LIFE VALUES: YOUR PERSONAL COMPASS

“Nothing splendid Courage, determination, perseverance, dedication … As Ross Perot conducted the tense briefing in Dallas, he saw those qualities reflected in the faces of the men he had handpicked for an extraordinary rescue mission. In the early days of 1979, civil unrest and anti-America hysteria were rising to a fever pitch in Iran, and only a few days before, two of Perot’s corporate executives in Teheran had been inexplicably jailed. Bail was set at $13 million. When high-powered diplomatic negotiations failed to get results, Perot decided that there was only one way to get his men out: he’d have to do it himself. Calling upon the expertise of legendary army colonel Arthur “Bull” Simons to lead this daring raid, Perot quickly assembled a crack team of his top executives to pull off the jailbreak. They were selected because they’d all been in Teheran and had military experience. He called his men “Eagles” to signify “high fliers who used their initiative, got the job done, and gave results, not excuses.” has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance.” BRUCE BARTON

The rewards would be high if they won, but the risks were even greater: the mission was completely unauthorized, and not only was failure a possibility, but so was death. What drove Ross Perot to muster118 all his resources, to take the risks and defy the odds? Clearly, he’s a man who lives by his values. Courage, loyalty, love, commitment, and deter- mination are all values that give him an exceptional capacity to care and a strength of will that is legendary. These same values were the force that drove him to build his company, EDS (Electronic Data Systems Corporation), from a thousanddollar investment into an enterprise worth billions of dollars. He rose to the top because of his capacity to evaluate and select the right men. He chose them based on a strict code of values and he knew that with the right people, those who held high enough standards, all he’d have to do was give them the job to do and get out of their way.

Now he would have the ultimate test of the people he’d selected as he called upon them to summon their finest resources and rescue a few members of the corporate “family.” The story of their mission and the challenges they met can be found in the book On Wings of Eagles. Suffice it to say that despite obstacles beyond compare, Perot’s heroic rescue mission succeeded and brought home his most valued assets: his people.

“A man’s character is his guardian divinity.” HERACLITUS

Values guide our every decision and, therefore, our destiny. Those who know their values and live by them become the leaders of our society. They are exemplified by outstanding individuals throughout our nation, from the boardroom to the classroom. For example, did you see the movie Stand and Deliver? It told the story of the maverick math teacher Jaime Escalante.

Were you as inspired as I was by the heroic strides he made in transmitting to his students his passion for learning? He got them to associate in their nervous systems, at the deepest level, a sense of pride in their capacity to master those things others were certain they could never learn. His example of commitment translated to these young people the power of values. They learned from him discipline, confidence, the importance of the team, flexibility, and the power of absolute determination. He didn’t talk to these kids in the barrio about what they should do with their lives; he was a living demonstration, a new definition of what was possible. He not only got them to pass a calculus placement test in numbers that everyone thought were impossible, but he also got them to change their beliefs about who they were and what they were capable of if they consistently committed to holding themselves to a higher standard.

He didn’t talk to these kids in the barrio about what they should do with their lives; he was a living demonstration, a new definition of what was possible. He not only got them to pass a calculus placement test in numbers that everyone thought were impossible, but he also got them to change their beliefs about who they were and what they were capable of if they consistently committed to holding themselves to a higher standard.

If we want the deepest level of life fulfillment, we can achieve it in only one way, and that is by doing what these two men have done: by deciding upon what we value most in life, what our highest values are, and then committing to live by them every single day. Unfortunately, this action is far too rare in today’s society. Too often, people have no clear idea of what’s important to them. They waffle on any issue; the world is a mass of gray to them; they never take a stand tor anything or anyone.

If you and I are not clear about what’s most important in our lives-what we truly stand for—then how can we ever expect to lay the foundation for a sense of self-esteem, much less have the capacity to make effective decisions? If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where you had a tough time making a decision about something, the reason is that you weren’t clear about what you value most within that situation. We must remember that all decision making comes down to values clarification. When you know what’s most important to you, making a decision is quite simple. Most people, though, are unclear about what’s most important in their lives, and thus decision making becomes a form of internal torture. This is not true for those who’ve clearly defined the highest principles of their lives. It wasn’t tough for Ross Perot to know what to do. His values dictated it. They acted as his personal compass to guide him through a situation fraught with peril. Recently, Escalante left the Los Angeles school system that he’d been working in to move to northern California. Why? He could no longer be a part of an organization where he believed there were no standards for a teacher’s performance. Who are the most universally admired and respected people in our culture? Aren’t they those who have a solid grasp of their own values, people who not only profess their standards, but live by them? We all respect people who take a stand for what they believe, even if we don’t concur with their ideas about what’s right and what’s wrong. There is power in individuals who congruently lead lives where their philosophies and actions are one.

Most often we recognize this unique state of the human condition as an individual with integrity. Culturally, these people have come in many forms, from the John Waynes and Ross Perots, to the Bob Hopes and Jerry Lewises, to the Martin Sheens and Ralph Naders, to the Norman Cousinses and Walter Cronkites. The fact of the matter is that those we perceive to be congruent in their values have a tremendous capacity to have an influence within our culture.

Do you remember the nightly newscasts with Walter Cronkite? Walter was with us on all the most important days of our lives: during tragedies and triumphs, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and when Neil Armstrong first set toot on the moon. Walter was part of our family. We trusted him implicitly.

At the beginning of the Vietnam War, he reported on it in the standard way, with an objective view of our involvement, but after visiting Vietnam his view of the war changed, and his values of integrity and honesty required that, rightly or wrongly, he communicate his disillusionment. Regardless of whether you agreed with him or not, the impact he had may have been one of the final straws that caused many in Middle America to begin to question the war for the first time. Now it wasn’t just a few radical students protesting Vietnam, but “Uncle Walt.”

The conflict in Vietnam was truly a values conflict within our culture. People’s perception of what was right and wrong, what could make a difference, was the battle fought at home while the boys overseas put their blood and guts on the line, some not knowing why. An inconsistency of values among our leaders has been one of the greatest sources of pain in our culture. Watergate certainly wounded many Americans. Yet, through it all, our country has continued to grow and expand because there are individuals who continually come forth to demonstrate what’s possible and hold us to a higher standard—whether it’s Bob Geldof focusing the attention of the world on the famine in Africa or Ed Roberts mobilizing the political forces necessary to change the quality of life for the physically challenged.

“Every time a value is born, existence takes on a new meaning; every time one dies, some part of that meaning passes away.” JOSEPH WOOD KRUTCH

We need to realize that the direction of our lives is controlled by the magnetic pull of our values. They are the force in front of us, consistently leading us to make decisions that create the direction and ultimate destination of our lives. This is true, not only for us as individuals, but also for the companies, organizations, and the nation of which we’re a pan.

Clearly, the values that our Founding Fathers held most dear have shaped our nation’s destiny: the values of freedom, choice, equality, a sense of community, hard work, individuality, challenge, competition, prosperity, and respect for those who have the strength to overcome great adversity have consistently sculpted the experience of American life and thus our joint destinies. These values have caused us to be an ever expanding country that innovates and continually provides a vision of possibility for people the world over.

Would a different set of national and cultural values have shaped our country differently? You bet! What if the value held most important by our forefathers was stability? Or conformity? How would that have changed the face of our great land? In China, for example, one of the highest values in the culture is the value of the group versus that of the individual, the idea that an individual’s needs must be subservient to the group’s. How has this shaped Chinese life differently than American life? The fact is, within our own nation there are constant shifts going on within the values of the culture as a whole. While there are certain foundational values, significant emotional events can create shifts in individuals and therefore in the companies, organizations, and countries that they make up. The changes in Eastern Europe are clearly the most profound value shifts that have occurred in the world community in our lifetimes.

What happens with countries and individuals also happens with companies. IBM is an example of a corporation whose direction and destiny was set up by its founder, Tom Watson. How? He clearly defined what the company stood for, what would be most important for all people to experience regardless of what products, services, or financial climates they would enter in the future. He guided “Big Blue” into being one of the world’s largest and most successful companies.

What can we learn from all this? In our personal and professional lives, as well as on the global front, we must get clear about what is most important in our lives and decide that we will live by these values, no matter what happens. This consistency must occur regardless of whether the environment rewards us for living by our standards or not. We must live by our principles even when it “rains on our parade,” even if no one gives us the support we need. The only way for us to have longterm happiness is to live by our highest ideals, to consistently act in accordance with what we believe our life is truly about.

But we can’t do this it we don’t clearly know what our values are! This is the biggest tragedy in most people’s lives: many people know what they want to have, but have no idea of who they want to be. Getting “things” simply will not fulfill you. Only living and doing what you believe is “the right thing” will give you that sense of inner strength that we all deserve.

Remember that your values—whatever they are—are the compass that is guiding you to your ultimate destiny. They are creating your life path by guiding you to make certain decisions and take certain actions consistently. Not using your internal compass intelligently results in frustration, disappointment, lack of fulfillment, and a nagging sense that life could be more if only somehow, something were different. On the other hand, there’s an unbelievable power in living your values: a sense of certainty, an inner peace, a total congruency that few people ever experience.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR TRUE VALUES, PREPARE FOR PAIN

The only way we can ever feel happy and fulfilled in the long term is to live in accordance with our true values. If we don’t, we’re sure to experience intense pain. So often, people develop habitual patterns of behavior that frustrate or could potentially destroy them: smoking, drinking, overeating, abusing drugs, attempting to control or dominate others, watching hour upon hour of television, and so on. What’s the real problem here? These behaviors are really the result of frustration, anger, and emptiness that people feel because they don’t have a sense of fulfillment in their lives. They’re trying to distract themselves from those empty feelings by filling the gap with the behavior that produces a “quick fix” change of state. This behavior becomes a pattern, and people often focus on changing the behavior itself rather than dealing with the cause. They don’t just have a drinking problem; they have a values problem. The only reason they’re drinking is to try to change their emotional state because they don’t like the way they feel, moment by moment. They don’t know what’s most important to them in their lives.

The consolation is that whenever we do live by our highest standards, whenever we fulfill and meet our values, we feel immense joy. We don’t need the excess food or drink. We don’t need to put ourselves into a stupor, because life itself becomes so incredibly rich without these excesses. Distracting ourselves from such incredible heights would be like taking sleeping pills on Christmas morning.

Guess what the challenge is! As always, we were already asleep when the essence of what would shape our lives was formed. We were children who didn’t understand the importance of having a clear sense of our values, or adults dealing with the pressures of life, already distracted to the point where we couldn’t direct the formation of our values. I must reiterate that every decision is guided by these values, and in most cases, we didn’t set them up.

If I asked you to make a list of your top ten values in life, to write them in precise order of importance, I’d be willing to bet that only one in 10,000 could do it. (And that Vioodi of a percent would have attended my Date With Destiny seminar!) But if you don’t know the answer to this question, how can you make any clear decisions at all? How can you make choices that you know in the long term will meet your deepest emotional needs? It’s hard to hit a target when you don’t know what it is! Knowing your values is critical to being able to live them.

Anytime you have difficulty making an important decision, you can be sure that it’s the result of being unclear about your values. What if you were asked to move your family across the country in connection with a new job? If you knew that there was some risk involved, but that the compensation would be better and the job would be more interesting, what would you do? How you answer this question will depend entirely on what’s most important to you: personal growth or security? Adventure or comfort?

By the way, what determines whether you value adventure more than comfort? Your values came from a mixed bag of experiences, of lifelong conditioning through punishment and reward. Your parents congratulated and supported you when you did things that agreed with their values, and when you clashed with their values, you were punished either physically, verbally, or through the pain of being ignored. Your teachers, too, encouraged and applauded you when you did things they agreed with, and applied similar forms of punishment when you violated their most deeply held views. This cycle was perpetuated by your friends and employers. You modeled the values of your heroes, and maybe some of your antiheroes as well.

Today, new economic factors come into play. With most families having both parents working outside the home, there is no traditional role model for values in the home. Schools, churches, and, on the less appetizing side, TV have all stepped in to fill the gap. Indeed, TV is our most convenient babysitter, with the average person now watching television seven hours a day! Am I suggesting that the “traditional” family structure is the only way to raise children who have strong values? Of course not. What I suggest is that we teach our children our philosophy of life by being strong role models, by knowing our own values and living by them.

WHAT ARE VALUES?

To value something means to place importance upon it; anything that you hold dear can be called a “value.” In this chapter, I’m specifically referring to life values, those things that are most important to you in life. For this kind of value, there are two types: ends and means. If I ask you, “What do you value most?,” you might answer, “Love, family, money . . .” Of these, love is the end value you’re pursuing; in other words, the emotional state you desire. Conversely, family and money are merely means values. In other words, they are simply a way for you to trigger the emotional states you really desire.

If I asked you, “What does family give you?,” you might say, “Love, security, happiness.” What you tmly value—the ends you’re after—are love, security, and happiness. Similarly, with money, I could ask you, “What does money really mean to you? What does it give you?” You might say, “Freedom, impact, the ability to contribute, a sense of security.” Again, you see, money is merely a means to achieving a much deeper set of values, a set of emotions that you desire to experience on a consistent basis in your life.

The challenge in life is that most people are not clear on the difference between means and ends values, and therefore, they experience a lot of pain. So often people are too busy pursuing means values that they don’t achieve their true desire: their ends values. The ends values are those that will fulfill you, make your life rich and rewarding. One of the biggest challenges I see is that people keep setting goals without knowing what they truly value in life, and therefore they end up achieving their goals and saying, “Is this all there is?”

For example, let’s say a woman’s highest values are caring and contribution, and she chooses to become an attorney because she once met a lawyer who really impressed her as being able to make a difference and help people through his work. As time goes by, she gets caught up in the whirlwind of practicing law, and aspires to become a partner in her firm.

As she pursues this position, her work takes on an entirely different focus. She begins to dominate and run the firm, and becomes one of the most successful women she knows, yet she feels unhappy because she no longer has any contact with clients. Her position has created a different relationship with her peers, and she spends all her time in meetings ironing out protocol and procedure. She achieved her goal, but missed out on her life’s desire. Have you ever fallen into this trap of pursuing the means as if they were the end you were after? In order to be truly happy, we must know the difference, and be sure to pursue the end itself.

MOVING-TOWARD VALUES

While it’s absolutely true that you and I are constantly motivated to move toward pleasurable emotional states, it’s also true that we value some emotions more than others. For example, what are the emotional states that you value most in life? What are the emotions that you think will give you the most pleasure? Love or success? Freedom or intimacy? Adventure or security?

I call these pleasurable states that we value most moving-toward values because these are the emotional states we’ll do the most to attain. What are some of the feelings that are most important for you to experience in your life on a consistent basis? When asked this question at seminars, my audiences invariably respond with words like:

Love

Success

Freedom

Intimacy

Security

Adventure

Power

Passion

Comfort

Health

It’s certainly true that you probably value all of these emotions, and that they’re all important for you to feel. But wouldn’t it be fair to say that you don’t value them all equally? Obviously there are some emotional states that you’ll do more to achieve than others. In truth, we all have a hierarchy of values. Each person who looks at this list will see some emotional states as being more important to them than others. The hierarchy of your values is controlling the way you make decisions in each moment. Some people value comfort over passion, or freedom over security, or intimacy over success.

Take a moment right now, and discover from this list which of these emotions you value most. Simply rewrite the list in your order of importance, with 1 being the emotional state you hold as most important, and 10 being least important. Please take a moment now and fill in the blanks in your order of importance.

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” JOHN WOODEN

So what did you learn by doing this ranking? If I were sitting next to you, I could probably give you some quality feedback. For example, I’d know a lot about you if your number-one value was freedom, followed by passion, adventure, and power. I know you’re going to make different decisions than someone whose top values are security, comfort, intimacy, and health. Do you think a person whose number-one value is adventure makes decisions the same way as someone whose number-one value is security? Do you think these people would drive the same kind of car? Take the same kind of vacation? Seek out the same profession? Far from it.

Remember, whatever your values are, they affect the direction of your life. We have all learned through our life’s experience that certain emotions give us more pleasure than others. For example, some people have learned that the way to have the most pleasurable emotions in life is to have a sense of control, so they pursue it with incredible vigor. It becomes the dominant focus of all their actions: it shapes who they will have relationships with, what they will do within those relationships, and how they’ll live. It also causes them, as you can imagine, to feel quite uncomfortable in any environment where they’re not in charge.

Conversely, some people link pain to the idea of control. What they want more than anything else is a sense of freedom and adventure. Therefore, they make decisions completely differently. Others get the same level of pleasure through a different emotion: contribution. This value causes that person to constantly ask, “What can I give? How can I make a difference?” This’ would certainly send them in a different direction from someone whose highest value was control.

Once you know what your values are, you can clearly understand why you head in the directions that you do on a consistent basis. Also, by seeing the hierarchy of your values, you can see why sometimes you have difficulty making decisions or why there may be conflicts in your life. For example, if a person’s number-one value is freedom, and number two is intimacy, these two incompatible values are so closely ranked that often this person will have challenges.

I remember a man I counseled at one time who was constantly feeling this push-pull. He consistently sought autonomy, but when he achieved it, he felt alone and craved intimacy. Then, as he pursued intimacy, he became fearful he would lose his freedom, and so he’d sabotage the relationship. One particular relationship was continually on-again, off-again while he cycled between these two values. After I helped him make a simple change in the hierarchy of his values, his relationship and his life was instantly changed. Shifting priorities produces power. Knowing your own values helps you to get more clarity as to why you do what you do and how you can live more consistently, but knowing the values of others is equally important. Might it be valuable to know the values of someone you’re in a relationship with, or somebody you’re in business with? Knowing a person’s values gives you a fix on their compass, and allows you to have insight into their decision making. Knowing your own hierarchy is also absolutely critical because your top values are those that are going to bring you the most happiness. Of course, what you really want to do is set it up so that you’re meeting all of your values every day. If you don’t, you’ll experience what seems like an inexplicable feeling of emptiness or unhappiness.

My daughter, Jolie, lives an incredibly rich life in which her highest values are almost always met. She is also a wonderful actress, dancer, and singer. At the age of sixteen, she auditioned to perform at Disneyland (something she knew would fulfill her value of accomplishment if she succeeded). Incredibly, she beat out 700 other girls to win a part in the fabled amusement park’s Electric Light Parade. Initially, Jolie was ecstatic. We, along with her friends, were all so delighted and proud of her, and we would frequently drive up on weekends to see her perform. Her schedule, however, was extremely taxing. Jolie had to perform every weeknight as well as weekends, and her school term wasn’t over for the summer yet. So she had to drive from San Diego to Orange County every evening in rush-hour traffic, rehearse and perform for several hours, then drive back home in the wee hours of the night so she could get up again early the next morning in time for school. As you can imagine, the daily commute and long hours soon turned the experience into a grueling ordeal, not to mention the extremely heavy costume she had to wear which hurt her back.

Even worse, however, from Jolie’s perspective, was the fact that her demanding schedule cut drastically into her personal life and prevented her from spending any time with our family and her friends. I began to notice her wandering about in a series of very unresourceful emotional states. She would cry at the drop of a hat, and began to complain about things on a consistent basis. This was totally unlike Jolie. The final straw was that the whole family was preparing to go to Hawaii for our three- week Certification program—everyone except Jolie, who had to stay home in order to continue to work at Disneyland.

One morning, she hit threshold and came to me in tears, undecided and confused. She felt so frustrated, so unhappy and unfulfilled, yet she had achieved what seemed like an unbelievable goal only six months earlier. Disneyland had become painful for her. Why? Because it became an obstacle to her ability to spend time with all those she loved most. Plus Jolie always had felt that the time she spent at Certification, where she participated as a trainer, helped her to grow more than virtually anything else in her life. Many of her friends from around the country attended this program each year, and Disneyland was beginning to feel frustrating to her because she really didn’t feel like she was expanding or growing there at all. She was feeling pain if she decided to come with us to Certification (because she didn’t want to be a quitter) and pain if she continued to work at Disneyland because it would mean she’d miss out on the things that seemed so important to her.

We sat down together so that I could help her take a close look at what her top four values are in life. They turned out to be: 1) love, 2) health and vibrancy, 3) growth, and 4) accomplishment. By turning to her values, I knew that I could help her get the clarity she needed to make the decision that would be right for her. So I asked her, “What does working at Disneyland give you? What’s important about working at Disneyland?” She told me that she was originally excited about it because she saw it as an opportunity to make new friends, receive recognition for her work, have fun, and experience a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

At this point, though, she said she wasn’t feeling very much accomplishment at all because she didn’t feel like she was growing anymore, and she knew there were other things she could be doing that would accelerate her career more rapidly. She also said, “I’m burning myself into the ground. I’m not healthy, and I miss being with the family tremendously.”

Then I asked her, “What would making a change in this area of your life mean? If you left Disneyland, spent time at home, and then went to Hawaii, what would that give you?” She immediately brightened. Smiling, she said, “Well, I’d get to be with you guys. I could have some time with my boyfriend. I’d feel free again. I could get some rest and start exercising to get my body back in shape. I’d keep my 4.0 grade point average in school. I could find other ways to grow and achieve. I’d be happy!” Her answer as to what to do was plainly in front of her. The source of her unhappiness was also clear. Before she started working at Disneyland, she was fulfilling her top three values: she felt loved, she was very healthy and fit^ and she felt like she was growing. Thus she began to pursue the next value on her list: accomplishment. But in so doing, she’d created an environment where she achieved, but missed out on her top three values.

This is such a common experience. We all need to realize that we must accomplish our highest values first—these are our utmost priority. And remember, there is always a way to accomplish all our values simultaneously, and we need to make certain we don’t settle for anything less. There still was one final obstacle to Jolie’s decision: she also linked pain to leaving Disneyland. One of the things she avoided most in life was quitting. I certainly had contributed to this view, since I believe nothing is ever achieved by those who give up whenever it gets tough. So she saw leaving her work at Disneyland as giving up. I assured her that making a decision to live congruently with your values is not quitting, nor is foolish consistency a virtue. I would be the first person to ensure that she continue if I thought she was just giving up because the work was too tough. But that was not the case, and I offered her the opportunity to turn this transition into a gift for someone else.

I said, “Jolie, can you imagine how you’d feel if you were the first runner-up, and all of a sudden the winner stepped down, and now you had a chance to be in the parade? Why don’t you give that gift to someone else?” Because part of Jolie’s definition of love is contribution, this immediately tapped into her highest value. She stopped linking pain to quitting, and now associated pleasure to her decision. This values lesson is one she’s never forgotten, and the most exciting thing was that she found a new way to meet all of her values that began to move her more precisely in the direction of her goals. She not only began to feel more fun and happiness, but shortly thereafter she got her first job in a San Diego Starlight Theater production.

LESSONS IN PAIN

Just as there are emotions we desire to experience because they’re pleasurable, and that’s why we’re always moving toward them, we also have a list of emotions that we’ll do almost anything to move away from. Very early in my career, when I was just beginning to build my first company, I experienced tremendous frustration in being on the road and trying to run my business simultaneously. At one point, it appeared that a person representing me had not been completely honest. When you deal, as I have, with hundreds of thousands of people, and literally thousands of business arrangements, the law of averages says that a few will attempt to take advantage of you. Unfortunately, these are the ones that tend to stick out in our minds rather than the hundreds or even thousands of business relationships that have far surpassed our expectations. As a result of one such painful situation, I sought out a new CEO, a man who I thought could really run my company. Armed with my new tool of being able to elicit someone’s values, I asked each of the potential candidates, “What’s most important to you in your life?” Some of them said things like “success” or “accomplishment” or “being the best.” But one man used the magic word. He said, “Honesty.” I didn’t just take him at his word; I checked him out with several people he’d worked with. They confirmed that he was “honest as the day was long” and that, in fact, at times he had set aside his own needs if there was any question of integrity. I thought, “This is the kind of man I want representing me.” And he did a fine job. Soon, though, it became clear that we needed an additional associate in order to really run my rapidly expanding business: someone who had additional skills. My CEO recommended someone he thought could become his partner, and they could jointly run my organization. This sounded great to me. I met this man, whom I’ll call Mr. Smith (names have been changed to protect the not so innocent), and he did a fabulous presentation, demonstrating for me how he could use all the skills he’d developed throughout the years to take my company to the next level. He could free up my time, and allow me to do even larger seminars and impact even more people without having to live on the road. At the time, I was spending almost 150 days a year away from home, conducting my seminars. In addition, he didn’t want to be paid until he’d produced the result! It sounded almost too good to be true. I agreed to the arrangement. Mr. Smith and my honest CEO would run my company. A year and a half later, I woke up and discovered that it was too good to be true. Yes, my seminars had gotten bigger, but now I was on the road almost 270 days a year. My skill and impact had grown, I’d helped more people than ever before, but suddenly I was informed that I was $758,000 in debt after I’d given more than I ever had in my entire lifetime. How could this possibly be? Well, management is everything, both within companies and within ourselves. And I clearly did not have the right managers.

But worse, Mr. Smith had over this eighteen-month period of time misappropriated more than a quarter of a million dollars from our coffers. He had a new house, a new car—I had assumed he’d gotten them from his other businesses. Boy, was I in for a surprise! To say that I was angry or devastated by this experience would certainly be using Transformational Vocabulary to lower the intensity of my feelings. The metaphors I used at the time were things like “I feel stabbed in the back” and “He tried to murder my firstborn.” How’s that for emotional intensity?

However, the thing that perplexed me the most was how my honest CEO could stand by and not warn me that all this was happening. He was aware of what was going on! This was when I began to realize that people don’t just pursue pleasure, but they clearly also move away from pain. My honest CEO had tried to tell me that he was concerned about his partner. He came to me after I’d been on the road for three straight months. On my first day home, he approached me to tell me that he had questions about Mr. Smith’s integrity. I immediately became concerned and asked him why. He said, “When we moved to our new offices, he took the biggest office.” This was so petty that I got extremely angry and said, “Listen. You brought him into this business; you deal with him yourself personally.” And I stormed off.

I should have realized that day that I’d given this man pain when he was trying to give me information. In my exhausted and stressed state I failed to evaluate the deeper meaning of what was going on. As if this weren’t bad enough, my honest CEO approached me again to give me similar feedback. I told him that he was not being totally honest by talking to me instead of Mr. Smith. I marched into his associate’s office and said, “He’s telling me all these things about you. You guys work this out!” Can you imagine the pain he got from Mr. Smith? As I look back on the experience now, I can see clearly why he didn’t tell me the truth. Telling me the truth—that he’d brought someone intomy business who’d misappropriate more than a quarter of a million dollars—seemed to him, in the short term, to be much more painful than just putting it off and trying to find some other way to deal with it eventually. In fact, as I look back on all the upsets I ever had with this CEO, invariably they all came down to times when he didn’t do things he needed to do simply because he wanted to avoid the feeling of confrontation. This was the ultimate pain for him, So while honesty was important to him, avoiding confrontation was more important. Thus he simply did not communicate to me, and rationalized that he was being honest because, after all, I had never asked him if Mr. Smith was taking money. If I had, he would have told me. As angry as this situation made me, and as painful as it was financially and emotionally, it provided me with one of the most valuable lessons of my life because it gave me one of the final pieces in the puzzle of understanding human behavior. Understanding these twin forces of pain and pleasure has helped me not only to positively influence myself and my family, but people around the world with greater precision.

MOVING-AWAY-FROM VALUES

We must remember, then, that any time we make a decision about what to do, our brain first evaluates whether that action can possibly lead to either pleasurable or painful states. Your brain is constantly juggling, or weighing, your alternatives to see what the impact may be, based upon your value hierarchy. If, for example, I asked you to go skydiving, and the number-one emotion you try to avoid at all costs is a sense of fear, it’s pretty obvious that you’re not going to take action, are you? If, however, the number-one value you want to avoid at all costs is a feeling of rejection, and you believe that I may reject you if you don’t go, you may decide to jump out of a plane in spite of your fear. The relative levels of pain we associate with certain emotions will affect all of our decisions.

What are some of the emotions that are most important for you to avoid experiencing on a consistent basis? Often when I ask people this question at seminars, they come up with a list such as the following:

Rejection

Anger

Frustration

Loneliness

Depression

Failure

Humiliation

Guilt

Again, would it be fair to say that all these emotions are states you’d like to avoid having to feel? Of course, because they’re painful. Wouldn’t it also be true to say that, while you want to avoid feeling all of these emotions, some are more painful to you than others? That, in fact, you have a hierarchy of moving-away-from values as well? Which value on the above list would you do the most to avoid having to feel? Rejection, depression, humiliation? The answer to this question will determine your behavior in almost any environment.

Take a moment before we go any further, and write this list out in the above blanks, ranking them from the emotional states you’ll do the most to avoid having to feel, to those you’ll do the least to avoid having to feel.

“I hope we can build a university our football team can be proud of.” UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA

As you look at your list, what does it tell you? If, for example, you put at the top of your list that the emotion you would do the most to avoid having to feel is humiliation, then can you see how you would consistently avoid entering any situations where you might be judged harshly? If loneliness is the emotion you want to avoid most, it may drive you to be a nurturing person, reaching out to others and trying to give to them on a regular basis so that they’ll want to be with you, and so that you’ll be surrounded by many grateful friends.

THE SOURCE OF SELF-SABOTAGE: VALUES CONFLICTS

Now let’s look at the dynamics created by your values hierarchy. If you selected success, for example, as your top moving-toward value, and rejection as your top moving-away-from value, do you see any possible challenges that this hierarchy might create in your life? I’m here to tell you that a person who’s trying to achieve the pleasure of success without ever experiencing the pain of rejection will never succeed long term. In fact, this person will sabotage himself before he ever truly succeeds on a major scale. How can I make such a claim? Remember the basic organizing principle we’ve talked about so often here: People will do more to avoid pain than they will to gain pleasure. If you’re truly going to succeed at the highest level in life, don’t you have to be willing to risk rejection?

Don’t you have to be willing to experience it? Isn’t it true that even if you’re an honest and sincere person and give your all to others every day, there are still people who will misinterpret your actions and judge you without even having met you? Whether you want to be a writer, a singer, a speaker, or a business person, the potential for rejection is ever-present. Since your brain inherently knows that in order to succeed you have to risk rejection, and it’s already decided that the feelings of rejection are the ultimate levels of pain, it will make the decision that the pleasure of success is not worth the price, and will cause you to sabotage your behavior before you even get in this position!

So often I see people who take huge strides forward, only to mysteriously pull back at the last minute. Or they’ll say or do things that sabotage the very personal, emotional, or physical success they’re pursuing. Invariably the reason is that they have a major values conflict. Part of their brain is saying, “Go for it!” while the other pan is saying “If you do you’re going to get too much pain.” So they take two steps forward and one step back.

During the 1988 election year, I used to call this principle the “Gary Hart Syndrome.” Here was a nice guy who truly seemed to care passionately about people and society, but whose value conflicts were played out for all to see. Was Gary Hart a horrible guy? I doubt it. He was just someone who had values in massive conflict. He grew up in a church that taught him he was committing a sin if he even danced. Simultaneously he was exposed to role models like Warren Beatty. These conflicting desires obviously played a role in his political downfall Do you think that a person as intelligent as Gary Hart clearly seemed to be would tell the media, “If you’ve got questions about me, follow me” and then immediately afterward go visit his mistress? Clearly this was his brain s way of getting out of the pain of being in a position where he had to play by rules other than his own. You can call this pop psychology if you want but doesn’t it make sense that if you are being pulled in two different directions, you will not be able to serve both masters? Something has to give. We’ll do whatever’s necessary, consciously or unconsciously to keep ourselves from having to experience our most intense levels of pain.

We’ve all seen people in the public eye who’ve experienced the pain of values conflicts, but rather than be judgmental, we need to realize that each of us has values conflicts within ourselves. Why? Again simply because we never set the system up for ourselves. We’ve allowed our environment to shape us, but we can begin to change this now.

How? Simply by taking two steps:

Step One: is to gain awareness of what your current values are so you understand why you do what you do. What are the emotional states you are moving toward, and what are the states you are moving away from? By reviewing your lists side by side, you’ll be able to have an understanding of the force that’s creating your present and future.

Step Two: You can then make conscious decisions about what values you want to live by in order to shape the quality of life and destiny you truly desire and deserve.

HOW TO DISCOVER YOUR CURRENT VALUES

So let’s get started. You’ve done some sample value lists by ranking the lists I gave you. What you really need to do is start fresh with your own lists. All you have to do to discover your values is answer one simple question:. “What’s most important to me in life?” Brainstorm the answer to this question. Is it peace of mind? Impact? Love? Now put your values in order, from most important to least important. Take a moment and do this now . . .

WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT TO ME IN LIFE:

When I first created my list of moving-toward values, this is what I came up with, and the order in which they occurred:

MY OLD LIST OF MOVING-TOWARD VALUES

Passion

Love

Freedom

Contribution

Being

Able

Growth

Achievement / Accomplishment

Happiness

Fun

Health

Creativity

As I looked at my list, I understood why I was doing what I was doing. I was such an intense individual; by anybody’s description I was explosive in my approach. I saw it as my passion. My love for my family and my friends and wanting to share it in seminars was clear. My desire was to free people, and I figured that if I freed the individuals around me and contributed to them, I’d feel like I was able to do almost anything.

I’d grow and achieve and eventually have fun and be healthy and creative. Knowing my values list helped me stay on track and to live consistently with what was most important to me. For years, I felt a greater sense of congruency in my life.

But I was soon to make another distinction that would transform the quality of my life forever.

CHANGE YOUR VALUES, AND YOU CHANGE YOUR LIFE

After my experience with the infamous Mr. Smith, I went to Fiji to get away from it all. I needed to balance myself emotionally, and gain some perspective and clarity on the situation. Most importantly, I had to decide what I was going to do and how I was going to turn things around. The first night I was there, before I went to sleep, I asked myself a very important question. Instead of “Why did all this happen to me?”, I began to ask a better question: “What is the source of all human behavior? What makes people do what they do?”

When I woke up the following morning at 8 a.m., I felt a frenzy of ideas pouring through me. I grabbed my journal and began to write continuously, sitting in the main cabana. People walked in and out throughout the day as I wrote nonstop from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. My arm was sore; my fingers were numb. I wasn’t just thinking calmly and writing; the ideas were literally exploding through me. From this unstoppable river of ideas, I designed Destiny Technologies™ and a good portion of the science of Neuro-Associative Conditioning.™ When I went back to review my notes, however, I couldn’t read a word! But the ideas and feelings were anchored within me. I immediately realized the potency of what I had created: a program that could help a person redesign the life priorities of their nervous system, to literally redirect the process of how people make all their decisions about how to think, how to feel, and what to do in virtually every area of their lives!

I began to think about what would happen it, instead of just teaching people what their values were and clarifying them, I actually got people to consciously select or redirect the order and content of their values hierarchy system. What if I took someone whose number-one value was security, and whose number-fifteen value was adventure, and I switched the order, not only intellectually but so that adventure became the new highest priority in their nervous system? What kind of change do you think that might make in someone’s life? A minor one, or a major one?

The answer is obvious. By doing this, you literally change the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves in virtually every area of their life. I couldn’t imagine a more profound shift that a human being could make. In essence, this would be the kind of change that has been described throughout history: a conversion from Saul to Paul, if you will, with the things that a person hated most becoming the things they loved most, and vice versa.

Could this really be done? I decided that the best person to test this out on was, of course, myself. I began to look at my values list. At first I thought, “My values are great! I love my values. After all, this is who I am.” But I had to keep reminding myself that we are not our values. We are much more than our values. These values were not the result of intelligent choices and a master plan. What I had merely accomplished until now was discovering what priorities were conditioned into my life, and I had consciously chosen to live within the system of pain and pleasure that had been programmed into me. But if I were to really design my own life, if I were going to create a set of values that would shape the ultimate destiny 1 desired, what would they need to be?

“We have made thee neither of heaven nor of earth, Neither mortal nor immortal, So that with freedom of choice and with honor, As though the maker and molder of thyself, Thou mayest fashion thyself in whatever shape thou shalt prefer. Thou shalt have the power out of thy soul’s judgment, To be reborn into the higher forms, which are divine.” GOD’S SPEECH TO ADAM FROM PICO DELLA MIRANDOLA’S ORATION ON THE DIGNITY OF MAN

I felt unbelievably inspired as I began to realize that in this moment I was about to make decisions that would change the direction of my life forever. I began to look at my values and ask the question, “What do my values need to be in order to create my ultimate destiny, in order to be the best person I could possibly be, in order to have the largest impact in my lifetime?”

I thought, “The values I have right now are helping me,” but then I thought, “What other values would I need to add?” I began to realize that one of the things that wasn’t on my list was intelligence. Certainly I was an intelligent person, but I hadn’t made being intelligent as high a priority as being passionate. In fact, in my passion I’d made some pretty stupid choices—including who my CEO was going to be!

I began to realize that unless I made intelligence a conscious priority of my nervous system (i.e., unless I learned to take a moment or two in advance to consciously evaluate the consequences of my decision making), I would continuously fail to achieve my deepest desires. There was now no question that intelligence needed to be placed high on my list. I then discovered an additional series of values to add, and I decided where they needed to be placed in my hierarchy.

Then I asked a question I had never asked before: “What values should I eliminate from my list in order to achieve my ultimate destiny?” I began to realize that by constantly focusing on how to be free, I was missing out on the freedom I already had. I realized that there was no way I could be any more free than I was in this moment. Maybe my feelings would be different if I lived in a country where the choices I have here don’t exist, but for me, there is no way to have any more freedom than I have today. So I decided to drop it from my list and not to make it an issue anymore. It was amazing die freedom I felt by getting freedom off my list!

Next, I began to evaluate each value individually as to its true merit. I began to ask, “What benefit do I get by having this value in this position on my hierarchy?” I looked first at passion and asked, “What benefit do I get by having passion here?” I thought, “It gives me drive and excitement and energy and the power to impact people in positive ways. It makes my life juicy.”

Then I asked a question that kind of scared me, a question I had never asked before: “What could having passion at the top of my list cost me?” In that moment, the answer became obvious. I had just recently returned from conducting a seminar in Denver, where for the first time in years I had felt unbelievably ill. Health was always on my values list; it was important. But it wasn’t very high up on the list.

By the way, it you have anything on your values list, you think it’s important, because there are hundreds of things that could have been on the list that aren’t. But my idea of health was to eat right. I wasn’t exercising, and I certainly wasn’t getting enough rest. Finally, my body was giving out under my constant demands for unlimited energy. I began to remember that in that day, when I felt like I had no health, I pushed myself and did the seminars in spite of it all. But I didn’t feel passionate, I didn’t feel loving, I didn’t feel like 1 could have impact. I began to realize that by having passion as the highest value on my list, it would cause me to burn out and therefore potentially cost me the very destiny I was pursuing.

I finally asked the last question: “In what order do my values need to be to achieve my ultimate destiny?” Not “What’s important to me?” but “What do they need to be?” As I began to do this process, my list began to evolve until it looked like this:

MY NEW LIST OF MOVING-TOWARD VALUES

Health/Vitality

Love/Warmth

Intelligence

Cheerfulness

Honesty

Passion

Gratefulness

Fun/Happiness

Making a difference

Learning/Growing

Achieving

Being the best

Investing

Contribution

Creativity

These shifts may look subtle to you, but they were profound in their emotional impact upon me. Just creating this new list of life priorities created some intense fear and struggle at times. Probably the most difficult one was changing the order that I had between achievement and happiness. If you recall, on my previous list I had to feel passion, love, freedom, contribution, being able, growth, and achievement, and a lower priority was feeling happy. I began to think, “What would happen if I made happiness a priority? What would happen if I made that a higher priority than achieving?”

Quite honestly, this was another question that created fear in me. I thought, “If it’s easy for me to feel happy, maybe I’ll lose my drive. Maybe I won’t want to achieve. Maybe I won’t want to have the same impact. Maybe I won’t contribute as much to people.” After all, I linked my identity to my capacity to passionately make a difference. It took me almost two hours to make the decision to “go for the gusto” and decide to make myself happy. How ridiculous! But I can tell you, having worked with tens of thousands of people in Date With Destiny, of whom the majority of attendees would be considered achievers, this is one of the biggest fears they have. They generally fear that they’ll lose their power or drive if they feel happy first. I’m here to tell you that what happened in my life is that instead of achieving to be happy, I began to happily achieve, and the difference in the quality of my life is so profound that it is beyond verbal description. I didn’t lose my drive—quite conversely, I felt so good, I wanted to do even more!

When my list was complete, I felt an emotion that I could not ever remember feeling previously: a sense of calm. I felt a sense of certainty I hadn’t experienced before, because I now knew that every part of me was going to be pulled in the direction of my dreams. I was no longer in a tug-of-war with myself. By no longer striving constantly for freedom, I could have even more intimacy and love—I could feel even more free. I would happily achieve now. I would be healthy and vital and intelligent. With the decision to change my life’s priorities, I could immediately feel the changes in my physical body.

I also then began to realize that there were certain emotional states that I must avoid indulging in if I was going to succeed. One of those clearly was worry. I found myself emotionally and physically racked by the pain of trying to figure out how I was going to keep my company going and keep the doors open. At the time, I believed that if I worried, maybe I’d be more motivated, but what I found was that worry made me less resourceful. So I decided I couldn’t worry anymore. I could have legitimate concern, but more importantly, I could focus on taking the actions that would make things work. Once I decided worry would destroy my destiny, I began to avoid experiencing it at all costs. Clearly, this became an emotion too painful to indulge in. I began to construct a moving-away-from list.

I then flew back to the United States, having designed my own destiny. Boy, were my friends and associates in for a surprise! On my first day back at the office, people started approaching me to ask, “What’s happened to you? You seem so different! You look so relaxed.” I began to unload my entire new technology for hours at a time on each individual until finally I realized I needed to take it, refine it, and put it in a seminar. That’s how Date With Destiny was born. I wrote this book out of my desire to spread the Destiny-NAC technology to as many people as possible. I hope you’ll use it now. Remember, we truly can design who we become.

“Give me beauty in the inward soul; may the outward and the inward man be at one.” SOCRATES

So how can you now take control of this third element of your Master System known as values? Take the following two simple steps:

Step 1. Find out what your current values are, and rank them in order of importance. This will give you insight into what you want to experience most—your moving-toward values—and what you want to avoid most in your life—your moving-away-from values. It will give you an understanding of why you do what you do. It will also offer you the opportunity, if you’d like, to consistently experience more pleasure in your life by understanding the pain-pleasure system that’s already built within you.

Step 2. If you’re willing to take the bull by the horns, you have an opportunity to redirect your destiny. Ask yourself a new question: “What do my values need to be in order to achieve the destiny I desire and deserve?” Brainstorm out a list. Put them in order. See which values you might get rid of and which values you might add in order to create the quality of life you truly want.

You may be wondering, “What the heck is my destiny, anyway?” If you’re stumbling over this, go back to Chapter 12. In it, I asked you what type of person you’d have to be in order to achieve all that you want. In order to be that person, what would your values need to be? What values would you need to add or eliminate?

For example, how would your capacity to deal with fear, frustration, and rejection be affected by deciding to place courage high upon your moving-toward value list? Or, what might be the impact of giving playfulness a higher priority? Might it enable you to have more fun in life, possibly enjoy all experiences as they come, grow closer to your children and be more to them than just a “provider”? So what have you accomplished by creating your new list of values? Isn’t it just a bunch of words on a piece of paper? The answer is yes—if you don’t condition yourself to use them as your new compass. If you do, however, they become the solid foundation of every decision you will make. It is difficult to give you in this book the full range of conditioning tools that I use in seminars, but let me remind you of the power of leverage. Many people who have attended Date With Destiny post their values prominently at work, at home, anywhere they will be seen by people who will hold them to this new, higher standard.

So use the same kind of leverage to strengthen your commitment to your new values. The next time you find yourself yelling at the kids, maybe someone who loves you will walk by and remind you, “Isn’t compassion number one on your list?”

“I touch the future; I teach.” ANONYMOUS

Watching people take control of their value hierarchies in Date With Destiny is so rewarding because of the huge contrast between what they’re like Friday morning and who they become by Sunday night. As transformations occur, magic happens. I remember one man who was dragged by his wife to the program and didn’t want to be there. As we started talking about values and the possibility of making changes in that area, he insisted, “I don’t need to change any of my values.” His number-one value, by the way, was freedom! He balked at being “forced” to change anything in his life that he didn’t want to; it became a control issue as he steadfastly refused to make any changes.

Finally I said to him, “I know you don’t have to make any changes. I also know that you’re free. So I’m sure you’re free to add a few values. What would be some values that might be useful for you to add in order for you to increase the quality of your life and maybe even impact your ultimate destiny?”

After several moments of thought he said, “Well, maybe flexibility might be a good one to add.” The audience cracked up. “That’s great,” I said. “Where would you put flexibility on your list?” We started from the bottom and moved up, and it ended up being number four on his list.

The moment this man decided that was indeed the right place for his new value, another participant—a chiropractor—who was sitting behind him suddenly piped up, “Did you see that?” It was so obvious that several other people in the room had also noticed it. This man’s physiology had literally begun to change before our eyes. As he had adopted flexibility in his value system, his whole posture seemed to loosen up and become more relaxed. He sat in his chair differently, and seemed to be breathing with a lot more freedom. Even his expression changed as the muscles in his face released their tension. With flexibility as a new priority, his nervous system had obviously gotten the message.

Then I asked, “Are there any other values you might want to add to your list?” The man thought a moment and said, “Maybe .. . forgiveness?” with a question in his voice. Again the group broke up laughing. This was a man who had started out bristling with hostility and tension, and here he was, making a 180-degree shift. As he figured out where to put forgiveness into his values hierarchy, it was gratifying to see the further changes that took place in his demeanor, breathing, facial muscles, and gestures. Throughout the rest of the weekend people were amazed by the dramatic changes that had been wrought with two simple additions to his values. He talked to people with more softness in his voice, his face seemed to “open up” with more expression, and he really seemed to connect with people in ways he hadn’t before. Now, three years later, freedom is not even on his list, and the intimacy between his wife and him has expanded immeasurably.

“We are what we repeatedly do.” ARISTOTLE

Life has a way of testing our commitment to our values. My test came as I was boarding an airplane . . . and lo and behold, there stood the illustrious Mr. Smith. I felt the anger and animosity well up inside me with an intensity I hadn’t experienced for over two years, primarily because I hadn’t seen him. He scurried onto the plane and seated himself in the rear. As I sat in my seat, knowing he was behind me, questions raced through my head: What should I do? Should I confront him? Should I just walk up next to him, stand there and stare at him, and make him squirm? I’m not proud of these questions, but since honesty is one of my highest values, I’m giving it to you straight. In a moment, though, my actions were guided by my values. Why? I opened my notebook to write something down, and there were my values hierarchies, placed at the front of my book. At the top it said, “What’s most important to me in life is to be loving and warm.” Hmmmm. “Be intelligent.” Hmmmm. “Be cheerful. Be honest. Be passionate. Be grateful. Have fun. Make a difference …” Well, as you can imagine, my state changed pretty radically. Obviously my pattern had been broken. A reminder of who I really am and what I’m really about was staring me in the face. What to do became obvious.

When the plane landed, I approached him with sincerity and warmth and told him that while by no means did I appreciate or approve of his past behavior, I had decided to no longer hold a ferocious level of resentment toward him, and that I actually wished him well. The last memory I have was his stunned face as I turned and walked away. Wow! What an emotional hit! Even in a stressful environment, I’d lived by what I believed was right. Nothing in life can match the fulfillment of knowing you’ve done what you truly believe is the right thing.

Give yourself the gift of taking hold of this force that shapes your destiny. Make certain that you take the time to do the exercises that can clarify the priorities of your life. Is it possible to have values and not feel that you’re living them? You can have a great system of values that gives your life a magnificent direction but still feel unhappy, unless you understand the power of…

-Tony Robbins

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