As a parent, we always want to teach and guide our children to do the right thing. As adults, we use our own life experiences, the challenges we’ve faced, and the lessons we’ve learned along the way to influence our son or daughter’s growth. It starts early on from simple things like learning to share, showing kindness to others and being respectful to adults. This guidance helps form our child’s values, and will help build a life of happiness and success.
As children grow into young adults, their values begin to change. There can be a number of reasons for this, ranging from adhering to expectations of a parent, keeping up with school pressure and fitting in with friends. This shift in perception changes their innocent nature, and begins to erase their eagerness and curiosity for life. They go from knowing and doing exactly what they love, to seeing that the world around them is disclosing that maybe their thinking has been all wrong.
It starts with education. At the fundamental core of our education system, the aim is to help us become who we are not. The current system puts severe limits on how teachers can teach and students learn. This was the birth of standardized testing. A once-size-fits-all approach. If you don’t have a natural talent for something, you’re told to focus more time and energy in that area rather than concentrating on what you’re good at and build on that.
This happens most often in sports. We want our children to be gifted and talented, even when they clearly are not. We show them to work harder, play harder, to get better at something that isn’t at all resonating with their true talents and abilities. They’re coasting and pleasing to fit in.
A great example is a young girl named Haley. Haley was a junior in high school, who was playing sports, coasting along and getting by, but wasn’t really good at it and was not that enthused. She tried many different sports because it was the thing to do. She went from one sport to another trying to find where her talents lye. It was when she (with the support and encouragement of her parents) was tired of this routine and wanted to try something new, so she turned to music. By doing this, she uncovered a natural talent for songwriting, and singing her songs while playing guitar. Haley finished off her senior year in high school, not struggling to fit in, but enjoyed playing in a band, going to different gigs and having fun! She was then accepted into Berkeley School of Music.
Had Haley continued on the path of fitting in and focusing on what was wrong, she never would have realized her true talent for music.
This is a strong reminder that when we lose our values and inherit other people’s values, including our parents, grandparents, teachers, siblings, etc., at the very best, we get to play it safe, do what we’re told, and hope to be happy.
Unfortunately, this leads to loss of self-confidence, self-esteem, and a host of other happiness robbers. We live a life being guided by everyone except our self, leaving us powerless, feeling unfulfilled, bored, and drained.
A Recipe for Success
The good news is eventually, somewhere in your journey, if it doesn’t happen as early as your junior year in high school, it will happen. You will wake up to the illusion of a phony life, and you’ll get your first wake-up call. A wake-up call will show up in the form of a job layoff, a serious illness, a broken relationship or a natural disaster. My wake-up calls came as cancer, and a host of other immune system attacks and a car accident. Each time I encountered a wake-up call, it was like a loud horn calling me to change direction, shift my awareness, and take inventory of what I was doing. I questioned the what and why’s in my life and were they supporting my highest self or just my ego? When I was miserable, I knew I was coming from my ego, or the need to please, to look good, to fit in, whatever others perceived was right. This was telling me that, while it looked like I was taking the right action, I was looking at things from someone else’s lens.
A great exercise to do a values check is to list your values on a piece of paper, and then ask a spouse, a parent, or a spouse to list their values. Check in with your values and ask yourself: “Who’s values am I living? Are my values my own, or am I inheriting my mother, father or spouse?
We all know the most important thing in life is to be happy. When we are not happy, we are not living. Happiness is our birthright.
Let’s start looking at what we value and what is important to us, and ask the question, whose values am I living?