Defining Values and Goals
A Stable Structure In Consciousness
One of the great tragedies, both in meditation and in daily living, occurs when people embark on noble endeavors without the capacity to complete them.
It happens in meditation when we resolve to change a bad habit into something more enlightened, but then succumb to internal resistance.
It happens in daily living when we make certain promises and commitments, only to be overcome by frustration and opposition.
We call upon our inner strength but cannot harness or sustain it. And so the opportunity slips away.
Some people think that the only key to tapping their inner strength is to believe in it, or hold an affirmation of great power in their mind. Yet a belief in tolerance is usually not enough to enable us to confront strident criticism with dignity and forgiveness. The “strength” of an affirmation that all will work out well may wither in the face of opposition.
Affirmations give us hope, but not direction. Affirmations give us a sense of comfort, but not stability.
Affirmations give us confidence, but not the power to act. Affirmations do not give us is a stable structure in consciousness.
Yet if belief and affirmations do not give us a stable structure in consciousness, what does? What gives us the ability to master internal resistance and persevere against great odds?
A combination of things, – the purpose of the Higher Self and the values and goals of the personality.
By harnessing the purpose of the Higher Self and translating it into a system of noble values and goals, we organize our character with structure, stability, and direction.
This is a matter of common sense. The person who knows what they stand for and has carefully organized their talents and ideals in the pursuit of specific goals makes a valuable partner for the Higher Self. It is through such a personality that the Higher Self can achieve meaningful expression on earth. And so, the greater responds to the readiness of the lesser by flooding it with a proper measure of the power and the intelligence to act.
Unfortunately, not all people are ready to act in harmony with the Higher Self. They may have a sense of direction, but it is not the direction of the Higher Self. They may have a measure of organization, but it serves only to preserve the status quo – not the noble purpose of the Higher Self.
In fact, the majority of people are much more aware of what they do not want than what they do.
They spend the bulk of their time fighting off that which they hope to avoid, rather than defining the contributions they hope to make to society or the ways they could express their inner potential.
When at work or in a public place, they are more concerned with what others think about them than with making intelligent decisions which will honor the wisdom of the Higher Self. They subscribe to values which will be approved by others – and goals which have been structured by their peer group.
As a result, they do not have access to the life of spirit within them. They must derive all of their direction from the approval of others and the goals of their peer group.
Such people have very little stability. Because they are primarily concerned with the opinions of mass consciousness and the approval of others, they are easily swayed by the criticism, advice, or opposition of friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
They are often uncertain about where they stand in life, what they ought to be doing, or how they should behave. They are accustomed to having others tell them what they ought to do, directly or indirectly, and therefore have not made the effort to define their values and goals.
They lack a consistent set of purposes for living. Their focus is diffused, which means that life is frequently confusing to them.
Consequently, they miss many opportunities for achievement and success and waste much time on activities which are neither constructive nor productive.
Quite often, these are good people who truly want to be the right person and do the right thing. But they do not know how to go about it.
They are not linked with the genuine resources of direction, stability, and power within themselves.
Instead of engaging self-reliance, they seek these stabilizing qualities from others and from society. And yet, they cannot find them there. So, they slowly become frustrated by their failure to achieve.
Some adjust to this frustration by immuring themselves in a state of resignation, concluding that it is not possible to achieve more than they have, and deciding to be satisfied with it.
Others, more resentful, grouch and complain, blaming those who have held them back—and society itself.
The most pessimistic conclude that their empty life is the result of exploitation and oppression by others – primarily those who have achieved success. They find a kind of destructive power in anger and set about protesting and attacking whoever appears to be the greatest villain. They still have not achieved anything, but they have learned to be obnoxious, and this gives them a certain tawdry satisfaction.
And yet, for some, even that is not enough.
They become predators, believing that the only way they can get what they want is by stealing it.
In each of these cases, the real problem is a simple one.
These people have not taken the time to find and harness the power of enlightened purpose.
They have not defined the values which would give them structure, or if they have, they have not honored them.
They have not defined the goals they seek to achieve, or if they have, they have not worked persistently toward them.
They may be angry at the immorality of others, but anger toward the lack of virtue has no value. They may have dreamed of what they want – but a dream is a wish, not an intelligent goal.
Anger and dreams cannot link us with the power of the Higher Self.
It must be understood that the Higher Self does not idly dream about the future, about what might be nice to attain. It has a clear understanding of its purpose and a clear definition of its destiny or goals. It knows whither it is going and what it needs to accomplish. The time schedule for these achievements is somewhat flexible, as it depends on the cooperation of the personality, but the purpose and destiny are not variable. They are clearly laid out.
If we coordinate our efforts, both in meditation and in daily living, with the purpose of the Higher Self, we will establish an enlightened structure of direction, stability, and power. But this means aligning ourselves with something greater than our dreams, fantasies, and emotions.
To build this enlightened structure, we must carefully define our values and goals.
Unable To Grow
The need for this definition is clearly illustrated by the plight of the typical married couple. In our society, marriage is set forth as the fulfillment of fairy tales and fantasies. A strong romantic feeling for one another is considered an ideal base for marrying.
To make it even more appealing, this strong emotional reaction is labeled “love” – which it is not – and is credited with the power “to conquer all” in popular songs, movies, cheap paperback romances, and television.
In spite of all the hype, however, the emotional reactiveness of physical passion notoriously does not have the power to conquer all. Once the sensations of fun and bliss, which are all the average person expects out of marriage, wear thin, and the husband and wife begin to confront real problems, most have little understanding of why they are married.
They are unsure of their purpose for being together, and do not have a strong sense of either values or goals for their marriage. Vainly, they try to put the “magic” back into their marriage, but they have no idea what the magic is.
There will be some who will instantly cry foul – that such a description of marriage is unromantic.
But true romance is not found in passion and emotional reactiveness. It springs from the capacity of a man and a woman to share in mutual endeavors, to help each other grow, to create an enlightened home environment, and to make a healthy contribution to community and society. It should be an expression of maturity, not immaturity.
Unfortunately, immaturity is one of the most prevailing problems in humanity. It is, of course, natural for all of us to have weaknesses and deficiencies, but it is not natural to glorify adolescent values and goals and pretend they are adult.
We are meant to grow into greater maturity by cooperating with the parent within and helping it take care of the child within. In this way, we can leave our childish ways behind.
If we listen only to our feelings in deciding what to do in life, however, we will not be able to grow. We will remain in a state of perpetual adolescence, psychologically.
We may mean well, but the ideals we claim to follow become tarnished by our intense desire for immediate gratification and pleasant sensation – or the desire to avoid the opposite. The only power we have to pursue achievement and sustain our efforts is desire. And while desire is generally quite enough to get us launched in activities and relationships, it is seldom enough to see us through to successful completion.
The inadequacy of desire is that it breaks down in the presence of stress, conflict, and frustration.
Romantic passion, after all, is known to disintegrate into petty accusations once the character flaws of husband and wife begin to grate on each other. Unless there is some sense of value and purpose beyond the desire to be with each other, the marriage will not endure that stress. The same pattern is repeated in any endeavor motivated and sustained by desire.
If we have properly defined our values and goals, however, and thereby linked ourselves with the Higher Self’s power of self-expression, the times of stress and conflict will not be excessively difficult.
We will be well prepared to meet the stressful times, and will use these occasions to reinforce our capacity to act with our inner power.
This principle is well demonstrated in the life of Sir Winston Churchill.
He was one of the few people in England who had anticipated the threat of Hitler and had clearly defined how England should respond to it. Everyone else panicked in the aftermath of the failure of appeasement, unsure of what to do next. Thus, it was Churchill who was called to the front, able to act boldly and effectively – and lead England to its finest hour.
An individual’s inability to handle challenge, conflict, and responsibility is a grave limitation restricting the unfoldment of the plans of the Higher Self. It means that the person is unable to channel the power of self-expression effectively, and this affects the whole scope of their performance in life.
The crippling effect of this limitation on self-expression can be compared to the restricted conditions which arise during a natural disaster.
When an earthquake strikes, for example, the devastation it produces is often tremendous. There is a desperate need among the survivors for food, clothing, shelter, medical aid, and funds for rebuilding. Generally, there is a massive outpouring from other sectors of the world to meet these needs, but the aid does not always reach the stricken area. The ordinary lines of communication and most transportation routes have been greatly disrupted, making it very difficult to transmit the needed resources to those who could use them.
We limit ourselves in much the same way when we fail to define our values and goals properly.
When crisis strikes, the established lines of support – which run to our emotions and desires – are disrupted. The Higher Self has the direction, stability, and power we need, but we cannot tap them. We become a victim of our own failure to be ready to act.
Stabilizing Forces In Consciousness
A readiness to act is not a gift of serendipity. It is the result of careful reflection upon our values and goals. This reflection, properly handled, links us with the will to act of the Higher Self, so it can be summoned and employed at a moment’s notice – even during crisis.
Our values are what we stand for, the principles we guide our life by. Anything we might readily abandon as a matter of expediency, convenience, or compromise in the face of pressure is not a value. A value can never be something we merely wish for or hope to avoid.
It is much more than that; a value is an idea, commitment, promise, or principle we have chosen to cherish and cultivate. We are willing to work for, fight for, and defend a genuine value.
An example of an enlightened value would be a high regard for integrity and personal honor, so strong that we cannot be corrupted by any offer of money, position, advancement, fame, or personal favors.
Another would be a commitment to helping and encouraging our children to grow into intelligent, compassionate, and ethical adults, so strong that we do not hesitate to make meaningful sacrifices when circumstances call for them.
A third might be such a deep awareness of the benefits of spiritual service that we do not allow personal desires and frustrations to divert us from offering the help we can give.
The power of such values is that they stabilize our state of mind and feeling from day to day. Having carefully defined our value of integrity, for example, we know how we intend to act when confronted with temptation and corruption. We do not have to weigh the options at that point. Our respect for our personal honor is so great it cannot be weakened.
Many people experience substantial conflict because they have not defined their values – or placed them in a meaningful hierarchy.
If helping their children conflicts with something they want to do, they are caught in a terrible dilemma. But the person who has already defined his or her commitment to helping the children grow, and places great value in it, has little trouble in “sacrificing” personal desire.
Obviously, the more a value reflects and embodies the wisdom and light of the Higher Self, the more useful it is.
Values derived solely from the experiences and beliefs of the personality are transitory at best; eventually, we will grow out of them. Therefore, they are limited in their usefulness as a stabilizing force in consciousness.
But values based on the qualities and principles of the Higher Self will be permanent; we grow into them, as we discover more about them.
Our goals are what we hope to achieve, the specific objectives we strive toward in personal growth, work, self-understanding, service, relationships, and responsibility.
Like values, the noblest goals are those derived from the purpose and destiny of the Higher Self.
Our goals should therefore be defined in terms of our intention to contribute to life, rather than our desire to consume more of life. This is just a matter of common sense.
If our goals are defined in terms of amassing more money, manipulating others to do our work for us, or demanding that society owes us certain “rights,” they will orient us toward the pursuit of material satisfaction, not enlightenment. Such goals are built on consuming life, not enriching it. In the short term, they may seem attractive, but in the longer perspective, they will undermine our self- expression.
By contrast, if our goals are defined in a context of making a more intelligent or powerful contribution to life, to improve the quality of our community, environment, and civilization, they will stabilize us in the life of the Higher Self.
The function of our goals is to give direction to our day-to-day activities. Without goals, we tend to wander aimlessly through life, accomplishing very little. With unenlightened goals we will accomplish more, but much of it may be counter-productive.
Spurred on by enlightened goals, however, we will be able to move forward in life in harmony with the basic purpose and destiny of the Higher Self.
Goals are not the same as purpose.
Purpose is the general urge or power to do something, whereas a goal is the objective which will be reached by harnessing that impulse. Both are a necessary part of the activity of establishing a structure of direction, stability, and power in our consciousness. They ensure that the power of the Higher Self will be used properly, and not diverted into meaningless activity.
Some people, of course, decry goals and denounce them as “mechanistic.” They believe that goals are traps which grossly limit our creativity, sensitivity, and enjoyment of life. Instead of setting goals, they emphasize the moment-to-moment spontaneity of our experience of being human.
These people need to realize that goals are not antithetical to the quality of human life. Enlightened goals, based on enlightened values, provide a structure in which we can express our human qualities.
This structure is never a simplistic focus on a single goal. Rather, it is a rich and multidimensional hierarchy of many different goals, embracing every level of life. Some of these goals pertain to work, some to creativity, others to relationships and our self-fulfillment.
Collectively, they give our consciousness a holistic structure for thinking, planning, feeling, and acting.
Our values and goals are the tools we use to manage power, coordinate the activities of our life, and sustain useful work. They are a necessary part of our humanity.
The ideal time for defining values and goals, of course, is during meditation. While using the techniques and principles of Active Meditation, it is much easier to understand the purpose and destiny of the Higher Self upon which our values and goals ought to be based. In addition, it is also far easier to energize them while in meditation, so that they become legitimate channels for the power of our will to act.
This work will utilize a number of meditative skills, the most fundamental being our capacity to invoke spiritual ideals.
This can be done by posing questions to be answered. In determining our values in life, for example, the primary question might be: “What kind of character do I want to build?” In defining our goals, the primary question could be: “What do I want to accomplish with my life?”
Our intention is not to answer these questions as the average person in the street would answer them, but rather in the context of our spiritual ideals. The process of answering them ought to include a review of our experiences in life, what has worked for us and what has not, our beliefs and aspirations, our intentions, and our highest inspirations.
Some people, however, have trouble asking and answering such abstract questions in meditation. It is therefore helpful to enrich this process with the meditative skill of personification. In this case, it is the wisdom of the Higher Self we wish to personify, so we can more easily contact it for the answers we seek.
An excellent way to achieve this result is to personify the wisdom of the Higher Self as a very wise counselor with whom we can consult, ask specific questions, and obtain helpful answers.
In working with such a personification, it is important to keep in mind that not every random thought which passes through our awareness is necessarily a message from the Higher Self. It is possible to color personifications with our wish life – or just the desire for spectacular results.
But if we are working in a meditative state with the focused intention to tap the guidance of our Higher Self, then the majority of impressions which arise within us will probably be helpful. Our common sense will be our best guide for sorting out the impressions which do arise.
It is easy to work with the personification of the wise counselor. We simply ask the basic question we have in mind, pause for an answer, and then follow up with as many secondary questions as are appropriate, until we have obtained the new understanding we seek.
The wise counselor will not initiate this process for us. We must be willing to take charge and ask questions and pursue hints.
As we do this, a good flow of ideas will usually develop. These can manifest in the form of mental impressions, images, flashes of insight, or possibly even conversation.
The key question for defining values is:
“What kind of character do I want to build?”
As we ask this question, it will lead us to pose other questions about how we want to behave and our attitudes toward various responsibilities in life. A partial list of these subsidiary questions, by no means complete, would include:
How do I want to respond to opportunities for growth? What should be my attitude toward authority?
How should I respond to people in positions of authority?
How should I respond to different sources of authority?
(male, female, older people, younger people, traditions, government, and my Higher Self)
What should be my ideal response to failure? What should be my ideal response to criticism?
What should be my ideal response to discouragement?
How should I respond to the temptation to cheat, tell white lies, or take advantage of the naivete of others?
What qualities of consciousness do I cherish and want to increase?
What weaknesses of character do I need to correct? What priority or importance do I give to correcting them?
What should be my attitude toward people I work with?
What should be my ideal response to the attempt of others to force me to accept their values and beliefs?
How do I view the commitments, promises, and pledges I have made?
For this process to be worthwhile, we must answer these questions in the context of our own life experience.
It is not enough just to think abstractly about our attitudes toward authority and cooperation; we must also consider our actual behavior toward supervisors and colleagues. Nor is it enough to blithely “accept responsibility,” unless we are also willing to make binding commitments—either to ourselves or to others – and follow through on them.
A modest amount of effort to review our values and attitudes in this way will reveal dozens of insights into the nature of our character and help us see more clearly what we need to strengthen, as well as what is crying out for revision.
We will also begin to see the need to relate each of our values to all of the others, thereby creating a hierarchical structure which enables us to deal consistently with complex issues.
The object of this kind of review in meditation, however, is not to dig at old emotional wounds in a frenzy of self-condemnation.
This is never healthy.
Nor is it our purpose to wallow in guilt or remorse, although it is possible that we may occasionally touch the fringes of such feelings.
Our intent, in all cases, should be to define the ideal qualities which should be in charge of our self-expression.
The primary question for defining goals is: “What do I want to accomplish with my life?”
Pursuing this question in meditation will naturally prompt a number of others, which should also be carefully examined in conference with the wise inner counselor, who embodies the wisdom of the Higher Self.
Some of these questions would be:
What contributions do I want to make in my life – and in what priority?
What are the best ways to honor my skills, talents, abilities, and inspirations through active self-expression?
How can I do this through my work?
How can I do this through my relationships?
How can I do this through my growth as a human being? In what ways do I want to help others?
What are the most important projects I am involved in? How well am I expressing this priority?
What am I looking for in terms of emotional fulfillment? How do I define that?
How do I define physical comfort and security? What priority does this have in my life?
Invariably, this kind of review leads us to a consideration of unfinished business, half-filled dreams, and partly completed projects. When reasonable, we may decide that it is proper to revive the interest we once had in some of these projects. At the same time, we are likely to come up with some new ideas.
Regardless of the type of idea being considered, we should make sure that it is consistent with the fundamental direction of our life before committing a fresh measure of enthusiasm, time, and energy. This is not the time to be seduced by enticing ideas which are actually digressions from our basic purpose.
While it is never easy to be objective about our life and work, the more frequently we reflect on our goals in this manner, the more we will improve our ability to define our major objectives without serious distortion. As a result, we will become more adept in expressing the purpose of the Higher Self in all that we do.
In The Dark
It is not enough, however, just to define our values and goals; we must also strengthen them with the direction, stability, and power of the Higher Self.
Otherwise, our values and goals will simply remain at the level of personal desires and aspirations. We may aspire to be honest, helpful, and kind but fail to have the power to be honest, helpful, and kind in important situations. We must therefore energize our intention to act.
Some people have a difficult time understanding the distinction between desires and intentions.
A desire is an emotional craving to acquire or avoid some condition or object.
An intention, by contrast, springs from the will-to-act of the Higher Self. It is the basic power or impulse of enlightened self-expression. It is through our intentions that we tap and channel the power of purpose.
Harnessing the power of our Higher Self can be compared to the generation and distribution of electricity. It is only recently that mankind has begun to generate and use electricity, even though it has been in existence since the dawn of creation. Until we found practical ways to generate and distribute electricity, we could not tap its enormous power, even though there were sources of electricity all around us. We were in the dark.
Much the same can be observed in human self-expression. Tremendous resources of power are available to every human being, but very few people have learned to tap them, and even fewer have mastered the expression of this power.
The majority of people are still in the dark, but this does not mean that the power is imaginary. It is quite real.
It is our own failure to develop proper values and goals and charge them with the intention to act which prevents us from using this great power.
The Higher Self is the generator of our power.
The only way this power can flow into the personality is in tandem with the Higher Self’s purpose. Power and purpose are linked together as inseparably as the voltage and amperage of electrical current.
To tap this power, therefore, we must act, think, and feel in harmony with the purpose of the Higher Self.
Purpose can be translated into the personality through the medium of values and goals. These values and goals would correspond to electrical motors, appliances, and light bulbs. The wires which connect these “motors” and “appliances” to the generator would be our own dedication and intention. When the whole system is complete, the power which can be expressed through the personality is tremendous.
The Intention To Act
The meditative skill which is most effective in charging our intention to act in harmony with our values and goals is the use of seed thoughts. In this case, the seed thought represents the basic purpose of the value or goal, and our capacity to express it wisely.
Any value or goal can be energized in this way.
If, for example, we have been reviewing a lifelong tendency to procrastinate and miss opportunities, we obviously need to energize the value of acting with efficiency and diligence, and also energize the goal of taking greater initiative in life.
To charge our capacity to fulfill these intentions, we then meditatively reflect on a seed thought which captures the essence of our intention and the ability of the Higher Self to support our new endeavor.
We do not dwell on the problem of procrastination, however! That would be using the seed thought to energize the wrong habit.
Instead, we dwell on our intention to work and act diligently in all that we do. – to work with perseverance and thoroughness, starting our tasks promptly and completing them quickly.
Examples of seed thoughts which would serve this purpose would be: “The readiness to act.” “Enthusiasm for timely action.”
“Working with thoroughness.”
In working with these seed thoughts, we hold the expectation that the Higher Self is supporting us with the perfect measure of power and strength we need. We hold this thought with trust in the benevolent power of the Higher Self and knowledge of the fact that it truly is our partner in our efforts to improve and strengthen our values, goals, and intention to act.
By holding our attention on this seed thought for a minute or two meditatively, we charge the battery of our ability to act in these new ways, without procrastinating. We are literally adding to our subconscious the power we need to implement our ideals and values.
It is important to stay mentally active during this process of dwelling on the seed thought. There is a great temptation at times just to casually dream about being successful, instead of actually energizing our intention to act.
Some people may also fall into the habit of fantasizing or visualizing the intended result. But looking at an image of success is not the same as energizing our dedication to expressing ourself in an enlightened, mature way!
In working to energize our intention to act, we must keep in mind that this stage of the meditative work is no time to battle the negative. We must keep our concentration focused on the constructive value or goal we are seeking to establish.
Channels for Growth
The work of defining and energizing our values and goals is an important part of integrating the Higher Self and the personality.
The definition of values and goals is not a technique which needs to be repeated every day, but the process of energizing them should become a regular habit in our program of self-development.
As we put these skills to work, we build a more powerful character. We attain a better definition of what we stand for and where we are heading in life.
Esoterically, as we work with invoking and defining a sense of purpose, we create channels for our own growth.
We tap the will-to-life of the Higher Self and establish lines of force between this source of power and our self-expression. In this way, we prepare ourself to receive and contain more of the tremendous power of our Higher Self.
We tap the abundance of life.
Techniques for Defining Values and Goals
The three techniques for defining our values, defining our goals, and charging our intention to honor these values and goals in our daily self- expression can be summarized as follows for easy reference:
- We begin by entering the meditative state and contacting the Higher Self, as described in chapter five.
- We focus our attention on the wisdom of our Higher Self, personifying it as a wise counselor we can question.
- Then, asking ourself the basic question, “What kind of character do I want to build,” we explore the nature of our spiritual ideals and how we intend to express them through our behavior, thoughts, commitments, duties, and responsibilities.
- This meditation should be repeated periodically, with a record kept of the results.
- We begin by entering the meditative state and contacting the Higher Self.
- We focus our attention on the wisdom of our Higher Self, personifying it as a wise counselor we can question.
- Asking ourself the basic question, “What do I want to accomplish in life,” we explore the trends and directions of our life, looking for insights into how we can add greater meaning, talent, and productivity to our activities, by defining more enlightened goals. The goals we set should honor the purpose of our Higher Self and its will-to-life.
- This meditation should be repeated periodically, with a record kept of the results.
Charging Values and Goals with Power
- We begin by entering the meditative state and contacting the Higher Self.
- Select a value or goal we wish to energize and then rest in the faith and trust that the Higher Self has the perfect measure of power to support us in our efforts to express it.
- We then concentrate our intention (not just our desire or thought) to express the particular value or attain the particular goal we have in mind.
- This concentration is held for a minute or two, with the expectation that the purpose of the Higher Self is being embodied in this value or goal. As we concentrate on this seed thought, we should be aware that the Higher Self is a senior partner working with us, both in meditation and in daily life.