Do you trust our political leaders at home and abroad? Yet more headlines throughout the media calling into question the honesty and integrity of our leaders at home and abroad! Do you feel helpless, let down or angry? Do you wonder if there is a way of helping people to be trustworthy and responsible for their actions? What do we as people need to do? In this blog I will offer suggestions, which I hope will help spearhead the change that is urgently needed in society.
This week, I have been with our Compass for Life (CfL) team working with military instructors and educators at Harrogate Army Foundation College. Over the last 12 months I have enjoyed supporting CfL training at several military bases, including Pirbright, Winchester and Catterick. My role in the Compass team is to take people on a deep dive into understanding the East Cardinal of the Compass – Ethos.
A senior officer shared with me that an increasingly challenging issue for the Army is that young recruits do not understand the meaning of complex words such as integrity, which is one of the Army’s core values. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. We discussed how we could help recruits to be more values literate. Above all to live this core Army value and others in their lives.
The Missing Link
In schools worldwide I am affectionately referred to as Dr. Values. I have been showing, based on my practical first-hand experience and research, how a positive values culture (how we do things at Compass For Life), transforms how young people think, behave and achieve. I invite you to visit www.valuesbasededucation.com to find out more about this educational transformational philosophy and practice.
However, despite my and others’ best efforts, the missing link is that generally as a society, we do not emphasise, and dare I say value, the importance of character development. Our education system is not explicitly ethics-centric; instead, it focusses on subject knowledge which can be examined. I hope you will agree with me, that some of the most important aspects of life cannot be measured in a formal exam e.g., happiness, resilience and yes, integrity.
Before the pandemic I visited Estonia. One afternoon, I was sharing thoughts with an education professor at Tartu University. She reminded me that the only real, authentic measure of schooling is what we see in the character and behaviour of people twenty years after leaving school. For instance, to what extent do they contribute to the good of society?
Those of us who are parents find it increasingly challenging to be a ‘good’ parent and help our children to live an ethical life. Modern life is so complex, and our children can be prayed on and manipulated by social media and clever advertising. They also have serious worries stemming from COVID, the war in Ukraine, climate change and the economy. They often tell me that they feel powerless and are searching to fill the existential vacuum. No wonder that mental health issues are causing such concern.
Is there a solution?
A resounding YES!
At CfL, we encourage folk to consider and then aim to reach their Super North Star. To explore and embrace their meaning and purpose in life. The energy to realise this is fuelled by creating your own unique Ethos. Ethos is the character or spirit of a culture or person. Our character is built on the values which govern our behaviour. If we want our character to be based on values such as integrity, then each of us needs to think about the values that really do guide our thinking and behaviour. They are so often outside of our daily awareness. Do our lived values enhance our life or limit it?
Making values explicit in our daily lives can positively transform our relationships and enhance our mental resilience. The choices we make are based on a firm foundation of positive values. We develop an open growth mindset, a clearer state of consciousness. This means that we know ourselves better and feel more in control of our lives. In turn, this gives us a powerful personal narrative based on integrity – it shines from us. Imagine our country, our world, if our leaders had been influenced and educated in this way, being now able to model having a strong moral compass?
What can you do?
Here are a few suggestions that I hope will help you to build your character strengths. Please share them with your family, friends and work colleagues.
1. Give yourself space and time to think about the values that drive your thinking and behaviour. Be honest with yourself.
2. Check out with others what values they see in you. You may be surprised.
3. Decide which values you need to work on and set yourself the goal, over the next few months, to explore how you will live these values more fully. They will then be seen as your virtues. A virtue is a value that is one of your character strengths.
4. I often jokingly say that a value is something we do when no one is looking at us! Therefore, check out your behaviour in practical situations. g. Parking your car – are you thoughtful to others? Speaking to colleagues – are you respectful? Talking about yourself – are you honest? Be good humoured about this process. Please don’t beat yourself up when you catch yourself out for not living your values. The main thing is to reflect on your behaviour and to be determined to improve.
If you follow this simple yet profound process, you will become increasingly aware that you are a model for positive human values.
Yes, so what? Well, imagine the effect on society if we all were educated to understand and live a set of universal positive values. In this process we would develop and understand an ethical vocabulary, which would give us what I have described as the most important intelligence for the sustainability of our world! This is ethical intelligence: the ability to ethically self-regulate your behaviour.
Can you for a moment, imagine the possibilities for our country if our leaders at all levels were positive role models for values such as integrity. The change in our culture would be truly transformational because we would have a nation based on equity, trust and harmony.
That is my vision and I hope you are inspired to share it. Together we can bring about the changes we want to see in ourselves, in our workplace and the world.
Need support to develop your team or organisation’s values? Explore Compass For Life’s leadership and vision programmes