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“The Power of a Value-Driven Life”
“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power.
We have guided missiles and misguided men.” (1)
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
What guides the hundreds of decisions you make each day? Wouldn’t it be powerful to have a concrete answer to that question? Every decision we make affects the quality of our lives; each one adds to, or takes away from, our happiness. So how can we know – really know – we’re making decisions that will lead to a happier life? It may not be as easy as we think.
A number of studies have looked at how stress has a negative impact on our bodies, but one study took a different approach, and looked at how ‘happiness’ affects us. This study looked at inflammation in the body at a cellular level among people who rated themselves as being ‘very happy.’ But, even though everyone in the study said they were happy, participants fell into one of two groups.
The first group had ‘hedonic’ happiness. This is happiness that comes from living ‘the good life,’ from circumstances like having a job with an important title, a big paycheck, a beautiful house in the right neighborhood, or driving a luxury car. But, at the cellular level, this group had high levels of stress and inflammation in their gene expression. Exactly what you wouldn’t find if they were genuinely happy.
The other group had ‘eudaimonic’ happiness. This is happiness whose source is from a life lived well; a life of meaning and purpose and growth. Think of these people as operating at the ‘self actualization’ level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The study found this group had significantly lower levels of stress-related inflammation. Exactly what you’d expect from ‘very happy’ people. (2)
My key take-away from this is… It seems our brains may be able to trick us into thinking we’re happy when we gauge our happiness by external, temporary, and superficial measures associated with hedonic happiness. But our bodies… our bodies know what real happiness is.
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At the Global Values Project, we believe there’s a strong correlation between how happy we are and how present our values are in our life.
While this theory may sound pretty obvious on the surface, we’re attempting to prove it with our Values Assessment Tool.
In the Values Assessment Tool (VAT), a person rates their level of happiness in various life aspects; identifies their values using a body-based, neuroscientific method, and assesses how present their values are in each of the same life aspects. This chart shows the aggregate results from the people who completed their values assessment in the first six weeks the VAT was launched. We’re thrilled this initial ‘litmus test’ of data from those first 33 people to use the tool, shows our theory has some serious traction. (3) We plan to re-publish these findings once we have 500 completed assessments.
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Albert Einstein, long before neuroscience came to be all the rage it is today, said;
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
When you’re clear about what your core values are, you have an incredibly powerful tool to access your ‘sacred gift.’ By naming a value, you can quickly step into what that value means to you; what it really feels like when it’s present in your life. And, you can use these feelings as energetic pointers when making decisions, big and small; Decisions you know will lead you a life of meaning and happiness.
That… is what living a value-driven life is all about.
Robert Kaiser writes at GlobalValuesProject.com, on the power of a value-driven life; how living in alignment with our values creates a life filled with meaning and happiness. If you enjoyed this article, sign up for the Global Values Project monthly newsletter when the website is once again available.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., “Strength to Love,” 1963.
- Hedonic and eudemonic happiness: “The Compassionate Mind” by Emma Seppaia, the Association of Psychological Science. Study by Steve Cole at the University of California, Los Angeles, and APS Fellow Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- Revivae Consulting, Inc., Preliminary results from proprietary Values Assessment Tool.