One of the most important traits of any person is the value system by which he or she lives. I wonder how many of us ever take the time to sit down and really think through the moral precepts that consciously or unconsciously guide our lives.
I stumbled across this personal creed of 12 values -- often attributed to writer Robert Louis Stevenson ("Treasure Island") and certainly based on many of his writings -- many years ago, and I've always wanted to write about it because it is as true today as it was whenever it was written.
1. Make up your mind to be happy. Learn to find pleasure in simple things.
2. Make the best of your circumstances. No one has everything, and everyone has something of sorrow intermingled with the gladness of life. The trick is to make the laughter outweigh the tears.
3. Don't take yourself too seriously. Don't think that somehow you should be protected from misfortunes that befall others.
4. You can't please everybody. Don't let criticism worry you.
5. Don't let your neighbor set your standards. Be yourself.
6. Do the things you enjoy doing, but stay out of debt.
7. Don't borrow trouble. Imaginary things are harder to bear than the actual ones.
8. Since hate poisons the soul, do not cherish enmities and grudges. Avoid people who make you unhappy.
9. Have many interests. If you can't travel, read about new places.
10. Don't hold postmortems. Don't spend your life brooding over sorrows and mistakes. Don't be one who never gets over things.
11. Do what you can for those less fortunate than yourself.
12. Keep busy at something. A very busy person never has time to be unhappy.
What a terrific list! Can you imagine what the world would look like if we all followed such a code?
While I agree with all of these thoughts, I suspect we could all add a thing or two to fit our own needs. And I would encourage you to take some time to do just that in the near future. See if doing so doesn't help you define your goals and dreams.
What is really important to you? How do you want to conduct your life? What are you willing to do -- or not do -- in order to have the life you want? Is there a line you will not cross?
It is reasonable to expect that most adults would do their best to do the right thing. And that has taken on a new importance in the world we live in, where our words and deeds are often subject to cameras and shared online for the world to see. But having an established value system goes beyond that -- it takes the guesswork out. Because you have already thought about how you want to live and be perceived, your responses and reactions can often be automatic. You won't even have to think about them.
A remarkable book by retired Navy SEAL Mark Divine might provide the inspiration you need to organize your thoughts. In "The Way of the SEAL," Divine recalls his own experience of defining his purpose at officer candidate school.
His SEAL commander asked him what he stood for. His answer: "Justice, integrity and leadership," was not enough for the commander.
After some reflection, Divine wrote his personal stand:
-- "Destiny will favor me if I am prepared in mind, body, and spirit."
-- "I must work harder than expected and be more patient than others."
-- "Leadership is a privilege, not a right."
-- "As a warrior, I will be the last to pick up my sword but will fight to protect myself, my family, my country and my way of life."
-- "I will find my peace and happiness through seeking truth, wisdom and love, and not by chasing thrills, wealth, titles or fame."
-- "I will seek to improve myself, my team and the world every day."
So there you have it: two shining examples of personal values that -- even though separated by multiple decades -- still ring true. I challenge you to take some time and take a stand.
Mackay's Moral: If you live by a great value system, your life will have great value.