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Be Oriented Toward Valued States of Being

Reflect on and work to be aligned with your values in the short and long term.

Key points

  • Values play a key role in how we should be oriented toward our future.
  • We are much more likely to be effectively oriented toward our future when we are oriented toward valued states of being.
  • We can learn to to be motivated toward valued states of being in the short and long term.

This post was co-authored by Marcia Gralha.

This is the seventh and final post in a series devoted to explaining CALM-MO, which is a tool that connects the core wisdom of psychotherapy taken from across the major approaches.

The “M” in CALM-MO stands for motivated toward valued states of being in the short and long term. Prior to unpacking what this means, let’s consider Dave and a dilemma he found himself in. Dave’s father had recently been put in a nursing home, but the staff had failed to follow his prescribed medication regimen, and his father had fainted and fallen and was injured. Dave was very frustrated with this negative situation. He kept repeating to himself and to anyone who would listen why it was so obviously important for any trained staff to carefully attend to the medication regimen. Dave had talked to the head nurse and was debating on whether he should try to get his father out of the home, but he did not have many alternative options. He also felt guilty, as he felt like he forced his dad to go into the home. It had been a tough week for Dave, as he was frequently ruminating about the situation and kept thinking about how he wished things were different.

In the context of a philosophical coaching session, I (Gregg) asked Dave these questions: What outcome do you want? And given that, what do you want to do and how do you want to be in relation to that desired outcome? These questions sank into Dave’s consciousness. He realized that he did not want to just sit and ruminate about things, nor simply repeat how the nursing home had failed him and his dad. Rather, what he wanted was to do what he could to ensure that the error did not happen again. He also wanted to support his dad, and at the same time acknowledge that placing his dad in the nursing home was the only option. With this frame in mind, Dave made an action plan for setting up a conversation with the head nurse about his father’s care in a way that was constructive rather than blaming, and planned to talk with his dad about the situation and identified a few things he could do to make his dad’s stay more comfortable.

Dave’s story reminds us that when we are hit with negative situations that trigger negative feelings, we often finding ourselves wishing things were different, which can cause us to ruminate or blame or avoid. While these reactions and ways of coping are understandable, they also can trap us can cause us to lose sight of being oriented toward being how we want to be.

Understanding How to Be Motivated Toward Valued States of Being

The “M” in CALM-MO is about being oriented in right relationship to the future. How do we effectively do that? Well, CALM-MO first orients us to be in right relation to the present via cultivating awareness and acceptance and a loving compassionate attitude for the miracle of conscious experience itself. Although cultivating a way of being in the present is crucial, it is also the case that we need to be effectively oriented toward doing and becoming. This raises the question: What is the right relationship between being, doing, and becoming? In this excellent video on the Eastern philosophical concept of “Dharma,” Daniel Schmachtenberger explains how the concept can be framed as finding one’s right path in the world and to do that, one must consider the modes of being, doing, and becoming. He provides the viewers with a series of questions that can be used to generate deep reflection on the course of our lives and how we might want to be, what we might want to become, and what we should do. His analysis of cultivating Dharma is deeply aligned with the spirit of CALM-MO. Indeed, engaging in such reflections represent the core grounding of the “M”.

When many people hear the word motivation, they think of it in terms of something like willpower. And when they struggle to achieve their goals, they often frame it in terms of a lack of motivation. Although understandable, attempting to force one’s self to have more motivation is rarely the most effective way to proceed. Motivation may seem difficult to get, but, if we think about it, we already have the potential for motivation within us. Imagine an everyday action, like getting a glass of water. You become aware that you are thirsty, you get an image of your valued state — in this case, drinking water — and this goal motivates you to get up and pour yourself a glass. This simple scenario exemplifies how motivation is present in our most basic actions, as fuel for our work effort toward something we value. Seen this way, motivation is not hard to get per se, but it is activated when we have a clear image of something we want to move toward. That is, motivation is directed toward our valued states of being. Like getting a glass of water, motivated action toward our goals requires not only awareness of our problem, but also a clear vision of what our valued states are. Thus, our values not only help us define our goals, but also energize us to exert effort toward them. If values can cultivate motivation and direct it toward our goals, it is in our best interest to be clearly aware of what our values are.

Becoming Aware of Your Values and Valued Goals and Outcomes

Clarifying what our core values are is crucial to defining our valued goals and paving the path toward them. When we are clear about our values, we can reference our goals and actions against them to ensure they are aligned; when they are not, that is a good signal that we need to pause and re-orient our thinking and our doing toward the type of life that we value.

Values can indicate desired ways of being, such as honesty, respect, and authenticity, or desired end states, such as health, harmony, and well-being. In UTOK — the philosophy of living that frames the CALM-MO approach — the meta-values of dignity, well-being, and integrity serve as guideposts. That is, UTOK orients us to “be that which enhances dignity and well-being with integrity”. You may find that, under those meta-values, there are specific ones that are personally important to you. To identify your personal values, you may ask yourself what concepts, principles or ideas are most relevant or guiding for you when you feel most content, when you overcome a difficult situation, or when you feel a sense of purpose, pride, or belongingness. Check out this link for various exercises that can help you identify your core values.

Another helpful framework for broadly thinking about these issues is the Japanese concept of ikigai, which is a systematic process for reflecting on and cultivating purpose and direction in life. As described in Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, having a strong sense of ikigai means that you are clear about (a) what you love; (b) what you are good at; (c) what you can get paid for; (d) and what the world needs. As such, it is a force that becomes an orienting thread that cultivates valued states of being in the short and long term.

Adobe free images
Source: Adobe free images

Concepts like ikigai and dharma can help you identify your overarching values, which guide decisions in your life and orient you toward general ways of being. Put in the language of CALM-MO, they are the themes you want to shine through your live over the long term. But what about the short term? For example, what about situations like the one Dave found himself in with his father? In specific situations, we want to clearly define the issues and consider what are the outcomes that are most valued and what are the outcomes that are not desired. By explicitly being oriented toward desired outcomes, Dave could see what he needed to do so that he would maximize the likelihood that the end outcome would be desirable. In this regard, Dave learned to apply what UTOK calls the “adaptive living equation.” It orients us to consider what are realistically valued states, given the situation, and directs our conscious attention to desired outcomes, rather than rumination.

Ultimately, CALM-MO is an approach that allows us to step back and observe our lives through the perspective of a sage. It is about cultivating an attitude that is curious and open and filled with wonder and awe regarding the miracle of existence. It helps us learn how to accept things as they are and to do so with loving compassion. And it directs us to reflect deeply on our values and use them to guide us in both the long arc of our lives and in being oriented toward specific outcomes in real-world situations. Although the principles of CALM-MO are fairly easy to learn, it is not always an easy stance to fully embody. But all things that have value also require effort. And as we learn to enact the principles and processes highlighted by CALM-MO, we can help reverse our neurotic loops and find our ikigai and dharmic path.

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