Living Up to Your Highest Values

Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little. 
Edmund Burke

A conversation with a friend (and my own life experience) prompted these thoughts. 

Do you wrestle with doubt? Do you feel as if your life just doesn’t measure up? I honestly want to live my life according to my highest values. Yet so often it feels like I’m falling short of my ideals—or even failing altogether. I look at the gap between where I am and where I want to be, and wonder how I will ever get from here to there. 

I think we tend to believe that to live by our highest values means turning our lives upside down, or that we have to get everything in our lives "perfect," as if we cannot begin where we are. I cannot honestly say that I live by my highest values 100% of the time. I wrestle with my own indecision, fears, doubts, mistakes, and misbeliefs. But it is always possible to take baby steps in the right direction by doing one or two simple, self-empowering things each day. 

I have found setting aside time for meditation—the sit down and quiet your busy judgmental mind kind of meditation—to be particularly helpful and empowering, especially in the midst of crisis. I have been doing mindfulness meditation in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk. I highly recommend his books, as they offer a simple introduction to this practice. Mindfulness meditation is not only good for the mind, it is also healing to the body. I have become healthier and calmer since I began a serious meditation practice.

Here are three practical books that offer insight on the benefits and practice of meditation, and on the way the mind/ego works. These authors offer simple instructions for beginners as well as advanced insights for experienced meditations. 
• Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by John Kabat Zinn is a great intro to mindfulness meditation.
• The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle offers another practical perspective on how the mind works and how our thoughts will empower or defeat us.
• The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh is a small classic, offering a Zen master’s method of meditation, concentration, and relaxation. 

If you are wondering how you can live by and express your highest values, you have already started a journey that will take you far beyond the limits of old ways of living. Starting with a small action, like taking a few minutes of meditation to start and end the day, will open your heart and mind to the greater wholeness that lives within. 

Give yourself grace and space, and remember that when a toddler is learning to walk, she doesn't let falling stop her. She may cry or get angry. But she just keeps getting up and eventually she learns to do what she was born to do: walk! She grows in her skills until she can run and dance and play. Those first steps may not be a climb to the top of Mt. Everest, but no one climbs to the top of anything without learning to take baby steps first!

So take baby steps toward a life lived in the light of your fondest hopes, deepest dreams, and highest values. Here are a few suggestions: 
• Spend ten minutes sitting quietly with your eyes closed, following your breath.
• Get out of the house or office. Go for a gentle walk in woods or down a neighborhood street, taking in the sights and sounds. 
• Plant some herbs in a garden and use them to make delicious dishes. I love fresh marjoram in potato, onion, and celery soup (with or without milk/cream). 
• Speak a positive or kind word when you are tempted to criticize. 
• Forgive others (and yourself) instead of wallowing in blame and anger. 
• Make room for a new story by choosing to no long tell the old story of victimhood or blame. 
• Buy yourself an affordable bouquet of flowers. Better yet, share part of the bouquet with a friend. 
• Keep your mouth shut when you are tempted to gossip or complain. Don’t even let your mind start down the self-pitying path, because you know that’s a dead end.
• Be gentle on yourself. Notice those times of day when you seem to sink into discouragement. Take a break. Close your eyes and rest or say some affirmations, or even eat a snack or take a nap. Then you can come back to your day refreshed. 

Applaud your victories, no matter how small they seem. One victory leads to other victories, and each is important. Small victories that help you live life by your highest values, even if your life is not yet all you wish it could be. 

A strong positive attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug.
Patricia Neal

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.
Mother Teresa

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life.
John Homer Miller

Beware of despairing about yourself; you are commanded to put your trust in God, and not in yourself.
Saint Augustine 

Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
Galatians 6:5 THE MESSAGE

Trust God for great things; with your five loaves and two fishes, He will show you a way to feed thousands. 
Horace Bushnell


Affirmative prayer

There is one life and that life is God, and that life is my life now. Every day I learn and grow and expand my consciousness. I make positive choices that empower me to become love in action. Each small step taken in the direction of my dreams is a victory to celebrate. I thank God for the eternal good that flows in, through, and for me, and for the blessings I can then share with others freely and generously, because I am generously provided for. God is my Source, and my right thinking keeps me connected to my Source and creates a life I love to live. And so it is.


The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own. 
--Benjamin Disraeli 

Introducing an inspiring friend (or in this case, re-introducing a friend with a great new product): 

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Comments

  1. June 29, 2010 6:49 PM CDT

    I came across your book "101 ways to simplify your life" and was looking for it when I came across your website and blog. What an encouragement! I needed to hear it too. This past year has been nothing but disappointment after another. Your blog was just another reminder that God is for me. Thank you.

    - Chrissy