All of us have values that guide our life and help us make choices – our values define who we really are, but only if we believe in them and live by them – that is, we walk our talk. Living according to our values is a personal choice associated with integrity – which translates to honesty, truthfulness, and accuracy of one’s actions. During my life so far, I’ve learned to look at people’s actions instead of their words. In the past I’ve been misled quite a few times and it still happens occasionally, because I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt.
You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. ~ Malcolm Forbes
Compromising on our values always happens when we live in fear – be it the most common fear of rejection, fear of losing our source(s) of income, our spouse/partner, or anything else that generates fear. I didn’t realize these things until I started to study personal development and noticed that sometimes in the past I’ve been slightly compromising on some of my values, too, but without being aware of it.
To give you an example: before my high school graduation, it was time for me to decide what university and specialty to apply for. Being constantly told that Finance was the most reputable field with the highest chances of employment, I’ve decided to go for it, even though it didn’t appeal to me at all. What I really wanted to go for was Commerce & Marketing, or Hospitality Management – but sadly it wasn’t ranked as high as the former and the employment opportunities in my city in that field were quite limited.
Being afraid that if I go along with my choice I won’t be able to find employment after graduation, I listened to other people’s opinion instead of my own, chose Finance and got accepted right away, because of my high grades. Within one year of feeling frustrated, unsatisfied, and utterly bored, I realized that I didn’t want to take those classes anymore and started to look for options to make the transition to a different field of study. After doing a bit of research, was able to find someone willing to make the switch with me – and am happy for making that decision on my own, because it has made all the difference thereafter.
When you believe that you can live your life by other people’s opinion or values, you’re most likely misleading yourself and you’ll have that gut feeling that something’s not right. The most important sign to look for is the way you feel – can you honestly say that you’re happy? When you start compromising on your values for the people around you, it’s probably time to change the people you surround yourself with.
Saying NO to people when you disagree with them means saying YES to yourself. Once you start living by your values, everything else will fall into place – but first, you have to identify what are the most important things for you.
To me, the following represent the ideal:
- Positive/fulfilling relationships with friends and family based on love, respect, trust, and honesty
- Fun and laughter – seeing the positive side in everything and not taking myself too seriously
- Peace – I totally dislike confrontation, drama, or very noisy environments
- Financial freedom – this means being able to afford a certain lifestyle, related to my standards
- Passion – my work and life have to be fulfilling and meaningful, otherwise it wouldn’t be satisfactory
- Permanent learning – couldn’t do without it.
The wisdom that I can pass on to you from my experience is the following:
- Identify your values and aim to live by them – the quality of your life depends on it
- Live by your own values and not someone else’s
- It’s never too late to make a change and turn your life around
For example, when I realized that my home country couldn’t offer me the opportunities that I was looking for, I’ve decided to embrace fear and explore the unknown. Although this is not the easy road – quite the contrary, I’m confident that in the end it’ll be more fulfilling, because it’s aligned with my vision and values, and have felt that I needed to follow my heart.
I’d rather look back on life and say: ‘I can’t believe I did that’ than ‘I wish I’d did that’. ~ Richard Branson