to do more; have more certainty, belief and confidence; and be most likely to live with eustress and adaptability instead of distress and phobias.
Integrity means living congruently with what you really value.
Many people profess a desire to be more honest. I believe that the most important place to be honest is with yourself about what is really important to you.
If you do not know and live by your highest values, if you’re not fulfilling what is most meaningful to you, and if you do not prioritize your life, you are most likely to be frustrated and unfulfilled.
The minute you go into unfulfillment, your blood glucose and oxygen go into the amygdala, the subcortical area of the brain, which is likely to kick you into animal survival mode to where you avoid pain and seek pleasure. So, you literally regress and return to very primitive survival mechanisms of pleasing parents, conforming or subordinating, and being part of the herd.
However, if you have the courage to:
- Be an unborrowed visionary,
- Go after what is truly important to you,
- Prioritize your life,
- Do it in a way that serves people so that you are remunerated and compensated, and
- Delegate lower priority things
I am certain that you can enhance and empower your life.
Low values and phobias
Anytime you are not living by your highest values, you are likely to be trapped in phobias.
This is where you may have a fear of
- not being smart enough,
- not succeeding, a fear of failure,
- not making enough money,
- losing the respect of people,
- rejection by people in society,
- ill health, death, or disease, or not being attractive enough,
- breaking the morals and ethics of some spiritual authority you have given power to.
All these fears are likely the by-product of not living by your highest values because you’ve subordinated to the collective authority, or injected the core values of somebody else.
Knowing your core values is key to self-mastery
Wherever I go and in almost every talk I do, will include why it would be wise to know your core values, and how you can identify them.
If you do not find out what they are and you keep trying to be somebody you are not, you’re likely to be frustrated, unfulfilled, living in fear and distracted by impulses and instincts and that's going to interfere with your ability to master your life.
As I have said a few times before, the desire for that which is unattainable and the desire to avoid that which is unavoidable is the source of the passionate suffering that people have instead of an inspired mission.
Whatever is highest on your list of values (your core values) is where you are the most disciplined, reliable, focused, and inspired.
Whatever is lowest on your list of values is where you will procrastinate, hesitate, and frustrate.
So, what do you want?
A disciplined, reliable, and focused life that is inspired, leads, and blazes a new trail?
Or do you want to be sitting in mediocrity, trying to fit in and waiting to see what you 'should be' like and just trying to fit in with everyone else?
An empowered life emerges when you are congruent and living by your top three to five highest values.
There is no right or wrong value system, or one that you are ‘supposed’ to have.
Your values reflect what is true to you, and what is really inspiring to you.
What you value is also you’re inspired service to the world.
You would be wise to find out what is meaningful to you so you cannot wait to get up in the morning and do that.
Your contribution comes from uniqueness – not from fitting in.
I would far rather be number one at being me than number two at being somebody else.
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