If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
Helen Keller said, “The world is full of suffering. It is also full of the overcoming of it.”
She was right. There are signs of stress and suffering everywhere. Certainly there’s stress in our education system. As noted in “The Wall Street Journal” by Sam Ewing, “The president says American kids are entitled to the best education in the world. But, let’s face it, how many of us can afford to send our children to a foreign country?”
And there’s stress in the way money is handled. Too many people spend money they don’t have… to buy things they don’t need… to impress people they don’t like… and may not even know.
You might even get stressed looking at a photograph. In fact, if you look like your passport photo, you probably need the trip.
But the biggest cause of stress… in the emotional dimension of life… is when there’s a gap between your TALK and your WALK. In other words, you can’t profess one thing… and do another… and feel good about yourself. The gap is called “stress.”
To close the gap, there are two things you’ve got to do.
=> 1. Know what you love.
In other words, clarify your values. Learn what is most important to you. Figure out your priorities. Or as Dr. Sid Simon, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts says, “Find out what you really, really, really love.”
In fact, it may be worth your while to write out your so-called “Standards of Life.” That’s what the Vice President of State Farm Insurance did. As a somewhat new leader to the organization, Charlie Gomez knew he couldn’t expect others to follow him if they didn’t know what he stood for.
So Charlie stood up before a crowd of 500 agents where I was speaking and outlined his “Standards of Life.” He said:
** “I believe in God, family, and work.”
** “There is no right way to do the wrong thing.”
** “Put people first — always.”
** “You are either practicing to win or practicing to lose.” And
** “Don’t let anyone be less than who they can be.”
Of course, it will take some time to figure out your “Standards of Life.” But once you do, life will become so much simpler for you. You will no longer have to fret over what to do… because when your values are clear… decisions are easy.
That was the case with George Bernard Shaw. In addition to being a world-famous playwright, he was also a great gardener… with spectacular flower gardens covering his vast estate. And in that realm he was quite well aware of his values. He knew he valued conservation over decorum.
One day a visitor to Shaw’s home was puzzled by the fact that not a single flower adorned the interior of Shaw’s home. So he commented, “You surprise me. I thought you were fond of flowers, yet you have none in your home.”
Shaw replied, “I’m fond of children too, but I don’t cut off their heads and stick them in pots about my house.”
Shaw had figured out his values. Have you done that? Have you figured out what you really, really love? Have you figured out what YOU want to do with your life and career? And I do mean YOU… not what someone else thinks you SHOULD love or SHOULD do?
That will take some work. And it will take some gut-wrenching honesty to figure out what YOU value. After all, everyone else… bosses, coworkers, customers, spouses, kids, friends, relatives, churches, advertisers, and political parties… are trying to tell you what’s important. And in the midst of their influence you can lose sight of what YOU really, really, really love.
So as you do your search, look for truth. As Adlai Stevenson said, “As scarce as truth is, the supply seems greater than the demand.”
Once you know what you love, you close the gap between your TALK and your WALK when you…
=> 2. Live by what you value.
In fact, you MUST live by what you value… once you figure out your values… or you’ll have even more stress in your life. I learned that years ago.
For years, I kept saying my kids were important to me. They were a primary value in my life. That was my TALK.
But my WALK was quite different. I was out speaking to groups… all the time… across the world and was seldom home. I missed most of my kids’ events. But I rationalized my behavior. After all, I was important; I was in demand, and I had to work to pay the bills.
But there came a time when I realized I could no longer say one thing… and do another… and feel good about myself. I could no longer say my kids were important to me and continue to miss out on so much of their lives. If I was going to be a man who walked his talk, if I was going to be a man of integrity, I would have to cut back on my travel schedule so I could spend more time with my kids. And I did.
So I ask you, “Are there any gaps between your talk and your walk? And do you need to make any changes in your life or in your career to close those gaps?”
Mark Twain talked about the importance of walking your talk years ago. A 19th century industrial baron once told Twain, “Before I die, I mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will climb to the top of Mt. Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud.”
Twain replied, “Why don’t you stay home and keep them?”
You see… there is simply no way you can have self-esteem, integrity, or peace of mind if you profess one set of values but live another.
In the book, “Peace of Mind,” Joshua Liebman tells of an experience he had as a young boy. He made a list of the supreme goods in life and took them to a wise mentor. When he showed him the list, he expected to be praised for his precocity.
The list went something like this: “health, love, talent, riches, beauty, faith.” As he shared the list with the wise old man, the sage got a twinkle in his eye. He reached for a stub of a pencil and carefully scratched through all of the things Joshua Liebman had listed.
Then the old man said, “You may have all of these — health, love, faith, riches, beauty — but they will all turn out to be enemies instead of friends unless you have the one thing you missed.” Then he wrote on the paper: “The gift of an untroubled mind.”
Do you want less stress and more peace? Then figure out what you love… and live by what you value… and you will also have the gift of an untroubled mind.
Action: Write down your top 5 values. Write down three ways you live out each of your values. And write down three ways you violate each of your values.
Then write out an action plan… outlining what changes you will make so you do not violate your values.