The Inner War - Our Battle to Live According to Our Values
You ask what it is that brings most unease to the soul? What causes the most torment in the minds of men and women? When is it that we feel most vulnerable and frightened? I offer you this answer; It is when we live contrary to the values that we hold.
There is a constant battle between two entities within our soul. The one knows exactly the kind of person you wish to be; the values you hold dear, the characteristics you wish to possess, and the ideals that you want to stay true to. The other is your natural being; the one that seeks out pleasure, inactivity and vices of all kinds. This negative entity doesn't care if you have to go against your true ideals in order to get to the next big high, and so it works as hard as it can to make sure you forget about the person you want to be. This way it can deceive you into doing things that bring you great pleasure, but no long term fulfillment, and only a manufactured and fake kind of joy.
When I look at my life I am positive that the times when I have felt most distraught have been when I was not living in accordance to the values that I wished to live by. In your live you'll face all kinds of battles, but there is no battle quite so devastating as the one that takes place within your own soul.
This battle often takes place in secret, hushed tones, unrecognized by the majority of our friends and acquaintances, and so we fight alone, unwilling to reveal that we are not the person that others may see us as, and although we wish that we could actually be that person, it has proved harder than expected. Our yearning for authenticity in the public and private view will not be satisfied with a simple decision, but with strong and purposeful effort, and that impending journey scares us to death.
So if it is a detachment from our core values that makes us most unhappy, what is it that can bring the most joy? How can we live a life that is authentic and peaceful in the soul? This kind of life and joy can only come when we live perfectly in accordance to the values and ideals that we wish to live by. In other words, when we are being exactly who we want to be, and nothing less. It is only then that we can feel at peace within the soul; when we know that how we see ourselves, how others see us, and how we are actually acting are all in perfect symmetry.
Part of the process of becoming the person we want to be involves serious life change, and if you would like to read more about how to effectively change your behaviors you should read my writing entitled The Seven Ingredients to Highly Effective Life Change. But for now I would like to introduce three simple and essential elements that are needed to live an authentic life, true to the values that you wish to live by.
The first element is clarity. It is imperative that we are perfectly clear on what we believe and why we believe that. Nothing will strengthen the soul more than having perfect clarity with regards to who we want to be, and where we want to go. You wouldn't drive through a foreign city without a road map, so why would you wander through life without a map for your values? Perfect clarity will strengthen your commitment to your values and it will make the vision of your future much more enticing and vivid. See my post The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make and Are Your Paradigms Affecting Your Ability To Grow? to learn more about how to find greater clarity in your value system.
The second element that is needed for those who wish to live authentically is focus. Focus is a keystone habit when it comes to success, and for anyone who strives for greatness it is essential. You must develop a strong focus and dedication to your core value system. Every day you should remind yourself in many ways of the person who you are striving to be. Don’t stop at simply writing down your beliefs and philosophies, but read them again and again every day. When you wake up you should strengthen your focus by saying to yourself “Today I will be who I know I am! Today I am committed to being present, focused, and dedicated to my core values of…” and so on. Before you go to bed it would help you to review your day and keep a journal of your progress. Be honest with yourself. Write about all of the ups and downs, and when you are further into your journey you will be able to read back and find that you have made progress in this battle of the soul. Greatness requires discipline and focus. Without this virtue we are as a ship without a rudder; directionless and without purpose.
Finally, we must practice mindfulness. It is impossible to see the soul clearly when we are not mindful, and we must strive to be as clear in our mind as possible if we wish to live authentically as possible. As I have said previously it is helpful to keep a journal and write all of the details of your journey to authenticity. By sitting down and consciously thinking about our progress we are far better prepared to be honest with ourselves, and in my opinion we can always understand the soul better when we take the time to empty our emotions and thoughts onto paper. Meditation will also be helpful when practicing mindfulness. I like the Daniel Goleman focus meditation that involves sitting still and repeating the word focus over and over again. Whenever your mind wanders away in thought it is your job to bring it back into focus. Every time you repeat this exercise it is strengthening your focus and mindfulness muscles. Try these mindfulness building activities and you will be much clearer on the state of your mind and soul at any time.
The religious leader David O. McKay taught that “the greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the the silent chambers of the soul.” If you will place a high importance on knowing your soul, knowing your values, knowing who you want to be, and then becoming that person who you long to be, you will find joy above that which you've ever experienced. Great success and inner peace comes naturally to the man who is clear on his values and steadfast in his dedication to following them. If you will be clear on your values, focused in your efforts to live by them, and mindful of the most inner confides of your soul then you will surely find greater purpose and strength in the entirety of your life. People will respect you, followers will wish to emulate you, your successes will mean more to you and your failures will be of less importance, and you will soon find that you have begun your journey to the good life.
I would like to end this writing with a quote from the Stoic Philosopher Epictetus. He said; “The longer you wait, the more you will be vulnerable to mediocrity and feel filled with shame and regret, because you know you are capable of better. From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary, and do what you need to do - now.”