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An interesting quote, today, from Covey’s ‘Principle Centred Leadership, made me think. It read:

“One common reactive pattern is to live life in value-based compartments, where our behaviour is largely the product of expectations built in to certain roles: spouse, parent, child, business executive, community leader, and so on. Because each of these compartments carries its own value system, reactive people often find themselves trying to meet conflicting expectations and living by differing values according to the role or the environment they are in at any particular time.” (Covey, Stephen R.. Principle-Centred Leadership (p. 20). Rosetta Books. Kindle Edition.)

Years ago, when I was a serving officer, I considered myself to be quite competent. Something would happen and I would quite easily approach and deal with it using my training and experience. Then, one day, something happened to one of my kids – and I was completely lost. I called a colleague, who dealt with it very well indeed, but I remember thinking, afterwards, “Why didn’t I do that?”

And, reading the above quote, I think I might have an inkling as to why. I was in Parent/Daughter mode, and applied a different kind of thinking than I would have, if I’d gone into Policeman/Victim mode – which was more objective, less emotionally involved. In that moment, I was probably applying a different role, and subsequently different values.

Which was odd, because I believe that the values we have are applied universally to ‘us’, and that experience suggested otherwise. It suggests that look at our Roles through different, role-related spectacles, and act accordingly. The question is,

Is that the right way to live?

It is certainly a common way to love, as shown by athletes with drinking problems, politicians who seem to be honest but then get caught out, married people who excuse one-night stands with strangers when out on business junkets – the ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour’ perspective.

For me, the ideal is that you/we have ONE set of personal values or Unifying Principles which apply whatever we are doing. The only ‘but’ being that some values may never apply in particular roles, although I am at a loss to conjure up an example for the sake of illustration. I suppose (looking at my own) a value of ‘Be an Intellectual’ might not really apply to a parenting role, except to the degree that role-modelling intellectualism may benefit a child. ‘Be organised in the home’ has little to do with work – except you tend to be more organised at work than you do at home. And role-modelling organisation benefits a messy child.

Looking at those ‘buts’, I think I’m still plumping for Values applying all the time because for every role I can think of, one of my values applies if I think about it deeply enough.

It reflects what Ghandi said. “A person cannot do right in one department whilst attempting to do wrong in another department. Life is one indivisible whole.” Which addressed people who lacked integrity and misbehaved in some fashion, but also supports the idea that our values apply universally, not on a role-by-role basis.

Are you who you are all of the time?

I’m trying to be. And while it isn’t easy it must be worth it. Ask my kids.

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