Just musing the other day I considered one of my favourite Hobbs concepts, which is that of Congruity. He describes Congruity as being a core element of successful self-management, and used this diagram to show what he meant.
Consider these two Circles. One is representative of how we behave and the other is representative of our personal values, those things and states of being we consider to be important. In this diagram the two circles are quite far apart although there is an overlap. This illustration shows someone whose behaviours are often quite separate from what they believe in.
Hobbs (and Smith and Covey) all agreed that the ‘ideal’ state of being is when the two Circles wholly overlap, when what we say and what we believe in is completely demonstrated in how we act. When we walk our talk. Hobbs called them ‘Unifying Principles’ because when what we valued became our behaviour, we were unified. We had integrity.
This got me to thinking as I traipsed around London looking at the self-help (ugly term) sections in the better bookshops – which activity comes first, the chicken or the egg? In our efforts to improve, do we or could we first choose Values or Behaviour?
I concluded that there are 5 approaches to this concept.
- We can do nothing about any of it.
- We can accept the values that we have learned over the years, and behave in accordance with those values.
- We can identify our values, and then ignore them whenever we decide it is convenient to do so.
- We can identify what our behaviours are first, and then identify what values our behaviours represent.
- We can design our lives by making a conscious decision on what our values should be if we are to get what we want in life, and then act in their accord.
Taking each in turn:
- We can do nothing. Many who decry the self-help drive are those who live in the moment, who give little or no thought to what their values are and who would probably have trouble identifying more than three if they were pressed. This isn’t necessarily bad but it isn’t the best. But their lives are often dependent upon circumstances rather than intent.
- We can accept the values that we have learned over the years, and behave in accordance with those values. This is probably the most common state of affairs. This is what Covey called ‘determinism’ in various forms, but the crux of it is that when we live like this we are ‘being lived’ by our upbringing and by the standards of those with whom we spend our time. This is fine if the people we spend time with are not unprincipled, dishonest, unfaithful, or demonstrate any of the other self-destructive and undisciplined behaviours that we know, in our conscience, will not serve us or anyone else. It may suit you because the people you mix with are disciplined people of great character. If this is so, you can identify your values from theirs, and live accordingly. But then you have still made a choice by not choosing – see 5.
- We can identify our values, and then ignore them whenever we decide it is convenient to do so. This is a poor way to live, and is possibly one great cause of personal stress and/or guilt – the knowledge that we are deliberately not living according to the rules that we actively set for ourselves.
- We can identify what our behaviours are and then identify what values apply. This is the life of the person who can misbehave, err, pre-judge and generally act as he or she feels because whenever challenged they will find an excuse for what they just did. It’ll be ‘freedom’, ‘liberalism’, ‘identity’, or ‘to put it to the man’. It is willing defiance of authority just for the sake of establishing their independence, while wholly ignoring the interdependence of life. It is the telling of rational lies.
- We can design our lives by making a conscious decision on what our values should be if we are to get what we want in life, and then act in their accord. This is the only sensible option and the one representative of a higher intellectual approach to living (in my opinion), but it is often the hardest one to carry out. First of all, identifying the values themselves can be difficult because finding the right words with the right meaning can be problematic. Then, assuming we’ve defined our identified values appropriately, we come up against the obstacles of peer-pressure, societal norms and our own convenience when trying to execute on them.
Hobbs called them Unifying Principles, most others call them Values. One writer called them ‘valuables’ but I suspect he’s one of those who uses different terms for the same things just to seem (annoyingly) different while not actually being different, but I digress.
“Unifying Principles”. To wholly mix up philosophical terms, the objective is to live in accordance with your own identified and defined, timeless, understood, self-evidently true and extrinsically existing ‘truths’, rather than constantly bob and weave between doing the right thing one minute and having to make excuses the next.
I’m still trying. Are you?
Decide which of the 5 you are compliant with, conclude number 5 is the only sensible option and make sure you identify and define your Unifying Principles/Values if you haven’t already done so.
For those who have done this, watch your behaviour throughout the week and see if the circles are, or are not overlapping!
Mixed week. I have been running in accordance with the plan with the exception of a day off to rest a twisted back, only to try to run on the same twisted back the next day. Interestingly, running on the twisted back made it better. The weight loss continues, but we’ve just spent 2 days in London – stuck with Slimfast on the first day but eating in a diner meant a risky calorie load – or not, I just don’t know yet!
Yesterday I was able to provide service for my Institute with two business meetings so I’m glad I can still contribute despite ‘retirement’.