What Makes the Difference?
What is the difference between a positive and a negative person? What is the difference between a motivated and a passive person? What is the difference between an influential person and one who follows the crowd? These are the questions that we seek to answer in our quest for “success” in our lives. Still, many of us are resigned to feeling our characteristics are somehow locked in place, inevitable and unchangeable.
So much of the popular self-help literature attempts to dispel the view of the inevitability of our behavior and promote change as simply a matter of surface characteristics. If you have tried some of the techniques suggested as methods to change attitudes; self-affirmation, visualization, self-talk and other motivational exercises, you may have become discouraged with failed attempts or short-lived benefits. The danger is that unsatisfactory results are often used to justify the belief that nothing can be done and revert to self-destructive defeatism.
Techniques of self-motivation are, unquestionably, important to maintain a high level of performance, but applying such technique must follow after the more fundamental work is completed. Values are the foundation of personal expression, the well-spring of motivational energy, the strength to persevere in the face of overwhelming odds. Although difficult to develop, if values are carefully thought-out, clearly articulated, and diligently pursued, then our vision and direction is clear even if circumstances are confusing. Values are what make our efforts meaningful even if a particular result is not attained. Values allow us to stand for an ideal not fight against an argument. Making a commitment to principles, that are themselves timeless, means that we see beyond the moment and visualize something worth working for.
Values exist in the background of our lives. Values are not typically written in our resume or on the letterhead of our business stationary. If they are, it seems we are being pretentious or self-aggrandizing. Values define our demonstrated character and are reflected in our persona as if coming from an inner radiance. They are more about our core substance and less about our appearance.
In the September 2018 issue of Psychology Today the lead article by Steven C Hayes is 10 Signs You Know What Matters. Quoting from his introductory words:
“Values are what bring distinction to your life … From achievement and adventure to wisdom and wonder, not to mention kindness, innovation and professionalism, values are those things you deem important in life. As expressions of what you care about, they profoundly inform what you pursue day to day, year to year. In so doing, they fundamentally shape the trajectory of your whole life.
Values are an inexhaustible source of motivation – inexhaustible because they are qualities intrinsic to being and doing. They are visible through their enactments. They’re adverbs, or adjectives, or verbs … Because they are chosen qualities of actions, they can never be fully achieved, only embraced and demonstrated. Nevertheless, they give life direction and help us persist through difficulties. They nudge us, invite us, and draw us forward. They provide a constant soft encouragement.”
Steven C. Hayes is a clinical psychologist and Nevada Foundation Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno Department of Psychology, where he runs a Ph.D. program in behavior analysis Visit his web page at: unr.edu/psychology/faculty/steven-hayes