Are you motivated by your highest values?

At the dinner table, Jessica is always jumping in and taking the side of whomever the “underdog” may be. She always talks about giving other people a chance, giving them a break, and hoping that the person with the least chance of success actually makes it to the top.

But Joanne, her mother, has noticed that whenever Jessica is actually given the chance to help out the “underdog” in real life, she rarely does so. When she plays games, she does it in a cut-throat way. When she is asked to serve at a local food pantry, she always has a conflict. When a friend wants help prepping for a test, Jessica makes excuses, then hangs up and tells her mother that she doesn’t want to mess up the curve.

Jessica always looks a little uncomfortable when she makes these decisions, because her actions don’t match her words.

Do you see – and feel – a mis-match?

So Joanne finally calls Jessica’s bluff and points out the discrepancy to her. The conversation is difficult. Jessica is defensive. It is clear that she is under a lot of stress when what she says does not match what she does. See what this video says about the problem:

The issue is that what we say we value with our WORDS is sometimes different from what we say we value with our ACTIONS.

Who controls your words and actions?

The problem is, unless you make a conscious and intentional choice about something, most of the time your subconscious mind controls your words and actions based on your ingrained patterns of experience and self-concept. Because of these ingrained neural pathways, the little niggling thoughts at the back of your brain, the ones that you try to ignore, are usually the driving force behind what you say and do. How many times have you walked away from a conversation or confrontation and said to yourself, “Why did I say that??”

In answer, you can tell yourself “My amygdala made me!” The amygdala is made up of two little almond-shaped parts of your brain and it is highly involved in emotional responses and memory. It is also part of the unconscious fight-or-flight pathway inherent in every person’s brain. If your amygdala senses a threat, or if you have not specifically told it – with your conscious brain – what you intend, it will create an automatic response. Basically, you said it because your subconscious mind took control of your mouth!

How do I take back control?

In order to make your automatic words and actions congruent – and comfortable – with your conscious self-concept, you need to stop, close your eyes, breathe deeply two or three times, and then very deliberately write down the first 3-5 values that come to mind. This is a process espoused by Dr. Mark Waldman in Words can change your brain; 12 conversation strategies to build trust, resolve conflict, and increase intimacy. (affiliate)

By intentionally identifying your innermost values, you bring them to the front of your consciousness. By then focusing on them every day, and working to make your words and actions congruent with your values, you will not surprise yourself by unexpected reactions. And you will also be much happier.

How does this help the young people in our lives?

As an adult in the life of a young person, Joanne should help Jessica evaluate what is important to her by going through this exercise. Jessica needs to make a decision about what her deepest, innermost values really are. If she does this, she will find it much easier to live and act authentically. Which will make her a happier person. I suspect that Joanne may find this to be a valuable lesson too!

What are YOUR values? And how can you live them every day?

How about you? What are your innermost values? I will get the ball rolling by sharing with you that mine are “glorifying God”, “family”, and “service”. I have about 5 others that follow soon after, but these are consistently my top three, every time I do the exercise.

Please share below what you think about values – share yours, if you feel you are able to do so – and how they affect our actions and words. And please answer the question, How can you make your words and actions congruent with your deepest values? What difference does it make in your life?

Like this post? Try these!

YouTube video found here: