Saturday, June 20, 2009

Where We Go Wrong in Life

There’s a pattern to life that works everywhere and with all people. It’s where the objective meets the subjective, and where people often go from the right path to the wrong.

The fact is we all have a vast array of skills for living in this world. Some of these skills help us in our work, some help with our families, and some just simply help us live life. Some skills are tangible, like being able to dress ourselves, drive a car, install a soak well, or prepare a cost-analysis spreadsheet, and some are intangible--like holding our relationships together.

Our skills are on display everywhere we go. They are something to be admired for their own self-sufficient glory (and ours) as we use them.

But then something often gets in the way. We integrate, with the deployment of our skills, our moralistic selves based out of our values and beliefs. These underpin, and go toward, the forming of attitudes which we carry with us into the performance of our skills. And so, even though these can either enhance or detract the performance (or value) of our skills, our values-driven perceptions more often detract. We assert our highly-questionable opinions which are all too often not grounded in broad reality. All too often, due to our threatened hearts, we go down the path of attitudes that detract from the performance of our skills, taking the shine from them, and this is a great pity.[1] We’re our own worst enemies.

On the positive side of the ledger, there’s another very positive thing we can do to enhance, objectively, the performance of our skills. I recall a senior mentor telling me of a CEO they worked closely with who had a name for her preparation. It set her apart and almost always placed her skills at advantage so they could be both seen and appreciated, toward the goal of achieving group objectives.

But, without detracting from the importance of planning, let me talk about the heart, as knowledge here helps us understand why we must routinely restrain and check our attitudes.

Proverbs says we must “keep vigilant watch over [our] heart… [for] that’s where life starts.” (Proverbs 4:23 Msg) We are so often used to restraining others, and particularly our children, but we don’t restrain ourselves--our value judgments--anywhere near enough.

Yet, every time we let fly we hold ourselves back, and to the detriment of our characters (within) and our reputations (without). And we cruel ourselves in the moment, if we’re self-aware. We promise to never do it again… until it happens the next time (often the same day!).

Don’t let value judgments get in the way of your fantastic skills which should be admired for what they are. Use self-control to gird your judgments. You will gleam as people notice the virtue in the pure skill you possess.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

[1] We should also bear in mind the impact of attribution: the average person attributes other peoples’ motives negatively for the most part (80 percent of the time, research tells us). As it’s our human nature to not trust, we see here how our values can run against our pure appreciation of others’ skilled actions, particularly and most tragically when they’re carried out with unbending positive intent.


hugh said...

I enjoyed your post. I have to think about the concept that our value driven perceptions detract from our performance. I have always thought that authentic values would improve our performance if our activities were authentic. If they were not authentic, then the case could be made that poor performance would be in our best interest.

S.J. Wickham said...

Hi Hugh

I think you're mostly correct. Perhaps we have a bias toward the negative, however. This is what I've noticed within myself and others.

From my experience, unless we're super-trained in holiness, our moralistic values most often hold us back, whether that be in the secular or Christian worlds.

I think you make a valid point about the activities we engage in being antecedants toward the propulsion of our authentic values.

Perhaps it's a case of what I say and what you say both needing to be held in tension.