“Trust that which gives you meaning and accept it as your guide.” – Carl Gustav Jung, founder of Analytical Psychology (1875 – 1961)
Photo courtesy of James Jasper.
We are all on a journey, as I wrote in my previous post this is a journey unique to each of us. My previous post utilised a metaphor of the ‘Hero’ to illustrate some of the steps that we embark upon throughout our lives. The journey we take is often cyclical. We rise and fall. We achieve and look for something new. We become and then seek further fulfilment.
Since our lives and our gifts are unique and only we hold the key to expressing these at their fullest, there may be an underlying feeling that you’re in it alone. This feeling of loneliness is actually a very primal feature of our biology called the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS is what is associated with the fight or flight physiological response and provides necessary support to the mind and body when we in find ourselves in difficult situations.
Whilst we do not have the Tyrannosaurus rex or tribal warfare to worry about, in the post-modern “go-getter” era the SNS is triggered by the stresses and strains of taking the usual commute you hate, by the over-bearing boss you’ve had for the last 5 years, by the growing to-do list or re-occurring worries about your retirement or the fear of not getting what you think you need. It is our good fortune then that we are not in it alone and that we have support at-hand, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places.
There are a few questions which you must answer before you can get clarity on what this support might look like and where it might come from.
What is important to me?
This simple, yet powerful question more often than not raises further questions.
What captures my imagination? What are my values? What is my worldview? What motivates me? The answers to these can be categorised as ‘values’.
These questions need to be answered if we are to understand the form of support which may be most in-tune with our lives at this moment in time.
Often people are unaware of why their decision-making repeats a certain pattern, of their unique way of responding to events or of what fuels them to contribute. Equally, most people are either not aware, or choose to ignore the things that are not important to them, the things that do not motivate or fuel their drive in life.
The key to getting clarity of ones values is raising awareness of how we conduct ourselves each day, in particular becoming familiar with our own thoughts and feelings and perhaps highlighting those instances which stir up strong feelings or thoughts.
You may find that a framework can help you raise you self-awareness and help you discover your values. There are a few out there under the label of “Values Scales”. One such scale was developed by the German philosopher and psychologist Eduard Spranger in his book entitled, Lebensformen (translated as ‘Types of Men: the Psychology and Ethics of Personality’). This was later worked on by American psychologist Gordon Allport.
The scale developed organises values into seven categories which interact with one another, though often two or even three maybe more dominant than the others. The seven modes are:
- Theorist: To understand, discover and gain knowledge. Where this mode is dominant, the individual will be driven by their intellect, logical thoughts and have a drive for understanding the finer details. At home they’ll always be the ones who are the brains in the family, driven by personal development and often single minded in their pursuits.
- Utilitarian: To seek economy, return-on-investment and practical returns. In business, those motivated through this mode are bottom-line oriented, at home they’ll want to do the shopping in one outing rather than several.
- Aesthetic: To experience impressions and expressions of harmony, variety and balance. These folks are driven to keep the peace for themselves and those around them, at home they’ll be constantly looking to make things look pretty and be highly interested in how others feel. On-going focus on work-life balance might be a feature here.
- Political: To influence, take responsibility and control. Those that have this dimension as a dominant value are driven to take the leadership role and are unafraid of being accountable. They are often the heavy duty “do-ers” in society, the office and in the home.
- Social: To benefit others, to give and serve. At the high-end of this mode one is driven by humanitarian challenges, and so time and energy is usually devoted to related causes. At home, they may often be very happy to baby sit for friends and family whilst sacrificing their personal time and space.
- Individualistic: To be seen, stand-out and to express uniqueness. At the high end this mode manifests as individuals wanting to be seen apart from the crowd, often wanting to be in the limelight and centre of things.
- Regulatory: To be proper, orderly and to seek structure. A high score in this mode indicates ones drive for protocol, process and strong principles. Folks who value this very highly seek consistency, routine and stable authority.
Knowing why we are driven by certain situations more than others and how we are likely to perceive and “feel” those situations helps us get an insight into which environments might provide fuel to our lives and which may sap us of our vital energy. Also, when we know more about our underlying motivators we have a better chance of communicating the things we care about and bring a new dimension to projects, to work life, to relationships with friends and families, as well as seeking allegiances with those who share our values. Inversely, knowing what de-motivates you also raises your awareness of possible pitfalls. For example, if one is not at all motivated by utilitarian and economical values then how might that affect ones management of money, budgeting or ROI on projects?
Raising our awareness of our drivers, de-tractors, ways of being and acting is a significant step toward participating in lifes’ puzzles and adventures whilst enjoying the experience. The next question to arise is:
Does my behaviour compliment my values?
In a follow-up post, we will explore our behaviour and how we act. We’ll look at how other people perceive us as a result and finally, we’ll seek to understand the cause and effect of actions which are in-line with our values as well as when actions are in conflict with our values.