Everyone wears a set of glasses in which they view the world – one lens is their vision and the other is their set of values. The philosophers call this a ‘worldview.’ James H. Olthius defines worldview as “the integrative and interpretive framework by which order and disorder are judged, the standard by which reality is managed and pursued. It is the set of hinges on which all our everyday thinking and doing turns.” And as Ludwig Wittgenstein aptly penned, “If I want the door to turn, the hinges must stay put.”
Leaders discover that when they have an established set of core values that they refuse to compromise, it translates into what Steven Covey described as a “moral compass in the wilderness of changing times.”
What does it mean to compromise? Winston Churchill, undoubtedly bored and wanting to have some fun, once asked a woman at a party whether she would have sex with him for a million British pounds. She was surprised at the offer, but knowing his net worth, said she would consider it. Churchill then followed up with the question, “Would you be willing to have sex with me for one pound?” She was horrified, “What kind of woman do you think I am, Sir Winston?” He replied, “Well, madam, we already know what kind of woman you are. Now it is only necessary to determine the price.”
It takes time to firmly establish those values that cannot be changed for any price, but a good place to begin is to identify those values that are already innate within yourself. This focus has received a lot of attention in the field of psychology. Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman’s seminal work on the subject is Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. They have identified a list of personal strengths of character that can be identified across cultures and throughout history.
What is brilliant about Peterson and Seligman’s thesis is that instead of focusing on what’s wrong with people (i.e. their psychological problems), their work sets out to define what is right with them. Harvard professor Howard Gardner (originator of the Multiple Intelligence Theory), states that Character Strengths is “one of the most important initiatives in psychology in the past half century.”
If the handbook is a little heavy, a more practical guide is Seligman’s Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Peterson’s A Primer in Positive Psychology or some different authors on the same subject, Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness and Flourishing by William Compton and Edward Hoffman. All are excellent and will surely stimulate a lot of thought and hopefully, directional purpose.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws.” The closer our values are aligned to those which come from our Creator God, the more our lives and our leadership will succeed.