Your Outcome: Is it possible to have great values, to have all your rules aligned to support them, to be asking yourself the right questions, and not to be living your values in the moment? If you’re being honest with yourself, you know the answer is yes. All of us at one time or another have let events control us, instead of controlling our states or our decisions as to what those events mean. We need a clear-cut way to ensure that we consistently live the values to which we’ve committed ourselves, and a way of measuring whether or not we’re actually achieving that value on a daily basis.
The young man had achieved enormous success by the time he was twenty-seven years old. He was very bright, well-read, and he felt like he had the world by the tail. But one day he realized something: he wasn’t very happy.’ Many people disliked him because they perceived him as haughty and overbearing. He felt that he was no longer in command of his life’s direction, much less his ultimate destiny.
He decided that he would take control of his life by setting a higher standard for himself, developing a strategy to achieve that higher standard, and creating a system so that he could measure his results daily. He began by selecting twelve “virtues”—twelve states that he wanted to experience every day— that he felt would take his life in the direction he wanted. Then he took out his journal and wrote down all twelve states, and next to this list he created a grid of all the days of the month. “Every time I violate any one of these virtues,” he said, “I will put a small black dot next to that value for that day. My goal is to have no black dots on my chart. Then I will know I am truly living these virtues.” He was so proud of his idea that he showed his journal and explained his system to a friend. His friend said, “Great! Only I think you should add humility to your list of virtues.” And Benjamin Franklin laughed and added the 13th virtue to his list.
I remember reading this story from Ben Franklin’s autobiography in a beat-up hotel room in Milwaukee. I was on an intense schedule, facing the prospect of doing several radio and television talk shows, a book signing, and a free guest event. The night before meeting all these obligations I decided, “Okay, you’re here, so make the best of it. At least you can feed your mind.”
I had very recently come up with the idea of values and their hierarchies, and I had created what I thought was a great list of values for myself, one that I felt good about living. But as I reflected upon Ben’s list of virtues, I told myself, “Yes, you have love as a value, but are you being loving right now? Contribution is one of your top values, but are you contributing in this moment?” And the answer was no. I had great values, but I wasn’t measuring whether or not I was truly living them on a moment- to-moment basis. I knew I was a loving person, but as I looked back, I saw a lot of moments when I wasn’t being loving!
I sat down and asked myself, “What states would I be in if I were my highest and best? What states will I commit to being every single day, no matter what? Regardless of the environment, regardless of whatever challenges break loose around me, I will be these states at least once every day!” The states to which I committed myself included being friendly, happy, loving, outgoing, playful, powerful, generous, outrageous, passionate, and fun. Some of these states were the same as my values, and some of them weren’t. But I knew that if I truly lived each of these states every day, I would be living my values continually. As you can imagine, it was a pretty exciting process!
The next day, as I appeared on the radio and TV talk shows, I deliberately put myself into these states. I was happy, loving, powerful, funny, and I felt that what I said and did made a contribution, not only to my hosts, but to the people who were listening and watching. Then I went down to the local shopping mall for a book signing. When I got there, the manager approached me with a distressed expression and said, “There’s a slight problem, Mr. Robbins . . . the announcement that you’re going to be here signing books is coming out in tomorrow’s paper!”
Now, if this had happened before I’d read about Ben Franklin’s list, I might have reacted in a rather unique way. But with my new list in mind I thought, “I’m committed to living in these states no matter what. What a great test to see if I’m truly living my personal code every day!” , So I walked over to the book-signing table and looked around. Nobody was there; only a few people were strolling through the mall. How could I create excitement where none seemed to exist?
The first thing that popped into my mind was outrageousness. After all, one of the states on my list was to be outrageous. So I picked up a copy of my book. Unlimited Power, and started reading it and making all kinds of interesting noises: “Ooooh! Aaaah! Wow, is that true?”
Soon a woman walked by, was attracted by my enthusiasm for what clearly had to be a brilliant book, and stopped to see what I was reading. I raved to her about this incredible book, and pointed out all of the best stories and techniques. Someone else stopped to see what all the hubbub was about, then a few other folks joined us, and within around twenty minutes, about twenty-five to thirty people were crowding around me to hear about the great book I had found.
Finally, I said, “And you know the best thing of all? I happen to be a good friend of the author!” The first woman’s eyes lit up: “Really?” I held up the book jacket with my picture on the back and said, “Look familiar?” She gasped, and laughed, and so did all the other people. I sat down and started signing books.
That afternoon turned out to be a terrific success, and all of us had fun. Instead of letting events control my actions and perceptions, I had consciously chosen to live by what I now call my Code of Conduct. I also had the tremendous sense of satisfaction of knowing that by living in these states—by being who I truly am—I was meeting my values in the moment.
“Go put your creed into your deed.”
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Ben Franklin and I aren’t the only people who have Codes of Conduct. What do you think the Ten Commandments are all about? Or the Boy Scouts’ Oath? Or the American Serviceman’s Code of Conduct? How about the Optimists’ Club Creed? One way to create your own code is to review codes of conduct that already exist. . . .
OPTIMISTS’ CLUB CREED
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something of value in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only the best, to work only for the best, and to expect the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit presence of trouble.
When John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach, graduated from grade school at age twelve, his father gave him a seven-point creed. John says this creed has been one of the most powerful influences on his entire life and career. It’s a creed he still lives by every single day:
JOHN WOODEN’S SEVEN-POINT CREED:
“MAKING THE MOST OF ONESELF”
1. Be true to yourself.
2. Make each day your masterpiece.
3. Help others.
4. Drink deeply from good books.
5. Make friendship a fine art.
6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.
“You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips.” OLIVER GOLDSMITH
1. Make a list of the states you are committed to experiencing every day in order to live in accordance with your highest principles and values. Make sure the list is long enough to give your life the richness and variety you deserve, yet short enough that you can truly be in these states every day! Most people find that anywhere from seven to ten is optimum.
What states would you like to be in on a consistent basis? Happy? Dynamic? Friendly? Connected? Cheerful? Grateful? Passionate? Balanced? Adventurous? Amusing? Outrageous? Generous? Elegant? Some of these states might be the same as some of your moving-toward values, and some of them might be things that you feel will lead you toward living your values every day.
2. After you have compiled your list, write a sentence next to each one describing how you will know you are doing it—in other words, your rules for these states; for example: “I am being cheerful when I smile at people”; “I am being outrageous when I do something totally unexpected and fun”; “I am being grateful when I remember all the good things I have in my life.”
3. Make the commitment to yourself to genuinely experience each of these states at least once a day. You might want to write your Code of Conduct on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet or on your desk at work or by your bed. Every now and then, during the course of the day, take a look at your list and ask yourself, “Which of these states have I already experienced today? Which of them haven’t I had yet, and how am I going to accomplish it by the end of the day?”
If you truly commit to your Code of Conduct, imagine how incredible you will feel! You’ll no longer be controlled by events; you’ll know that, no matter what happens around you, you can maintain your sense of yourself and live up to the vision you’ve created. There is a tremendous pride that comes with holding yourself to a higher standard and knowing that each day you alone will determine how you feel, that you will conduct yourself only at the highest level.
Wayne Dyer recently shared a great metaphor with me relating to how people blame the way they behave on the pressure they’re feeling. He said, “Pressure doesn’t create negative behavior. Think of yourself as an orange. If an orange is squeezed, if all this pressure is being applied from the outside, what happens? Juice comes out, right? But the only thing that comes out when the pressure is applied is what’s already inside the orange.”
I believe that you decide what’s on the inside by holding yourself to a higher standard. So when the pressure’s on, what’s going to come out is the “good stuff.” After all, you cannot always count on easy sailing. It’s up to you to live by your Code of Conduct and commit yourself to the principle of CANI! in order to keep a true bearing on your course. Remember, it’s who you are every day—the small actions as well as the most grandiose—that build your character and form your identity.
One of the most important actions you can take is to learn to…
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