How do you deal with change? When circumstances come up, what do you consult for how to proceed? Do you know who you are and have a solid foundation upon which you will stand no matter what is happening? Or do you make up a new response every time a new situation comes up?
You’ve heard the old story of the house that was built on sand and the house that was built on rock. The house that was built on sand gets blown over and washed away. But the house that’s built on rock is sturdy and can handle the elements. These aren’t tips for how to build your house. This is an example of how we should be.
So what does it mean for us to build ourselves on rock? It means that we must have a personal value system that never changes no matter what is happening around us. Our value system is the rock upon which we should build our lives and make decisions.
Think of the U.S. Constitution. The document that we as a country created to be our value system. This document would guide our every decision, no matter what was thrown at us. And yes we have amended the Constitution throughout the years, but in over 200 years we’ve only done that 27 times. This document has been foundational and nearly unchanged for centuries. It isn’t a perfect protection against the craziness of the world, but when we are at our worst, there is always the constitution to be our rock.
So where am I going with this? I’ve been reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, and in it he has a great passage on dealing with circumstances and change. How one must build themselves from the ground up. Meaning we must set our values, and then our decisions will naturally flow from those values. As opposed to how a lot of us deal with new circumstances, like being socially isolated from friends and family, or not being able to get out to the course, or a bad round of golf, or a bad shot, or a plateau of your skills, etc. We get hit with these situations and make up a response, and then let that become our value system. We let the circumstance dictate who we are, instead of who we are dictating our response to the circumstance.
So I’m going to read this passage from 7 Habits. If you haven’t read this book you should. I haven’t finished it yet but I can safely recommend it because it’s really good.
Alright let’s get into the book.
"A personal mission statement becomes the same kind of standard for an individual. (The same as the constitution for the U.S.) It becomes a personal constitution, the basis for making major, life-directing decisions, the basis for making daily decisions in the midst of the circumstances and emotions that affect our lives. It empowers individuals with the same timeless strength in the midst of change.
(Now pay attention to this because this part is extra important.)
People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.
People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them.
Our personal environment is also changing at an ever-increasing pace. Such rapid change burns out a large number of people who feel they can hardly handle it, can hardly cope with life. They become reactive and essentially give up, hoping that things that happen to them will be good.
Once you have that sense of mission, you have the essence of your own proactivity. You have the vision and the values which direct your life. You have the basic direction from which you set your long- and short-term goals. You have the power of a written constitution based on correct principles, against which every decision concerning the most effective use of your time, your talents, and your energies can be effectively measured."
Now this value system looks different for everyone. It doesn’t mean you have to believe in God to be a successful athlete, or you have to be a robot who never makes a mistake or varies from what they always choose. We have a free will and can choose to do what we want. But as a whole, when we are confronted with difficulty, whether it’s huge like “do I quit pursuing pro golf and get a job?” or if it’s small like “what should I hit off the tee here?” or somewhere in between like “I just missed my third cut in a row”. How do we respond? Do we get emotional and on a whim choose how to respond? Or are we solid, because we are secure with who we are, and our decisions aren’t based solely on emotions.
This gets all the way down to “what club should I hit off the tee?” Think about this scenario. It’s one we’re all familiar with. We step up on the tee of a risk/reward hole. Maybe we’re playing really well going into this hole. Or maybe we’re playing poorly going into this hole. Does our decision of what club to hit change based on that recent past? Maybe we’ve never played this particular hole well. Maybe we’ve missed three cuts in a row and now we feel like if we don’t make a birdie right now then we’re going to miss another cut. Now does this larger amount of recent history change our decision of what club to hit?
We must be able to step up on this tee box, already have a game plan that will give us the best opportunity to make birdie based on our strengths, and be secure with who we are, and rely on our plan, our value system. We must not act emotionally and base our decision on recent history. This is a sure-fire way to let self-doubt creep in and more than likely make a bad swing, no matter what club we choose to go with. To go back to our house on the sand analogy, we are the house, our emotions are the sand, and the wind and the crashing waves are the decision making process on the risk/reward hole. If you’ve built yourself on emotions, your house will get blown over. But if you build yourself on rock, on a solid game plan, on a secure view of who you are no matter what, then your house will stand. Even if you hit a bad shot and make bogey. You’ll step up on the next hole able to make a fresh decision.
Now you need to define your value system. You need to find the rock upon which to build yourself and your decisions, so that you can handle the circumstances and changes that happen throughout life. This is basically a list of your most important values.
My personal value system isn't finished. It won't ever be. It's probably more important that it be a constant work in progress. But as of now, this is my personal value system:
Faith- First, to always pursue God first, and to love others how God loves me.
Family- Second, I will love my wife. I will do everything in my ability to cherish her, devote myself to her, give myself up for her, and support her in any way possible.
Career- Third, I will work hard and work diligently, knowing that how I conduct myself is a reflection of my character. I will always seek to improve my skills and expand my knowledge. I will always do one of these two things: do what I love or love what I do. No matter what job I am currently working. Because I know that the best way to succeed is to work with enthusiasm and passion.
Recreation- And fourth, I will allow myself time to recharge and be refreshed. This might mean running, playing golf, walking the dog with my wife, or relaxing inside. I know that I need this in my life to do everything else with a higher level of quality.
I tend to be a fickle person driven by emotions, but with this set of values, decisions become a little easier to make, challenges become a little easier to handle, and change becomes a little easier to navigate. I won’t flounder based on how I’m feeling at that moment.
And you can make these value systems for different aspects of your life. You can make one specifically for golf. Or specifically for your actual career. Or for how you will proceed with the next 10 years of your life. The point is to have a solid foundation to build upon in order to deal with life’s many changes and challenges. It’s not a fix-all, but it’s the best way, and maybe the only way, to stay standing when things get tough.
Want a way to train your brain during downtime? Click here to listen to a visualization practice that I made for myself that I believe will help you too.