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Newsflash: Your values are driving your decisions right now, not COVID-19

Choosing to do what you want to do and knowing why

It’s very easy to have a victim mindset about the situation we find ourselves in. COVID-19 is a lighthouse – an immoveable object and something we can do nothing about. It has resulted in an imposed lockdown and therefore, we might feel we’re a victim of our circumstances, behest to the way it all plays out. Not so…

We always live by our values – the things and people which we deem most important to us and right now, as ever, we are living true to our values. The choices we are making will be according to what sits emotionally comfortable with us because it fits with our values.

It’s what you value

If you are choosing to stay at home, it’s because you value your health and that of your family. Maybe it is because you place value on the advice given by the government and by key medical experts. Perhaps some of you are sceptics but on balance, you’re happier to heed their warnings.

If you’re a key worker, you place value in your job and the important role you play in keeping other people safe and well, or helping people to get well, or helping people to be as comfortable as they can be.

If you choose to go out to get shopping and run errands for those more vulnerable than you, you value community and helping others.

Some are choosing to ignore the lockdown rules and are out and about, meeting up with friends in the park, throwing house parties, having a BBQ. They value seeing family and friends, making fun and merriment to get through challenging times. Maybe they feel for their mental health, they can’t stand to stay at home any longer. They value their mental health over their physical health and perhaps those they live with. There are some who choose to go away for the weekend. Like the family from London who went for a fishing weekend in Devon. They were fined and escorted out of Devon by Police. What were the motives of that family? Their values meant they felt it OK to travel 100’s of miles from home - they perhaps didn’t worry about non-essential travel. Where I live, people are driving a few miles to some woods to get fresh air or to walk their dogs. A few have been stopped by Police as this is deemed non-essential travel. Will they ignore this and continue to drive because they think ‘oh, it’s only 5 miles away. What’s the big deal?’ Depends on their values.

A relative of mine who I spoke to recently, was contemplating driving to a village 15 miles away because a house there sells lots of plants. My relative felt it essential travel ‘for their mental wellbeing’ - their justification being if they could ensure their garden looked nice, they would be able to sit and enjoy it, gaining some peace. I pointed out that traveling to buy plants might not be deemed essential travel, which she began to refute until she gave it some further thought.

Why you always have free will

When we think we are ‘stuck’ in our homes for however long it is, we are not in fact stuck - that’s proved by people who choose not to stay in and who choose to go elsewhere. This is demonstrating their values. Maybe they don’t understand the gravity of the situation – perhaps with the misguided belief that it can’t happen to them or anyone they know, or perhaps they choose to flout the rules. They have a different set of values to those who choose to stay behind their front door unless venturing out for one of the four reasons set by the government. People are people and we are never going to all behave the same. You have rule followers, those who bend them and those who break them. It all depends on their beliefs and values.

We might find the imposed restrictions frustrating (note: I did not say ‘the imposed restrictions are frustrating’ – because they cannot frustrate us – we choose to find them so. The way we describe the situation is also crucial as our self-talk can be helpful or detrimental to our mental health) because we perhaps feel an element of free-will has been taken away. However, we can still leave our home, get in the car and drive to the beach. We’re not prisoners of governmental edicts or anything other than our values, so it’s important to realise that the reason we stay at home is because we value other people’s lives and we can be proud of that.

Self-esteem is not helped by feeling that our lives are being run by other people; yes, our options may be more limited than they were but we choose the one that suits us best so let’s be proud of ourselves if, while suiting ourselves, we’re helping others. This is what living consciously truly means.

If our values mean we choose to go out and about and please ourselves, there are potentially consequences. So, it’s what we place more value in – staying safe at home (again, notice I didn’t say ‘stuck at home’ – it’s all in how we frame things) or going out and potentially facing a fine/catching/spreading the virus.

It all comes down to your values because everything you choose to do will adhere to them. Just ensure they are consciously chosen ones because otherwise you’re like a rudderless ship adrift, not knowing what your motivation is.

“In critical moments, men sometimes see exactly what they wish to see.”

All humans move towards emotional comfort, that’s why all decisions, without exception, are made for emotional reasons. If all decisions were based on logic, we’d be like Spock from Star Trek. As Spock said: “May I say that I have not thoroughly enjoyed serving with Humans? I find their illogic and foolish emotions a constant irritant.”

Logic is the bridge from where we are to where we have decided to go (emotionally). We post rationalise with logic.

Emotion rubber stamps every decision. You can’t make a decision if you don’t have a feeling - all feeling in frontal lobes.

There is scientific evidence that emotions are what drive our decisions, as evidenced by research carried out by Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio of the University of Southern California: “People who lack emotion because of brain injuries often have difficulty making decisions at all.  The brain stores emotional memories of past decisions and those are what drive people’s choices in life. What makes ‘you and me’ ‘rational’ is not suppressing our emotions but tempering them in a positive way.”

Why is it important to know that others make decisions for emotional reasons? Too many people try to influence others based on logic such as numbers and data and whilst some people like numbers, their decisions will still be based on their values which are emotional.

The government will know this and perhaps it’s cynical to assume press briefings and information released to the media will be skewed towards touching on the public’s pain points – what their anxieties are likely to be and therefore, information is tailored to ensure people’s decisions will be based on their emotions, thus their values. The government will be hoping that more people than not will be motivated by concern of contracting the virus and wanting to limit that chance. Yes of course we are given lots of statistics about the virus but the human side of the story is what makes people sit up and listen. The media know that too and their content will also reflect this.

Taking back control

By understanding that every choice we make right now is driven by our values and thus what sits most emotionally comfortable with us, we can regain some control in this situation. Tit is not the Coronavirus per se which is making us feel trapped; yes, it is understandable if we feel frustrated, anxious and fearful, but that is our response to an external force. It’s important to understand how empowering it is when we understand that we can choose our response – to response-able. This is a whole new normal and for many, they might feel like a rudderless ship, adrift with no anchor. The anchor you have, your centre – is your mindset. That is the one thing you can control, and it creates the stability you no doubt crave right now. I know I do.

Remember the four pillars to this – to resetting your mindset? Recognise. Process. Reframe. Control.

If you feel in a downward spiral and that the decisions you have been making recently have not been serving you well, first – Recognise the emotions you are feeling. Are they currently helping you? What are your most important values that are driving your decisions? Do they need to be reviewed? Secondly, Process. Everything starts with a thought so if your choices are not serving you well, process the nature of your thinking. Next, Reframe. Shift your mindset by doing something different to help you change gear, to think in more helpful ways. Finally, regain Control of the nature of your thinking. Adopt a mindset that can help to move you forward.

We have an estimated timing for the end of Lockdown but not a definitive timeline. Our values will continue to drive the decisions we make during this unique time in our lives so know that you choose to stay safe at home; as a key worker – if you’re choosing to work, that too is your choice; we are choosing to juggle working from home with home-schooling; we are choosing to keep our children in doors rather than going to the beach, or the park. These are all choices made to fit with our values. If we had different values, we’d behave differently. Not everyone will choose to behave the way you do. And that’s life Jim. You cannot control that. Control the part you play - your thoughts, your emotions, behaviours and actions. That’s all you need concern yourself with. That will have the greatest impact for you in all this.

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