If you have everything on a horizontal plane, you are very distraught when you lose your job, lose a client, lose a sale. Such things devastate the dickens out of you. Why? Because your uppermost values are not uppermost in your life.

When your uppermost values are consistent with permanent principles, natural laws, perhaps even eternal values, then all around you can change you can even lose most of what you have and you’ll remain strong and centered. Now, the losses might bother you for a time, but they won’t beat you.

Each one of us who chooses to be centered and strong needs to identify our own hierarchy of values. Sort out for yourself what the essentials are, why you are on earth, what is important to you, and what your life is worth. I encourage you to use affirmations and set goals to bring more of those things that are important to you abundantly into your life. If you don’t have a hierarchy of values, if you don’t have priorities already in your mind, you don’t know how to make your choices or how to control reactions. You don’t know what to get upset about. You don’t know what a big deal is.

I admit that I have been like that. But now, I can sleep right through things that once upset me to no end. What changed? I know what I value and where I hang my goals.

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Some values are more important than other values. Some things are more important than other things for you to do. When you know what those things are why you exist, what’s important to you you’ll have the courage to stop doing things of little importance at the expense of your family and your business associates.

One reason why you may have trouble sorting out your personal values is because our societal values are so distorted. For example, look at the money we pay to professional athletes and entertainers. It’s out of proportion to their contribution.

People ask me, “But, aren’t you excited to work with professional coaches and athletes?” Are you kidding? Some of them make me sick. Why get so excited about sports when there are so many other important things in life?

I know where I want to spend my time. I know where I want to put my money. I know where I want to put my life’s energy. I don’t know if you do, but until you get it sorted out, you could be wasting your time and talents. You could be going after things more and more things. How much is enough? What are you really after?

When you reach the point that you spend your life’s energy doing your life’s work, you can live without feeling that “quiet desperation” that Henry David Thoreau talks about. You won’t even care if you die, because what you’re doing is great. You’re not thinking “I’ve got to live. I’ve got to do this and that.” You’re not pressured. If you go, you go.

Are you living the life you want to live, consistent with your deepest values? If so, you’re living the good life, and you’re highly motivated from within.

For Show or for Real?

When we do things, we can do them for show or for real. Some people go to church for show; others go to church to worship. Some people give to charity for show because it’s good for business; others give for a generous or selfless reason, because it’s the right thing to do.

If you go and give for show, it doesn’t do you any good. It doesn’t do me any good to impress you if I’m not impressed with me. I might fool you. You might think I’m a good person, but how can I live with me if I know I’m a jerk?

If I do things for my community to make people think I’m wonderful, but inside I know my motive is to gain popularity or power, or to be seen and thought of as generous, my giving is hollow. You need to do the right thing for the right reason because you have to live with you. What good does it do to impress a million people if you aren’t impressed with you?

Your spirit of intent needs to be aligned with real love, real justice, real purpose, real truth. If you choose to be selfish, manipulative, dishonest, and deceptive, you’ve got to mask your spirit of intent. You might fool me at first, assuming you practice the public relations game of “how to win friends” and how to present a good face, but inside you know you’re duplicitous. And over time you find it very difficult to mask your intent.

When your spirit is genuine and when you are interested in helping others, you can have weaknesses and people will still support you. If you’re genuine, authentic and a good person, people will follow you anywhere.

Real leaders are guided more by internal than external regulation.

By contrast, many people I work with in prisons have no internal idea of right or wrong. They’ve been raised in environments where right and wrong are very confusing to them. What’s wrong is getting caught. It isn’t wrong to steal. So, in that situation, we need police forces and armies and sheriffs’ departments and judicial systems to take care of people who don’t even have the sense of right or wrong or ethics. Of course, there are many others who know the difference between right and wrong, but they choose the wrong, because it’s the expedient thing or the shortcut to what they want.

False leaders may dress well and come off with a great presentation, but they are basically con artists. People look at them and say, “There’s a fine-looking person” or “Gee whiz, wasn’t that wonderful what that person did?” But it’s very possible he didn’t play by the rules, but instead used inside information to gain an advantage.

Goals achieved when you don’t play by the rules are very hollow.

When you have a code by which you live, your own principles and your values that are based upon justice, fairness, and so on, you don’t need a proctor and a test to ensure that you don’t cheat. You don’t cheat because it’s wrong, not because you’re afraid of getting caught, arrested, embarrassed, or punished. You don’t steal because you don’t steal. It’s not the right thing to do.

Brokerage firms are getting a lot of national attention because many people are becoming very wealthy due to insider trading. But the governing principle in ethics is this: an evil means never justifies a good end, no matter how good the end might be.

In your dealings with people, do you ever have an ulterior motive or a hidden meaning? One of our adopted kids, Joe, would talk a mile a minute in the car. He’d drive us nuts. And about 20 minutes into a monologue, he’d mention that he stole this or broke that and forgot to tell us. We always needed to listen to his intent, not just his words.

It’s not easy to work around people who hide their spirit of intent because you’re always trying to find the underlying cause, the underlying reason or motive.

It’s important to align your intent with truth and justice and love. Then you won’t send mixed messages to your customers and your spouse, to your friends and your business associates. You may wonder why sometimes you’re not getting your point across. You may wonder why sometimes people aren’t buying what you’re selling or why you’re not getting the reaction that you want. And it could be that you’re sending them a mixed message because your intent is manipulative or selfish hand maybe they are getting the message. You want them to get a different message, but they are reading your real intent. You think you mask it well because you are good with charm and words. But many people read your intent they “get the vibes” or they “don’t feel right” about the deal or the relationship. They sense that ”something’s wrong here.” And they opt not to do business with you or to be around you.