Friday Musings: The Characteristics of Fulfilling Values & The IHD Core Values

“Life favors the specific ask and punishes the vague wish.” –Tim Ferriss

Contrary to normal expectations, inspiration follows action. Therefore, we should go to great lengths to create conditions that promote acting.

There is a lot that underlies our actions... 


When you have clarity about your purpose, your values, and what is the priority, it is easier to make effective decisions.

What are Values?

“Our values determine the nature of our problems and the nature of our problems determines the quality of our lives.” –Mark Manson

There is no escaping problems. In fact, fulfilled living depends upon determining and solving the problems that most align with our sense of purpose. We need to choose worthwhile problems or we will never find sustainable happiness. Instead, our mind will invent concerns that don't really matter- tracking Twitter likes, envying your brother's new car, brooding over that colleague who disrespected you, and trying to please everyone else.

Our values determine what we pursue, where we place our energy, and, largely, whether we live fulfilled lives. Author Mark Manson describes values as hypotheses for what efforts and beliefs will be fruitful. He explains the sort of values that lead to consistent fulfillment and what values are time-bombs waiting to wreak havoc on our lives:

The Characteristics of Good Values:

  1. Reality Based
  2. Socially Constructive
  3. Immediate & Controllable: Accept that you are ultimately responsible for your own happiness and engage with the world as it is rather than how we wish it would be. These values are derived internally and therefore whether they are met or not is completely under your own control.

Examples: Integrity, learning, creativity, humility, empathy, resiliency, patience, nutrition

“Many people have the wrong idea about what constitutes happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” –Helen Keller

The Characteristics of Bad Values:

  1. Superstitious
  2. Socially Destructive
  3. Not immediate or controllable

Examples: Being liked, pleasure, being talented, having money, being right, winning, comfort, convenience

Note that happiness is a way, not a destination. Happiness is a consequence of the right values, yet it is a horrible value, of itself. Pursuing happiness, as the Declaration of Independence advises, virtually guarantees it eludes our grasp.

It is not that any of these bad values are inherently bad outcomes. It is great to enjoy the exhilaration of winning. These are simply bad guiding values. We have no control over these outcomes. Additionally, they are secondary concerns that can be very socially destructive when not overridden by strong values. For example, many people value having money over integrity. They'll manipulate, coerce, steal, and happily profit upon the dependency of others.

There is nothing wrong with having money, but it truly doesn't bring happiness. The human needs are well documented (see IHD's second core value below). Our values should extend from these needs.

The Inspired Human Development Core Values are:

  1. Integrity: This is the chief value because it ensures all other values are properly aligned. At its core, integrity is a commitment to pursue truth over ego. Integrity= Intentionally defining values + Commitment to adhere to your values, especially when it is difficult.
  2.  Natural Harmony: Understanding the basic workings of the natural world, your place in the natural world, your relationship to the natural world, and the needs of human nature. At its core, this value requires an exploration of the environment your biology expected to be born into and the needs that evolved from primal living patterns, including community and contribution. These needs include time in nature, varied movement, nutritious foods, connection, authenticity, competency, significance, and love.
  3. Strength & Growth: There is no greater inclination of fulfilled people than to grow as a way of being and accept responsibility for their own success or failure. Strength only follows consistently engaging adversity. Through this process, we become adaptable and confident in the ability to weather storms, persist, and practice grit. Growth is a commitment to education that makes you capable of finding any possible solution.
  4. Creativity: We don’t have to be artists, but we have to learn to question dogmas and look outside what already exists. We must be open to exploring ideas from different perspectives. Creativity is the inclination to look at many different topics, the ability to identify principles, and the willingness to combine them in a novel fashion.
  5. Purpose & Passion: Purpose precedes lasting passion. Commit to a purpose that honors what little time is available to you on this earth. It will not all be fun. Problems are inevitable. With that being said. What problems do you want? What pursuit is worth drudging through the drudgery? Where do your passion and purpose intersect to create your highest point of impact? 

The Relativity of Wrong

Our values are constantly evolving and clarifying themselves as we pursue truth. We never reach absolute truth, yet we should constantly strive in this direction.

For example, we may have a chief value of integrity, yet we will never fully comprehend what actions most exemplify integrity in every situation. This inability to always know what is true does not discredit our ability to discern. Biochemist, Isaac Asimov famously dubbed this phenomenon the “relativity of wrong.”

As Asimov explains, “…when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.” Similarly, you could spell "car," K-A-R. That would be wrong. Still, it is far less wrong than spelling car, Q-X-P. When it comes to more complex concepts such as values, we never reach absolute truth. Yet our earnest desire to move in that direction is fruitful. We are much closer to truth and fulfillment than we’d be if we approached life with nihilistic moral relativism. Truth is the bullseye and, though we miss, we’re far closer for having a target.

Most people don’t want to believe that there is a right or wrong way to behave. People don’t want to hear that there is such a thing as better or worse. They don’t want to hear that they’ll be happier if they are disciplined, purpose-driven, and contribution-oriented. They don’t want to believe that their phone habits are wreaking havoc on their minds and relationships. Most people prefer to hear the latest diet coke commercial:

The irony is that discipline really is freedom. Impulsively chasing pleasure in today’s environment is a recipe for dependency on credit, sugar, smartphone distraction, pharmaceuticals, and doctors. While I agree that we should contemplate how best to use our short time on this earth and I commend any bold, yurt-dwelling spirits, coke’s selling point is based on promoting a bad value: "Do what feels good in the short term. Don’t let anyone tell you there is a right or a wrong. Give in to impulse."

Self-mastery is difficult. Acting on values is often painful. It is hard to study a foreign language that amplifies the joy in future travel, allows access to amazing perspectives, and offers job opportunities. It is hard to resist joining when the group is gossiping about a friend or to call out your buddy on littering. It is hard to resist feeding your kids pop tarts, cheetohs, and soda. These appease the child and are convenient. You’ll have to deal with snide comments like, “let them be kids.” Yet clear values and strong standards put us on the path to being who we want to be. That self-actualization is extremely fulfilling. 

Don’t confuse standards for condescension. Standards address optimal actions for meeting your values and living a meaningful life- they are concerned with behaviors. Condescension is more focused on other people. It is ego, rather than the pursuit of truth. 

We must have standards and be willing to discern bad from good and unfruitful from fruitful. Try to do so with a focus on the action and not the people. By honing in on behavior and avoiding broad, moral judgments we are more capable of creating a positive impact and building understanding that fosters influence.

Many people are interested in building Willpower and Resiliency. It is our most popular course among members. Values are the first step. Clarity in purpose, values, and priorities precides consistent action.




Shane TrotterComment