In August 2012, Craig Ballantyne, the editor of Early to Rise, wrote an ezine article titled The 12 Rules I Live By (What are yours?). This article motivated me to think about my life and evaluate what guides my life. I finally came up with a list of my personal rules (I prefer to think of them as values), which I have put to work since then.

Values have a wicked sense of humour in my opinion. The moment you set your values, you start getting challenges that tempt you to go against them. It’s never an easy journey, but it gets easier with time and practice.

What is truth?

The main lesson I’ve learnt when living my values is about truth. I’ve learnt that:

  • It’s best to seek your truth and live it while seeking to do no harm to anyone – willingly or unwillingly.
  • Truth is relative depending on the side of the fence you’re sitting on.
  • Everyone’s version of the truth is real and totally valid – at least to them.

So I have my truth and you have your truth. The more I try to convince you of my truth, the more you dig your feet into your truth and vice versa. The more we try to convince each other, the worse the situation gets and soon we’re at loggerhead if not fighting each other.

This is at the individual level and things get more complicated when we move beyond the person. This is because the more we fight, the more power we give the person pulling the puppet strings we’re dangling from.

At the societal, national, and even international levels, one person’s version of the truth can have massive repercussions in a totally different country or continent. In some cases, it has led to war or unmerited suffering.

We never know what repercussions our actions (or lack of action) can have at the global level. If we did, then maybe we’d be careful and think things through before taking the steps that we want to take. We’d also act sooner when we see events that are likely to cause chaos.

A world that has lost values

To see this theory in action, all you have to do is take a look at the world. We’ve lost most of our values and it’s more of a ‘man eat man’ way of living.

Here are some examples:

  • One person’s decision to create his ideal world (Hitler) caused a holocaust that killed off over 4.9 million people.
  • The Arab Spring decimated political systems that were autocratic and very harsh to the citizens. It started with one person saying “Enough is enough.” Unfortunately, the revolt also brought down the economies of these countries, opening the door to misery and strife.
  • A single person’s anger with the Western world (bin Laden) and the retaliatory effect from that world has led to one of the worst wars in modern history and killed off previously thriving economies.
  • Africa has a lot more examples of lack of values: ethnic strife and civil war in Sudan, terrorists in Somalia, the Boko Haram in Nigeria, unrest in Egypt… Just do a Google search with the term ‘strife in Africa’ and you’ll be amazed at the results.
  • On our own home-ground, the post-election violence of 2007-2008 caused death and destruction. It also led to tribal enmities that have become the backbone of our society today. We’re still reeling from the effects of that violence years later.

The people who started these events had ideas that they and their supporters believed in strongly. Anyone who opposed these ideas was deemed the enemy. And the enemy had to be suppressed.

Going down to a personal level

It’s easy to look at large-scale events and forget to bring the message down to the personal level.

Anytime you argue or disagree with someone else, it means that each of you believes that their opinion is the right one. You both claim to be right.

So I am right and you are right and everyone believes the other is wrong. I lash out at you (because I’m right) and you retaliate. With time, our family and friends join in the fight. Before we know it, we have a full-scale war going on.

That’s the best recipe for madness in my opinion!

And it’s sad, isn’t it?

It’s sad that one person’s version of the truth can create disasters that are way beyond our thinking. I’m not here to judge who’s right or wrong or to disrespect any side.

Remember, I believe that truth is relative…and that each person has a point that they believe in totally. All I want to point out is that we are fast losing our power of reasoning and moving back into what the Philosopher Hobbes called the ‘state of nature’.

Hobbes claims that humans are essentially selfish and when left without a government, this selfishness will lead to a life that is ‘solitary, nasty, brutish, and short.’

Isn’t this happening today, even with governments? Haven’t we reached a level of selfishness where most people care about themselves and to hell with everyone else?

We’re also turning into automatons, nothing more than robots that react based on the programming we’ve received from the media or our leaders. We are becoming like animals – reacting to nature using instinct and not reason.

And this is what today’s article is all about (phew, I finally get to the point).

It’s about a simple question: “Who or what guides your life?”

  • What guides your life, career, business, and relationships?
  • What controls you?
  • Who have you given your personal power to or the ‘boss of you’ so to speak?
  • Who pulls the strings and makes you jump to their tune?

Signs that you’re not in control of your life

You will know when you’ve given away your power by the feelings you experience on a day-to-day basis. Some of the signs include:

  • Feeling angry while reading, listening or watching the news.
  • When you have feelings of powerlessness in your relationships with people or organizations.
  • If all you and your friends or family talk about are the bad things happening in life and in relationships.
  • When you feel misunderstood because you seem to be the only one asking questions about what’s right or wrong.
  • Being unable to make decisions or changes in your life because you fear negative repercussions from other people.
  • Being unable to say ‘No’ especially in relationships and at work.

These are signs that you’re not in charge of your life. You’re left feeling disempowered, negative, or demeaned. But is it possible that you caused this to happen?

Sometimes it’s not about differences of opinion. It’s about wanting to be seen as the best in everything you do, and so you get into situations that have negative repercussions in the future.

  • You want to be the best employee and get promotions. So you step over people on the way up.
  • You want to own things, live a first-class life and have all the latest gadgets, but you cannot afford them. So you steal money from your employer or the people who have banked with your institution.
  • You want to be admired by your peers. So you become a ‘sponsor’ and have a young lady at your beck and call.
  • You want to feel young, be loved and admired. So you get a boyfriend who is young enough to be your son.
  • You want your child to be among the top 10 in the national exams. So you buy exam papers for them.
  • You don’t want people to talk negatively about you or your daughter who’s now pregnant. So you force her to have an abortion and hide her ‘shame’ from the world.

Does this sound familiar?

It’s the Kenyan society of today. Public image controls of our lives and we’d do anything to protect that image, even if it means hurting ourselves and other people.

Allowing your values to guide your life

Nobody is perfect and you’ll only be miserable if you try to be the perfect human being.

Having values does not mean that you try to change everyone else too. Neither does it mean that you become a doormat and allow everyone to walk all over you.

Having values is about making your personal journey here on earth more meaningful. As I live by my values, I have found out that it’s easier to just decide what positive values matter the most to you.

My advice to you is to pick 10 values then live by them in public and in private.

Don’t try to explain the values to other people, just live the values daily. This is because the more you try to get others to join you, the more they push against you. You’ll then get defensive and start pushing back at them…and the negative cycle begins.

Your values guide you in every instant. It doesn’t matter who you are with or what you are doing. You remain constant. When people take a stand on societal issues and this general stand is against your principles, you willingly move in the opposite direction or remain where you are.

Sounds crazy?

Yes, it is crazy and empowering at the same time. When you become a living testament of your values, you end up affecting more people than you would by telling them how they should live their lives.

For example, a client informed me that when she started her business, she had a hard time getting people to understand that she does not support corruption in any of its forms.

She does not bribe and does not give kickbacks for contracts, including contracts with government agencies, where corruption is the norm.

It wasn’t easy for her to get contracts when her business was new. But she has her values in place and corruption is not acceptable to her.

People used to laugh at her and tell her, “This is Kenya. You’ll never get business.” With time, the laughter has turned into amazement, admiration, and respect.

Her values guide her life and business and she is now reaping the rewards of being faithful to her values and beliefs. She has peace of mind, her business is thriving, and she only works with clients who have similar business values as she does.

It took time to reach that point and the journey was very painful. People started treating her differently when she was persistent and consistent. She now gets contracts from many organizations – all without kickbacks.

Would you like to try this?

Having read this far, I guess it means that you are interested in living a value-laden life.

When you decide your values and stand by them, people will attack you and make fun of you. It takes time for others to get used to the new you and to weather the storm that will come as they get used to this new version of you.

However, when you stick to your values (as long as they don’t include hurting yourself or other people) then people start respecting you or they leave you alone.

People will also start asking how you can be so clear about your life and some will want you to help them become like you. That’s when you will know that you are creating change in other people’s lives.

It’s easy to take back your personal power. It’s easy to take back control of your life. Taking back your power starts with clarifying your values and beliefs and then letting them guide your life.

Anytime you have a negative experience or have a negative result after taking a certain action, stop and check which of your values you could have violated. Then backtrack and make things right.

And if you feel as if you are losing control of your life or that other people are making you miserable, remember this statement from A Course in Miracles which says,

“Nothing can hurt you unless you give it power to do so”.

I found this statement so powerful that I wrote it on a 3×5 index card and posted it on the wall above my desk.

It keeps me on track when someone has done or said something that hurts me. Or when there’s something happening in my life that I don’t like. It also reminds me not to take things personally or blame other people or events for how I’m feeling at that moment.

Check out Craig Ballantyne’s rules, create your own, and then start living your life based on the values you’ve created.

I’d love to hear from you, as always, so please share your experience when creating and living your values in the Comments below.

What made you create your own rules or values? How has that changed your life? How has the journey been since you started living them consciously?

(Image credit: Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos)

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