I have been looking at my core values and what they mean for me if I am successful at using them. The idea is to give me a framework from which to measure my life and help me live it more meaningfully and hence more rewarding. I think most people probably measure the success of something depending on how much it affects their well-being in the short term though ideally also in the long term. Why “ideally” long term? I was going to say that sometimes it is necessary to forgo short-term happiness for the long-term goal, but that feels all rather puritanical and anti-fun which isn’t my intention at all. I certainly feel that I have missed some opportunities in life because I wasn’t sure how they would pan out but I guess I am thinking about life experiences involving other people and places rather than things like taking drugs which I have only done supervised by the NHS.

Well that’s all rather complex and confusing. I think the point for me is that I don’t really get what being happy is. Feeling happy doesn’t make sense to me because it doesn’t happen much; the last time I knew I was happy was when I first started taking anti-depressants but even that only lasted for two days. The nearest I think I can get to being happy is a lack of anxiety which I would tend to call contentment and by its nature, contentment to me really translates to peace. My core values in order of importance are peace, connecting and recognition.

This is what I have written about these values so far:

  • Peace – Success to me means given myself time each day to think and work out what is going on my mind. It means not arguing with people, and if I do, apologising and trying to do something about my anxiety levels. It is also about forgiveness, forgiving others if they hurt me, but in particular forgiving myself when I make mistakes. Success also means caring and supporting others in order for them to find peace. It also means that when I push myself to uncomfortable levels I make sure I have time to recover and get my head in order. Peace means aiming for balance and harmony which can be the driving force to action.
  • Connecting – Success means accepting that connecting is a dynamic living process where new links are made, existing links are maintained and old links are let go with respect and appreciation. Success to me means doing something new and meeting new people. It means spending time with friends and doing things together. It means making the effort to connect with family no matter what level it is. It means supporting others to make connections too, I can help other people connect.
  • Recognition – Success to me means seeing what is happening around me and putting it in context, appreciating it if it is well meant, and learning from it if it is not in line with my value system. Recognition of my own circumstances, or any other collective group (be it cycling buddies or bumble bees) or value might lead to action and a striving for peace.

I am hoping I can refine these blocks of words into something simpler but I think that may take some time. I think there are two main things that struck when writing these elaborations out.

The first was that there are different levels to consider and apply them in. At the centre is myself so finding peace inside myself, connecting with different parts of myself, and recognising the parts of myself that are driving issues at the time. Then there is my partner and children, our family and friends, colleagues and acquaintances; the level of complexity can be quite staggering. People I see regularly in the street influence me, politicians have an effect, in fact we are all connected really at some level because we all live on this planet.  It isn’t just people though is it? There is my environment to consider, my bed, my room, my home, my garden etc, again leading out to the whole planet. My dog seems to straddle both people and environment somehow, not a person obviously, but not part of nature either, are pets the only crossover? I think there is an emotional link and a dependence that makes him special which I can see applies to other possessions too. Hmmm.

The other point about my elaborations were that after a bit I became aware that they were linked to each other. In order to find peace in something, I first need to recognise what is going on then connect together the conflicting bits. This is possible certainly when it is just me involved i.e. identify the anxiety causing components and work out a way to mitigate them, but add in other people or environments and a resolution will rarely be possible. Recognising my limitations is equally as important as trying to mediate between warring sides because perfection does not lead to peace.

How about applying these values to something? I have been asked to do a freedom of information request of a local organisation to find out why this organisation criticised in a local newspaper a group as inaccurate that I am linked to.

My initial reaction was not to do anything because that is my knee jerk default, I avoid demands and need to own the issue myself. I have problems here because I didn’t see the newspaper article and I am not fully informed about the organisations proposals, being printed a newspaper also adds a possible level of bias I am unware of. In short I don’t feel involved enough to put such a request in.

Okay now I’ll try to apply my value system. Do I recognise there is an issue here? I do see that the organisation is making funding decisions that affect the group and that the group is worried about the impact that is making on its future. Since I am connected to the group through my child, I guess I do have a connection to the problem but an indirect one. Is this connection strong enough to do something? Possibly, though my instinct is to say only if my daughter who is legally an adult in Scotland wants me to do something. So giving it the benefit of the doubt, my value system says I am connected to this context but given my lack of knowledge I don’t feel obliged to get involved in aiming for peace. Should I become more knowledgeable though? I think there is a case that I should and on consideration I think I will try and find source material recognising that that may not be possible. The freedom of information request will have to wait for the moment.

I am now wondering if I should have become a lawyer.