I’m gonna make a change
The lyrics from Michael Jackson’s famous song are so powerful:
‘I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change’
Different things are important to different people. For many people, it’s money. For others, it’s fame. And for others, it’s power. What we have to consider is: are we using them for good or evil – or are they using us?
How do we make choices? The world may be infinite, but you are not. You do not have infinite resources or freedom, so you have to make choices about how you use them. You make choices based on what is important to you at any one point in time. Over time, a pattern may emerge in how you make your choices. Do these choices become habits? Do these habits become the way you express your underlying values?
How are we teaching our children, or even our coaching clients to make choices?? Children learn by imitating others, especially their parents. Clients learn by making value judgements about what we do with them. Your life is driven by your values. If you don’t choose them wisely and live by them, you will probably do things that make life worse.
Your values form unconsciously
Throughout childhood, you were influenced by people in your environment, especially your parents. You learned mainly by imitation. Later, you learned through social interaction with friends and peer groups. The older you got, the more influence your peer group had.
In adulthood, you continue to be influenced by friends, family and co-workers. You have an in-built need to be accepted, and therefore you will adapt your behaviour according to who you are with. Over time, these behaviours become internalised until they become habits, which over time become invisible to you.
Exposure to mass-media, including social media, changes how you react to the outside world. How and why does this happen? Your brain is hard-wired to pay more attention to visual stimuli than anything else. Media of all sorts has been deliberately designed to be compelling and persuasive. If you consume it without awareness, you risk the quality of your life becoming degraded.
‘As I, turn up the collar on
My favourite winter coat
This wind is blowing my mind
I see the kids in the streets
With not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs’
No matter what your age, you have ideas and values that might be using you. If your life is meaningful and going well, you probably don’t have to worry about your values. However, if you are unhappy or discontent, you can decide to examine your values and beliefs. You can choose to make changes that will make your and others’ lives better.
When I went into teaching, I wanted to make a difference to the lives and learning of young people. Similarly, when I went into coaching, it was to make a difference to the life of others. So how can we take stock of our value system to ensure that we can achieve this goal of really making a deep difference?
Take a look at yourself
- What do you spend the most time, effort and money doing? What makes that activity important to you? What’s the underlying value represented here?
- Who do you spend most time with? What are their core values? Do you act differently when you are around them? Is this a good or bad thing? What does this tell you about your core values and are you being true to them?
- Are your core values positive or negative? If with certain people you find yourself acting selfish, is there any way you can turn that around to show generosity? If you have found yourself acting antisocially in the past try to turn this around to become more sociable.
- Pick a value that is really important to you. Think about people, places and situations in which this value is not reflected in your behaviour. Think about changes you can make to your behaviour that will allow you to demonstrate this important value.
- Decide to embody that value in your life. What one change can you make that will allow you to live that value consistently? Knowing the why behind the changes you are making will help you continue that behaviour until it becomes a habit.
Don’t let that inner critic derail you. Take control; it can be freeing and liberating. Don’t quit because results are not immediate. Deciding to change and knowing why you are changing is half the battle. Respect yourself enough to make the change a daily practice. Enjoy the feeling even if the change is only small. Celebrate the win. Bring your best values and be your best self, and the rest will follow. Then and only then can you truly start making a difference to the lives of others.