I read a story about the Founder & CEO of a startup company, who had to shut down his business, which was like his own baby. Needless to say, his decision to end operations was very difficult. As he was passing out the pink slips to his employees, who all admired and respected him, he asked them to not feel bad for him, reassuring them that he can always build another company and people would return to work for him, but that he would not be able to rebuild trust with them if that was lost. He did just what the Dalai Lama recommended: embraced necessary change but never lost his values in the process of change.
Sometimes we face situations in life that make us question our values because we are shaken in our core. Other times we doubt our values by judging others for having gotten far in life through unscrupulous ways, which makes life feel unfair. Or sometimes we get burned in life even if we felt we did the right thing, again making us question our values. When situations, where we felt unfairly “wronged,” happen in our lives, we lose trust and faith in our values, and entertain the idea that maybe we shouldn’t be so honest or giving or hard working or loving. While it is normal and human to occasionally question our values, we should never let them go.
When we release our values, we not only lose our sense of identity, but, more importantly, the foundation of our true selves. Without it, we have no anchor and our lives, like the the walls of a building without its foundation, start to collapse. When change must take place–whether it’s a new job, relationship or dwelling–our values provide the confidence we need to help us make these adjustments. Otherwise, the process of change will feel more difficult and fearful. In other cases, a sense of hopelessness and depression can set in. Our values are the anchor roots and what allow us to have hope and faith, which are the core reasons for living.
How do you hold onto your values even in an extreme case? For example, perhaps a family member was murdered, and, understandably, your values of trust, integrity and honesty are deeply shaken? While you have lost your loved one, which is devastating enough, the biggest loss will be that of yourself if you discard your values, and this will drop you in a vortex where faith and hope are lost. And when this happens, there is no way to move forward because you have lost all of life’s meaning and purpose, which is why we wake up every day. In such traumatic situations, while it is obvious that you will want to closely surround yourself with family and friends you can trust, it is just as important to still give people the benefit of doubt by taking measured risks. “Measured” meaning that you have weighed the pros and cons of the risks, and made an informed decision that the risk is worthwhile knowing that you can still be vulnerable and get burned. If your value beliefs are intact and strong, you will bounce back and become a stronger person even if the risk yielded a negative outcome. If you feel your faith in your values is being tested, then past the test by not giving them up. The experience will be an invaluable opportunity to learn about yourself and make you a better person.
When you clinch onto your values, happy days worth living, while they may not always be right around the corner, will come, and you will see the light at the end of the tunnel. But if you let go of them, you will never find or see the light. So travel with confidence on the Road of Life, where you can change directions by making left and right turns, but the final destination of who you are will never be wavered because you are holding tight onto your values.
By Moon Cho, Creator of Ying & Yang Living