By Dr. Rick Warren
Everything we do is influenced by our values. Even if you have never actually sat down and compiled a list of what is important to you, your actions in life are largely determined by the values you hold dear and important. Every time you make a decision, you are relying on your values to tell you what to do.
Unfortunately, some of the values you operate by might be counterproductive to your success and serve as a hindrance to your sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in life. Many of the subconscious values we live by we didn’t choose. They were imposed on us by parents, friends, peers, and the culture around you. For instance, studies have shown that today, television programming has become the foremost shaper of values in our society. As a result, if we are not careful, we could find ourselves acting according to incorrect information and values that do not stand up under pressure.
Just as the ‘set of the sail’ determines the direction of a sailing vessel, your values guide or even dictate the course for your life. If that is true, we must intentionally and often ask ourselves questions such as:
In what direction are my values leading me?
Are they going to deliver what I hope or expect, or will I eventually be disappointed?
Here is another fact about values: They can cause us tremendous amounts of stress. Stress occurs when what we claim to believe and what we truly do believe do not line up. For instance:
When we SAY, “My family is important to me.”
But we are always too busy or too tired to enjoy them.
When we SAY, “I value my health.”
But we overwork, overeat or eat poorly, and rarely or never exercise.
When we SAY, “I’m not materialistic.”
But we become so heavily in debt that we worry constantly about our personal finances.
When two of your values conflict, that’s called a dilemma. A study by a prominent research organization recently revealed that conflicting values are a leading cause of emotional tension among business and professional leaders. What, then, is the solution?
1. IDENTIFY WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT IN LIFE. We need to articulate a personal definition of success – not someone else’s definition, but your own. Remember this: Success is the feeling I get when I live out my values. It is not a destination. You can be successful at any stage of your life, based on your own personal values and goals. Begin by making a list of what you value most in life. Ask yourself, “What is most important; what is going to last?” “…We should choose to follow what is right. But first we must define what is good” (Job 34:3-4).
2. BEGIN BY ELIMINATING THOSE THINGS THAT REALLY ARE NOT IMPORTANT. The culture around us, pressure from friends and peers, and other factors can tempt us to act counter to our best judgment. However, clearly understood values can serve as a helpful, reliable guide. “Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how God’s ways really satisfy you” (Romans 12:2).
© 2011, Purpose Driven Life. All rights reserved. Adapted from a column by Dr. Rick Warren, the author of numerous books, including the highly acclaimed, The Purpose-Drive Life, which has been translated into many languages and sold throughout the world. It affirms the importance of having a carefully considered, clearly expressed purpose to guide everyday life. It has been named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He also has written The Purpose-Driven Church.