Claim Your Independence, Claim Your Power Now!

This article appeared in the July 2006 issue of Spirited Solutions’ E-Newsletter.
With July 4th just around the corner, it seems fitting to ask a simple question, “What do you stand for?” What core values do you espouse? What forms the foundation of your life?

As John Cougar Mellencamp sang, “You’ve got to stand for somethin’ or you’re gonna fall for anything.” Have you ever felt disinclined to participate in a group, event, or activity but not sure why? Time to realign with your core values, with what you believe is true!

In my last article, I discussed setting boundaries for success, but we can’t set those boundaries unless we know what our values are. Our values are determined by what we consider ethical, important, and true versus what we think doesn’t matter or is illusory. Core values are just that—They get to the heart of who we are and what we think, and they, in large part, determine how we behave and operate in the world.

Some examples of positive core values:
“I believe in a benevolent Higher Power who wishes me success and happiness.”
“I am here to provide a helpful service to humanity.”
“Taking care of my family is vital to me.”

And some examples of detrimental core values:
“Men are superior to women (or vice versa).”
“The “X” group is inferior to the “Y” group to which I belong.” (You fill in “X” and “Y”.)
“Material wealth is the source of happiness.”

Many of us live our lives without examining our core values, most of which are inherited from the tribes or groups to which we belong as well as our primary caregivers. We may never realize that other people live their lives according to totally different codes. We may never become conscious enough to choose our core values instead of letting them be chosen for us.

This month it is my challenge to you to do some thoughtful exploration, excavating those values to which you ascribe. Spend some time writing down what you see as life’s truths or maxims. Then, for each item on your list, ask yourself these questions:

1) From whom does this “truth” originate? Do I really think this is true or is this simply a belief or idea I have inherited?
2) Why do I believe this? What evidence do I have to support this notion?
3) For whom would this statement not be true or under what conditions would it not be valid? Why?
4) Do I need to let go of this “truth” and replace it with another idea that is more in line with who I am and our global community? If so, what would that new idea be?

Let’s say, for example, you have the belief that Southerners are superior to Northerners. This belief has been passed on in your family (your very Southern family, of course) for decades. Asking the litany of questions above, you would most likely realize that you inherited this belief, that Northerners would not concur, and that your statement has no conclusive evidence to support it. You would hopefully revise your value statement to respect both groups and instead think about the qualities you admire in Southerners—such as a good sense of humor and reverence for storytelling—that can be shared by individuals who are from both the North and the South.

Our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, but let us recall that the independence they were affirming was for white males only. Women and people of color were excluded from the freedoms enumerated in the Declaration. The Declaration of Independence was severely limited in scope.

In the same respect, our own “truth” statements about ourselves, others, our work, our nations, our faiths, and our world are often unnecessarily narrow. How can we truly be free if we cannot see the limitations in our own values and beliefs?

This July 4th I challenge to declare your independence from musty old thinking patterns that are preventing you from engaging in our dynamic, diverse, global society. I encourage you to search for what is beyond the absolutes you believe in and thereby to become more astute, well-rounded, and respectful of differences. I encourage you to claim a power that does not oppress, repress, depress, or suppress others and focuses instead on an ethics founded in cooperation rather than domination.

In other words, get outside your comfort zone! Take someone with radically different views to lunch and park your usual prejudices and biases in the car. Ask, listen, share, and taste the freedom of expression our country espouses. Put democracy into action and watch your mind break out and open!

“The courage to imagine the otherwise is our greatest resource, adding color and suspense to all our life.” Daniel J. Boorstin

“Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights.” Georg Hegel