The Importance of Living a Meaningful Life Through Your Values

Values provide us a compass by which we live our lives. Although values are always present, we rarely give them much thought. Much like a compass we use on an unfamiliar hike, values provide us the platform from which we direct our lives. We judge based on the consistency of values utilized by someone.

 

The Barrett Values Center, in 2010, found, in researching more than two thousand private and public institutions in more than sixty countries, that: “Values-driven organizations are the most successful organizations on the planet. They found that values drive the culture as well as contribute to the employees’ fulfillment. In the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, the noted the same outcome in companies they observed over several decades.

 

Martin Seligman, a leader in the positive psychology movement, found, through his questionnaire, that signature strengths and values fundamentally contribute to a meaningful life.

 

I remember, many years ago, thinking that emotions were fleeting and mercurial. They seemed to be missing a key ingredient to living fully.  When I was first introduced to the concept of values I thought they were a wonderful state to aspire to.  Years later, when I identified my core values, I felt a strong resonance and connection to my life. I realized that I could live from my values and when I did, life was clearer and more satisfying, with richer meaning and depth. I realized that they were my compass, the one I had been missing and to which my emotions could not relate.

 

What are your values? How cognizant are you of them on a daily basis?

Do Not Forget the Past; It Provides Mighty Support

When we forget those who have come before, like our great- grandparents, we forget our history. When we forget our history, we must begin again leaving new footprints that are themselves, swept away and forgotten as our great grandchildren look back at photos of us and wonder who we were.

 

Contrast this with those families who have captured, and meaningfully nurture the values and enduring traits of those who have come before them as a pillar to support their own lives today and tomorrow.

 

If you do not care how your family will thrive or if it will drift into a fog of insignificance, your family’s history will play out as it has for centuries for most families. Great grandparents have no meaning, they have been forgotten. New generations start afresh as if nothing came before them.

 

But if carrying on the spark of “what matters most” to your family, as a group of like-minded connected individuals, then your family story is an important element to your family’s success. And you must create that story. It will not create itself.

 

Researchers at Emory University found that “…family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world.”  When adolescents can see the values and traits they share with past family members, they form a stronger sense of well-being and a stronger sense of identity.  This Emory University study also showed that ​there is real benefit in sharing the stories about where the family came from, both geographically and through their values. Family stories keep families connected through generations by its narrative.

 

Your story, the one that will live on, will include how you met challenges, what successes have meant to you, what values you deem to be important and why and how they have guided you. Your story will describe how you came to value what you do value so those who come after you can understand themselves better by hearing from you. When they understand themselves better, they have more confidence and feel more secure in a world where those without this foundation, struggle to be seen and known.

 

Do you have a family story in your family, one that benefits its members, is shared because it came from the “author’s” experience?  Let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts on this important recommendation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connect with Loved Ones over the Holidays by Trying This

It’s time for the family gatherings again. You know the ones I am referring to: where people cluster in their usual groups, talking about the weather, travel hiccups, politics; where people cluster around the food taking bites in short and informational filled conversations; where someone introduces a topic they know will fuel the flames of emotional reaction. Yes…those dynamics.

 

This year you can come to a family celebration prepared to add a dollop of meaningful connection. Bring a series of questions with which you can connect more personally with those you engage in conversation.

 

Start by asking someone to share something significant that has positively impacted them this year. Listen as they share that event or experience with you. Then follow up by asking them either: how this significant impact they experienced benefited them or ask them how this significant impact made them feel.  And again, just listen. When you do, you will find that they will share with you a value of theirs that is important to the core of who they are. This will connect you to them in a very personal way that small talk cannot.

 

I find that asking questions like these, at the end of the year, to be a wonderful icebreaker and connector with friends and family.

 

Let me know how the outcome of having this conversation at your family gathering. I would love to hear your comments.

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Being “The Greatest” Lets You Shine

Remember the phrase: “I am the greatest!”? It was a statement proclaimed repeatedly, in different ways, by the great boxer Muhammed Ali to reporters and to his opponent. He believed it and he became it. Which came first, his belief or his statement? I do not know. I do understand it was one of the tools he used to become the icon he became.

 

You may not be a boxer who needs to pump yourself up before the fight, however, you are someone who I would like to consider the phrase “I am the greatest!” for a moment and say it to yourself, for you are the greatest. You are unique and the greatest in something you do, how you do it or in who you are. The question is: How are you the greatest?

 

To find out the answer to this question, ask yourself: “What are the values you hold dearest to your heart?” and then list your top three. These are the values that identify your greatness. So, take the time to identify and define them. Then, use them to guide your decisions, your actions and your movements.

 

You are the greatest. Now, let that part of you shine.

The 2nd Most Important Day in Your Life Is…

Millennials, currently under the microscope of researchers and data collectors, have been found to want to be involved in something that matters. Studies say that 87% of Millennials take into account a company’s commitment to social and environmental causes as they decide where to work.  That’s a big percentage of people looking to plug in to what matters.

 

Baby boomers, moving into retirement in huge numbers fear that retirement means retreating into irrelevancy. Shell Oil and independently the University of Zurich, found that there is a strong correlation between a rudderless retirement and early death. They each found that there is an 89% chance of death within 10 years for those without a purpose than those who have one.

 

As Mark Twain brilliantly stated: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born…and the day you find out why.”

 

Having a purpose provides a foundation for motivation and for developing the meaning in our lives that one day becomes our legacy.

 

How have you found a purpose in your life benefit you? Let me know by leaving a comment.

As They Removed Their Masks, This Choir Left Us in Tears

I recently returned from the GALA Choruses’ tenth quadrennial music festival held in Denver. With over 130 choruses and 6,500 singers from all across the U.S. and overseas, men and women commanded the various stages at the Denver Performance Art Center, the Convention Center and other downtown locations, with amazing shows.

One chorus, The Beijing Queer Choir made its debut at this festival. For this courageous and ground breaking group, joining a welcoming and supportive family of singers was very important. You see, in China, their lives as gay and lesbian people has to remain in the shadows. Family ostracization, lack of community support, and pressure from the government to marry and have children keep their identities concealed when they are performing on stage.

The members did not want to obtain individual visas for fear that “coming out” would led to harassment and imprisonment.  Although being gay is legal, it is not tolerated. Finally, three weeks before the festival in Denver began, the group was given permission to leave China and travel on a group visa, keeping their individual information protected.

Once visas were secured, plane tickets had to be purchased. As you can imagine, the cost of airline tickets this close to departure, was very high. After many conversations with various airlines, and ten days before the start of the festival, tickets were secured.

When performing in China, this eight-year-old choir performs with masks on so they cannot be individually identified. When they stepped on the Denver stage each had a mask on to cover their faces to keep their identities secret while they performed. As the interpreter talked about the great welcome and support they were experiencing in Denver, the singers, one by one, removed their masks. It was a powerful moment for the audience to watch these performers one after another, remove their masks, and reveal, for an audience, their faces, for the first time. And one singer kept their mask on to highlight the fear of retribution gay and lesbian people in Beijing have in “coming out.”

As you can imagine, the audience erupted in howling applause, tears and standing ovation for this chorus armed with courage, purpose, tenacity and commitment.

It was powerful to witness and experience the Beijing Queer Choir as they made their debut in Denver, unmasked.

Leave me a comment on how you have used courage and strength to identify and become who you are.

The Family Mission Becomes the Family’s Valuable Compass

By drafting a family mission statement, you are providing your family a compass to guide it on its journey as a cohesive unit through the years, through individual successes and challenges as a cohesive unit This mission becomes the family’s compass to guide it as a unified unit while also building independent and productive individual lives.

Today it is common to find a break in connection within two generations of a family. Siblings grow up, form their own families and meet up again only on social media and occasional family gatherings. Without a common and shared bigger purpose their connections weaken with the growth of their own lives and families.

Having a common purpose that is actively developed and supported by all members creates bonds of trust and a community of companions that stays connected. Their compass becomes their trusted anchor and guide. It remains steadfast through their lives.

It does not take that much to create a family mission statement. Here is a simple checklist to consider as you guide your family or your clients’ families to staying connected for generations.

  • As a family, identify and talk about your individual as well as your collective values. This provides an opportunity to ask yourself both as an individual and as a family: “What matters most to us?”
  • Determine together the mission of your family. This is the opportunity to ask yourselves, as a family:” What do we stand for?”
  • Create your shared mission statement that, as a unified body, you want to develop with your strong foundation of unified values. This becomes your community compass
  • Discuss how each individual can add meaning to the family’s shared purpose and mission with their strengths and values and actions that strengthen the mission and their bond.

 

Having a family mission sets roots for a family’s heritage and legacy to develop for years and generations to come. It is a rich compass for a family to nurture and perpetuate.  

Leave me a comment with your thoughts on building a family compass by finding its mission. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic

Can You See It? The Family Mountain Moved

In your own family, it can be hard to be seen differently by your adult siblings than how they viewed you when you were young.

Sometimes, adding a new dimension to that view, is tantamount to moving a mountain. Because of this, it took a l-o-n-g time for me to create bridges of communication between remaining members of my family. But it was important for me to do so. Because of the work I do with individuals and families, guiding them to stay connected for generations, I wanted to bring the same tools to my own family.

We are very competitive, very stoic, very aloof, and somewhat questioning of each other’s motives. This makes for a very challenging environment to talking about family purpose, connection and legacy. The family is able to dismiss the subject in a short dismissive conversation, one that goes like this: “We don’t need to do that. We’re fine. Others can do that if they want. We know what we stand for and if one of us doesn’t, they’ll figure it out.”

I knew my family would be one of the toughest families to bring together for anything other than the customary family events but after a conscientious many year building of trust, safety and deeper connection, the remaining 3 branches to the trunk are beginning to communicate with each other. Wow, what an experience this is. From not being able to recognize a sibling in a lineup of three, to communicating by letter, phone, and social media, is a tremendous change. From not acknowledging each other to asking about each other’s well-being is a huge breakthrough. From not being in the same room together for years to hosting an easy pre dinner social, the family is beginning to talk. And now, we may even have a gathering to put the family story together for future generations.

The mountain is moving…at least in our family. It was worth the focused attention to bringing the family back together.

Is your family preserving or resurrecting its connection? Leave a comment on what’s going on in your family.

You Are not the only one who can Feel Unfairly Treated

You are out for dinner with friends and someone you know happens to enter the restaurant. She sits at another table. During your dinner, you casually glance over at the other table and hear her talk about tickets to the sold out Adele show she won on a radio show. You think to yourself. “That’s not fair. I must have hit refresh a 1,000 times. I should have been able to get tickets” Unfortunately, the only tickets you can get now are through the secondary market and they have already tripled in price in the area you want to sit.  As you try to reengage with your dinner friends, you feel the “it’s not fair, I never get what I want” feeling wash over you. You know you have to shake it off.

You are not alone. Your best friend has the same feelings. No, not that best friend, I am talking about the friend that is always there for you, your canine companion. Cognitive scientists working with dogs have found that dogs respond to their interpretive feeling of unfairness. These researchers have found that when dogs are put into a situation where they perform the same action, like shaking a paw, and do not receive the same reward, the one being treated “less well” withdraws.

Austrian dog cognitive researchers conducted a test where different levels of rewards were given to dogs for participating in an experiment: none, yummy smelling dark bread, and aromatic laden sausage. The researchers found an interesting outcome to this experiment that warranted 30 paw shakes. When one dog was rewarded in the early stages of the count, and other not, the unrewarded dog stopped “presenting their paw” after 12 times and was visibly agitated at the disparity of treatment. When neither dog was given a reward, they both needed verbal prompting to continue “presenting their paw” and completely stopped “presenting” after 20 times. The “game” had lost its appeal and was no longer worth playing for the dogs when their willingness to join in did not result in a “reward.”

Through their and other researchers’ studies, it has been concluded that dogs and other social carnivores understand the concept of being “treated less well” and respond accordingly. Responses can include revenge, aggression, withdrawing, sadness, pride, hierarchal order and more.

Do you need to settle for a feeling of being treated unfairly? I don’t think so. I think people have a secret sauce that can remove them from reacting like this. The secret sauce is in your values. When you use your values consciously, as a way of being, you can bypass many of the reactive emotions that demand and command immediate outcomes. When you live with your values at the forefront of your life, you think and act differently. You look to effect the world you live in with wisdom rather than with reaction, effect the world through a bigger lens rather than though a reactive filter.

Tell me what you discover as you ponder the insights in this blog.

Discovering Your Purpose leads to Discovering Your Principles

John Stuart Mill was a 19th century British philosopher and economist who championed the importance of creating and living a purposeful life. He came upon his meaningful life from astonishing circumstances.

When he was a small child he was merely an experiment for his father’s obsessive exploration. The young Mills was fed a steady and unbending diet of natural sciences, classical literature and classical music. All else was considered folly and not permitted around or in in John’s presence.  As Mills later accounted, “My emotions were starved while my mind was violently over-developed.”

By the age of twelve, Mills was as erudite as a thirty-year old. His father was pleased and the experiment continued. Finally, in early adulthood, John suffered a mental breakdown. Although he was an elite intellectually, he felt empty.  Like a muscle that breaks down and atrophies from disuse, this young man found his emotions were unhealthy from lack of use for his entire life.  He had no idea how to even access them. This breakdown led him to a story by the nearly forgotten French writer, Marmontel. The story, about the death of a father, moved Mills to tears, and beyond that, it planted seeds of emotions in him: emotions of sadness, guilt, shame, love and fear. This, as you can imagine, changed his life. Not only was this world of emotions overwhelming and accompanied by feelings of being out of control, he also felt drawn to exploring and understanding these emotions that were stronger than his mental ability to shut them down.

Once starved of a mighty element to life, the magnetism and effect of emotions, Mills now decided to dedicate his life to exploring the true meaning of life. From his explorations, Mills brought to the public a keen insight and understanding of two mighty principles, the principles of liberty and justice. If you would like to read further into his insights into these principles, his 1821 book: On Liberty and The Utilitarianism will provide you with more insight and information.

Whether you find it in the writings of John Stuart Mills, through my work in guiding people to live their purposeful life or if you find it through the neuro-scientific discoveries, it can’t be stated emphatically strongly enough: finding, developing and sharpening your purpose in life gives you more of a feeling of your own sense of happiness and value in life.

Does your life have purpose and as a result, meaningful direction? Let me know your thoughts, challenges or breakthroughs on living a life of meaning and significance.