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Do you have relationship issues that you want to work out? Would you like to get along better with the people in your life? In the personal growth and self-help fields, there’s a lot of talk about core values. Most of the teachers and coaches will tell you to identify your personal values in order to find direction and purpose for your life.

 This is true, but there are other reasons for discovering your personal values that are essential for creating a happy life and successful relationships. In this article, you’ll discover why we don’t just automatically know what our core values are, and how to use your newly discovered personal core values as building blocks to create the life and the relationships that you’ve always wanted.

You may have heard of a book, written by Robert Fulghum, called, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” While the book is both cleverly written and humorous, there are some serious truths beneath the cute exterior. Some of the things he talks about learning in kindergarten include:

• Share
• Play fair
• Put things back where you found them
• Clean up your own mess
• Say you‘re sorry if you hurt someone.  

You might think the lessons above are rather obvious, but at their heart, these are profoundly important understandings. Of course we all learned them at a surface level in kindergarten, but no one told us why acting in these ways is so important—we were never made to understand the values that are embedded within these behaviors.  

What would be possible if, in kindergarten, instead of being told, “Nice little girls and boys share things with each other.” we were taught these behaviors by being asked questions such as, “Is sharing important to you?” “How does it feel when you share something with other people and they seem so happy?” or “Do you like it when people share things with you?”  

Imagine what could happen if we were asked to look inside and recognize how these behaviors enrich our lives? How different would the world be if children were taught what was important about acting in these ways, and how their choices could positively affect their lives as well as everyone around them?  

Unfortunately, in our society there is very little attempt to align cultural values embedded within these behaviors with our personal values. We are raised in a culture where these behaviors are taught to us using a system of punishment and reward. You either do it or you will be punished!  

From a very young age we are trained to focus our attention on figuring out who is good, who is bad, who is right, who is wrong, and what is appropriate, or inappropriate behavior. “If you don’t say you‘re sorry, you are bad and wrong.” “Share everything, play fair, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess,” and on and on it goes.  

We are taught that doing these things makes us good little boys and girls. And if you don’t do as you‘re told or do something else instead, you‘re punished and told that you‘re bad and wrong.

The concepts we learn in kindergarten, and the methods used to teach them, cause us to interact with one another in very predictable ways. Even as adults, when someone doesn’t share, play fair, or put things away, there are consequences. They might be judged as inappropriate or inconsiderate.  They could be criticized for not being a good friend, neighbor, brother or daughter. In extreme cases, they may even end up alienated from their community or family.  

But there’s good news... at any point you can decide to make sure your actions are a reflection of your personal values rather than an attempt to avoid consequences. To do this:  

1.Look inside and discover your personal values.
2.Investigate whether your actions are in harmony your personal values.
3.Recognize how your actions can enrich your life and the life of others.
4.Turn your attention away from right and wrong thinking.
5.Think about the values that may be motivating other people’s actions.

How Do You Take These Actions?

To begin living in harmony with your personal values, you must first know what they are. You can discover your personal values in many ways. One way is by asking yourself questions such as: “What is most important to me?” “What is the one thing I would miss in my life above all else?” Once you have your answers, distill them down to the quality that defines them. Another, more structured, way is to participate in a standardized values exercise. You can get one as our gift by visiting our web site. (Find it in the free stuff section.)

Once you have identified your personal values, the next step is to investigate whether the actions you’ve been taking are in harmony with those values. Is sharing in harmony with values you hold dear? Is playing fair important to you? Why is cleaning up your own mess something you personally value? Start answering these questions for yourself. Make sure that all your habitual actions are in harmony with your personal values. If they are, you will discover a renewed excitement about taking these actions. And if you should discover that some of the actions you were taking are not in harmony with your newfound personal values, it’s time to re-examine whether you want to continue taking that action.

Once you have examined your current behaviors, you can look forward to the future. Each time a new choice becomes available, it will be easy to determine how this action will enrich your life and the life of the other people involved. Will it support more closeness and connection? Will it create more trust and intimacy? When you move in the direction of making your life more wonderful, we promise that your happiness will extend to the lives of the people around you.

As we said before, from a very young age we are taught to focus on right-wrong thinking. This thinking creates unpleasant “us” against “them” interactions with the people in your life. Are we playing together so that everyone is having fun? Not with that kind of focus. To start interacting with others so that everyone can be satisfied with the outcome begins by shifting the focus of our attention from who’s right and who’s wrong, to getting to the values that motivate our actions.

So, the next time somebody does something you don’t enjoy, don’t automatically defend yourself and justify your position. STOP, don’t take it personally, and remember that their actions are being motivated by something that they value. Try instead to be curious: “Wow, I wonder what’s going on with them?” Imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes: “If I said or did that, what might be going on with me?” See if you can guess. This practice will create constructive interactions with the people in your life that end up being more fun and that leave you much more satisfied.

Any time you're ready to learn more about living in harmony with your values and creating more authentic happiness in your life, sign up for our thought-provoking, motivational Weekly Action Tips eMail series at: [Link Removed] 

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Tiggerk wrote Jun 29, 2010
    • Hi,
      You say a lot of really good, true things in your article.  Recognizing our personal core values and acting from them is super important, especially in this chaotic world!  Great!  

      I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but here’s some “constructive criticism“....I was a little put off by such a heavy emphasis on negative ways to teach/learn values in the first part of the article, though.  In fact, my husbnd said he didn’t really want me to read any more of it to him (he’s driving) because it sounded so negative.   Maybe it“s because not all of us were taught values the way you described.  

      Some of us were blessed with parents and teachers who taught us why & asked us to think about why we should do things.  Let me tell you, we really appreciate them for that!  We’ve tried to teach our kids values the same way, and tried to pass them on to the other kids we’ve taught, mentored, and counseled.   I guess I’m saying you obviously know about teaching values the right way, so maybe that could be a little more of your focus.  Thanks for sharing your excellent ideas with us!

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Beth Banning wrote Jun 29, 2010
    • Dear Kathy... just to reassure you, my feelings weren’t hurt at all. I always appreciate the courage it takes to speak your truth. I appreciate your feedback.

      What I think I’m hearing you say is that teaching with a positive emphasis is very important to you. I’m also guessing you may have some concerned that if people get turned off by the beginning part of the article they may not be able to receive the value that’s in it. Is this accurate? or Is there anything else I missed?

      After your comment I re-read the article and realize that I said “us” instead of “most of us” - there are always exceptions and I didn’t make that clear in this article.

      I do appreciate your comment about the “tone” of some the paragraphs in the article and would like to let you know why I chose to do it that way.  

      I believe that when things become the air we breathe—behaving in habitual ways, we must first bring these habitual behaviors out in the open, and examine them before we can choose any other behavior.  

      I once heard a funny story about a mother who cut her roast in half before she put it in the pan to cook. When one of her children asked why do you cut the roast in half, she replied because my mother did.  

      This question, had her and ask her mother why she cut her roast in half. It turns out that her mother only had one very small pan and had to cut the roast in half or it wouldn’t fit.  

      before it was just the way it was done... Now she consciously gets to choose whether or not to cut her roast in half.  

      My hope for this article and for all the work we do is that people start asking questions. Start looking at the cultural values they were taught and start asking whether they are in line with their personal values.

      I believe that if each of us get in touch with our basic human values and start living in harmony with them this would be a much more wonderful world to live in for everyone.

      Thanks again for your feedback... you are appreciated!

      with love,

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Tiggerk wrote Jun 30, 2010
    • Hi,
      Yes, that is what I meant.  I thought it’d be a shame for someone to miss the really true things you wrote because the first part seemed so negative to her or him.  What you said about examining our own personal values and living by them is vitally important, in my opinion!  

       Honesty in my relationshiip with myself, God, and other people is the main theme I live by, along with making the most of every moment and every relationship.  I think life is especially precious to me because of three things:

       —I’ve had a “life-threatening chronic condition“, (sounds scary, doesn’t it?!), Type 1 diabetes, since childhood.  Every moment counts, since who knows what the future holds in this life!

       —I lost my sister with no warning at the age of 27.  We were very close.  Every relationship and coversation counts, since we may not see that  person again until we get to Heaven!

       —I became a Christian, because I believe that there’s more life ahead, after our time here  on this little planet.  I also discovered my purpose in life, and a best friend like nobody I’d ever known!  (Jesus Christ.)  So let’s make the best of what we have here, and build a relationship with our Best Friend,  so we can really enjoy life—here AND there.   That’s part of my personal philosophy, for what it’s worth.

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