Other People’s Values, Rules, and Ideas
We all grow up to be leaders on someone else’s path.
That’s not a bad thing, but it’s a reality that builds our world view.
We need to learn how the world works … how to stay alive, how to access food, how to win respect, influence, and trust. The first values, rules, and ideas we learn teach us that. They set a foundation for building character, setting boundaries, and making decisions for ourselves.
Our First Values, Rules, and Ideas Come From Our Family
Most of us are born into a top-down organization called a family. Our parents (or older, bigger significant others) teach us about good and bad behavior. At the same time we literally find our hands and our feet. Before we learn to talk, we know some things work and others don’t. We’ve already figured out whether a smile or a crying fit gets us what we want. If we didn’t know that, we’d have died of hunger. As we find our way to standing in the world, values, rules, and ideas help us find the place for our feet.
Family values, rules, and ideas start simple. They come from our caregivers. They sound like “Love your brothers, Don’t take what’s not yours. Don’t hurt other people. Don’t yell indoors. Be nice. Do well by doing good. Think.”
We learn to navigate when those values, rules, and ideas conflict.
When my older, older brother was three, he tried to put his hand in the sugar bowl. My mom reached out to slap his hand.
My dad said, “Wait!” Then he turned to my toddler brother and said, “You won’t do that again, will you?”
My older, older brother agreed. But the very next day, he tried the sugar bowl again and my mother slapped his hand.
He said, “I’m going to tell Daddy you did that!!”
My mother slapped his hand a second time and said, “Now you can tell your Daddy I did it twice.”
We learn early to sort whose values, rules, and ideas are more powerful.
It’s a self-preservation skill.
The Next Values, Rules, and Ideas Come From School
At school, we learn to be a leader on someone else’s path. We learn values, rules, and ideas that engage us in a manageable way. Some kinds of creativity and leadership are rewarded because they help the school run better, faster, easier. They give the school more meaning. They make it more fun. Other forms of leadership and creativity are brought back onto the path, because they make things harder to manage. Some behaviors don’t fit.
Conflicting values, rules, and ideas come from the same source.
Some sorts of curiosity are good. Some sorts are disruptive.
Asking why is eager participation in some situations and defiance in others.
Some sorts of helping others are applauded. Other helping is called cheating.
It’s good to ask what would happen if you don’t brush your teeth.
It’s not so good to ask what would happen if you don’t go to “time out” when the teacher sends you there.
Add the exponential complication of the values, rules, and ideas of our peer group.
The simple values, rules, and ideas require interpretation as we get older.
We learn that some rules interpret our actions by what that action “most often means.”
We graduate and fit ourselves into yet another set of values, rules, and ideas.
The more people we meet, the more complicated the values, rules, and ideas become.
Why We Trust Other People’s Rules
The tricky thing is the way our brains build abstract thought. We construct our understanding of values, rules, and ideas through experience. We construct our world view, our basis for making decisions, the same way we construct the idea of blue — it all starts with someone else’s idea of what blue is. We learned our idea of blue by trial and error.
What color is this?
No, honey, it’s red.
What color is this?
No, dollface, it’s green.
We learned blue by learning what’s not blue at the same time.
We learn what to do by learning what not to do — by doing things wrong — by finding out that our inclinations and instincts have lead us astray.
We learn to trust other people’s values, rules, and ideas more than our instincts.
That’s a problem.
Most of us don’t realize where doing that.
That’s an even bigger problem.
In fact, it’s dangerous — so dangerous, it can cost us our life.
Whose Ideas, Rules and Values Are Running Your Life and Your Business?
How many of your decisions come from habits set years ago and never challenged. If you’ve been feeling like you’re not on the right path, I’m betting it’s because you’re working under some old rules — rules that don’t fit, rules you don’t need.
What are the values, rules, and ideas that run your life and your business? Who inspired them and are you ready to decide which are your own?
–ME “Liz” Strauss