One of the questions that came up through our Lift Talks was how to know who you are, to hear that voice that lets you know what is the right thing to do. I believe that this comes down to knowing your values.
Our values guide our decisions and they are meant to be the underlying "truths" we base our lives on. The thing I've learnt about values though, is that they can be set by default, or by decision. Values that are set by default are those that we pick up through experience, or through what is told to us unquestioningly. Values that are set by decision are those that we have thought through, and decided that it is important to place as a priority in our lives. I believe that decided values are the ones we should really be developing and paying attention to.
An example of the default vs decided value playing out in my life is when it came to my leadership. I learnt through my early experiences and through the culture I grew up in that leadership needed to be strong and focused on getting things done. To some extent I thought that "the ends justified the means". When I stepped into a leadership role, I lived out that value. For example I thought that in order to be seen as a strong leader I needed to highlight people's mistakes and faults. I thought that the best way to motivate people was to tell that what was not being done well enough.
As you could expect, that did NOT go well. That's when I had the choice. Continue to live out of that value? Or examine what is truly important? A big part of me wanted to keep going strong. In fact, my default value told me to keep going. It took humility for me to take a step back, and to learn from this situation. Over time I developed a new value, which could be summarised as servant leadership. Importantly, in developing this value I had to learn from outside myself. I needed friends, mentors, and good old research to develop this value. In fact I am continuing to add to this value as I continue to learn. This new value is what is helping me continue to grow.
I had to humble myself, realising that I didn't know everything. I had to slow down, and not simply act out of my default. I had to study in order to learn. This sounds like a lot of effort, and it is! But the end result is a value that is robust, that you can trust in and live out truly.
I heard recently this quote: shallow values lead to an empty life. If we don't take the time to examine the values that we are living by, we end up choosing to do things and live in a way that does not truly bring life. We need to decide to learn how we have been created and designed to live.
Jeremiah 31:33 says, "'This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'" I believe this is God's way of saying that an external law or rules doesn't work. Rather He wants us to understand the heart behind what He is saying, to internalise it so that it becomes a part of us. This sounds a lot like developing values!
So, let us commit to uncovering our default values, and deciding what truth to base our lives on. This is how we can truly know who we are, and over time we will be able to hear the voice that guides us in the way of life.