Applying the PASSION Research—Developing Personal Mastery
Values Clarification: The First Step for Increasing Harmonious Passion
We can sustain harmonious passion when we’re consciously aware of what is most valuable to us, and we take action to lead a life consistent with our values. Values are the principles, beliefs, and standards upon which we base our decisions about how we want to live our lives—now and in the future. Our choices, whether we are aware of it or not, reflect our values. If the outcomes in your personal life, love life, or work life are not as satisfying or successful as you want them to be, stop looking at external causes. Those may well be valid concerns, but you often have little or no control over them. What is important is to look at how you’re contributing to creating suboptimal outcomes as well.
Most people are not consciously aware of their values. Although they frequently lie below the surface of awareness, values exert a profound effect on how we choose to live our lives. All of our thoughts are filtered through the values that we develop during the significant ups and downs we experience in life. Everything we do or say reflects the values we’ve developed as a result of those experiences. All that we hope for is based upon what we’ve learned about how we want our life to work, and our fears about how badly we’ll feel if the worst were to happen to us again.
With so many influences from our past, we can easily be unclear or confused about our values. We learn one set of standards from our parents. The church provides another source. Friends and peers offer other values. Then there are the value conflicts we’re exposed to by opposing political groups, television networks, commercials, and so on. With all these inputs, we are ultimately left to make our own choices about which values to follow. If you don’t consciously choose the values you want to live by, you put yourself in a position where other people can exert undue influence over your choices, manipulating you to do things that are not in your own best interests.
The more you understand your values, the better able you are to make satisfactory choices and take appropriate action. Values clarification focuses on how you have acquired your values rather than what they should be. It is a method that lets you discover the values you’re currently living by. More importantly, it creates awareness of what values you want to live by to be your best possible self in the future.26
How we spend our time and money provides clues about our values. As do the situations that get us riled up enough to take a stand or to take action. Our fantasies and daydreams derive from our desires to recreate positive experiences from our past. We feel most energized and alive when we’re engaged in activities that we believe are valuable. And there are values clarification exercises—such as the one awaiting you in Chapter 13—that can aid in surfacing the values you feel most passionate about using to guide your day-to-day decisions.