Perfect Your Values
“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” — Yoda
Our willpower is limited, and we need to rely on it less. The best way to do so is by forming habits and relying on being disciplined to practicing them instead of on willpower alone. Having habits — good ones — is imperative to taking the actions you need to take in order to become more like the person you want to be.
A habit is any behavior that you perform over and over to the point that it becomes automatic and no longer requires much willpower to get it done. Once a habit is formed, giving it up is harder to do than continuing it. This can utilized both to your own benefit and impediment.
Use Your Values as a Platform for Your Habits
In the same way that your actions rest upon your habits, your habits rest upon your values. With this being the case, it is critical to ground yourself in deeply held values that complement your habits. They are will keep you rooted in continuing to build your habits when you hit plateaus and lose focus.
The most obvious example of using what you value to cultivate habits harmonious to them is religion. Religion creates a platform habits and actions that match its various teachings on habits and belief. It creates a meaning and basis for all of ones’ actions and behaviors. It yields confidence and value to lives that may otherwise be disappointing and unfulfilling.
Though religion is the most common instance of building habits off of your values and beliefs, it is not, necessarily, the best. Despite all of its benefits, religion can be a dangerous platform to base your habits upon. Religion can be used for excuses, both good and bad.
On one hand, it can be your reason to help an elderly person across the street, to help to ensure your place in heaven. On the other, it can turn you into a hateful bigot, intolerant of views aside from your own.
The drawback of religion is that it can lead to sticking to the past — to continue believing in outdated views despite evidence in direct conflict with it. In an age ruled by science and technology, both of which are progressing rapidly, this is no time to stick to the past.
Choose Your Beliefs With Intention
A dangerous characteristic of our values is that they tend to be cultivated subconsciously. In other words, much of our values and beliefs, upon which we build our habits, are built not upon evidence but upon the unsteady ground of what those we trusted told us to value as true and important.
To escape this trap of misinformation, we must mindfully seek out the truth, regardless of whether or not it matches our current values and beliefs. We must carefully evaluate the sources of our information and learn to account for ulterior motives the source may have in trying to mislead us.
Take the news, for example. We are taught to value the news as being important, reliable, and unbiased; at least, I know I was. But news is not reliable, and it definitely is biased. All news is biased, to some degree. Some sources are intentionally misleading, some not.
Regardless, throughout your lifetime, you have adsorbed information from untrustworthy sources like the news with the belief that they were, in fact, trustworthy. This is why it’s so important to be relentless with your beliefs. Even if you no longer trust a source, information it provided to you previously may still be in your mind as valid.
Challenge What You Believe
You cannot take your beliefs for granted, because to do so is to put the foundation of all your habits, actions, and even your perspective to chance. To do so is to unconditionally trust that the beliefs you were imparted when you were young were all absolutely true — and that is a needlessly risky decision.
Continuing to believe something only because it feels safe, because your parents believe it, or because you feel that you could not go on without it is a bad way to go about understanding the rules behind how this ride works, and it’s a great way to be confused, disappointed, and hurt.
This is a call to action to always be in the process of reevaluating the beliefs you already have and the ways in which you prioritize them. It is a request that you learn to be okay with feeling uncertain.
We all fear that which we are uncertain about. We crave certainty. This is where the difficulty in challenging your beliefs lies. Because in order to do so, you have to face your fear head on instead of running from it.
I’ll end by elaborating on the reason I chose to begin this post with the quote above, which is twofold. First, it demonstrates the detriments of living your life based off what you fear. Second, the topics discussed in this post rest upon each other in the same way that fear eventually leads to suffering.
Your values and beliefs determine your habits. Your habits determine your actions. Your actions determine what you achieve in life. If your values are not reflective of who you want to become, then your actions will never be reflective of that person either.