Articles on Self-Transformation The articles that follow are from publications of the Philippine Theosophical Institute. Unless otherwise indicated, the articles are from The Process on Self-Transformation and Self-Transformation Letters by Vicente Hao Chin, Jr..
Clarification and Internalization of Values <ul><li>The philosophy of life for every person consists of two aspects: </li></ul><ul><li>A map of reality – an understanding of what life is all about, of nature and the cosmos </li></ul><ul><li>A hierarchy of values – a perception of which things are more important than others </li></ul>
<ul><li>The philosopher Will Durant once wrote that wisdom is “seeing big things as big, and small things as small.” This implies that, first, one sees reality objectively, rather than in a distorted manner, and, secondly, we are able to see the relative importance of things. </li></ul>Clarif ication of values means that we must review which values should guide our life. “Value” means that is worthwhile. If happiness is worthwhile, then it is a value. If giving to the family is worthwhile, then it is a value. If playing basketball is worthwhile, then it is a value.
<ul><li>The problem starts when these values conflict, not only with each other, but in competing for our time and attention. Between family and basketball, which one is more important? Between honesty and earning more money, which one is more important? </li></ul><ul><li>When we do not give time to the consideration of this point, then what happens is that our conditioned values take over. They subconsciously dictate what is more important and what is less. Thus a father spends more time with his office mates than his family after work, although when he is later asked, he realizes that his family is more important to him than his friends. </li></ul>
Kinds of Values <ul><li>There are three kinds of values: </li></ul><ul><li>Universal values </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural values </li></ul><ul><li>Personal values </li></ul>
<ul><li>Universal values are those that are valued by all human beings due to the intrinsic nature of these values or by virtue of our being human beings. </li></ul><ul><li>Truth, for example, is valued for its own sake. We want to know the truth rather than be misled or be under an illusion. We prefer an illusion only when there is fear or there is psychopathology, in which case we then put the value of avoidance of pain over that of truth. But even in the latter case it is not because we do not prefer truth to illusion. </li></ul><ul><li>Happiness is sought by every human being because of the way we have been constructed biologically, psychologically or spiritually. Even the masochist inflicts pain upon himself because he derives pleasure or satisfaction from it. </li></ul>Universal Values Universal values are true to human beings regardless of culture and age.
The following are some of these universal values: <ul><ul><li>Truth </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Happiness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inner peace </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Love </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kindness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Justice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Respect </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Courage and fearlessness </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>Schools espouse these values universally. But the problem is that schools and teachers do not take these values seriously. </li></ul><ul><li>They recognize that they are often impractical (such as honesty) and almost unattainable (such as happiness or inner peace). </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, universal values have remained as ideals. </li></ul><ul><li>Life in modern society gives evidence to the prevalence of values that contradict these universal values. </li></ul><ul><li>We will look into this conflict later on. </li></ul>
Cultural Values <ul><li>Cultural Values are those which are dependent upon the social norms, religious beliefs, and other environmental situations that a group of people find themselves in. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, in a society where the ratio of males to females is just 1 to 10, polygamy may be legal and ethical; if the reverse, polygyny may be the one legal and ethical. In some countries, divorce is permitted, in some it is a sin. </li></ul><ul><li>Such values also change with time. The Roman Catholic Church for example used to say that “outside the Church there is no salvation.” </li></ul><ul><li>But this fundamental dogma has undergone change in modern times. The validity of other religions is now recognized by it. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Many of our attitudes and beliefs are derived from these cultural values and hence are conditioned values. Cultural values are not necessarily true or valid on account of their widespread acceptance. </li></ul><ul><li>We therefore need to review such values because they can color the way we view life and behave, and create inner and outer conflict. </li></ul><ul><li>The tendency to accumulate wealth, for example, can be a very strong cultural conditioning due to society’s measurement of success, family expectations, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>There may not be fears or strong desires that impel accumulation, but the mind can subconsciously assume that it is the preferred value. Since this is an embedded or hidden assumption, it is often unquestioned. </li></ul><ul><li>The pressure that it exerts is often invisible, and thus can be exceedingly influential or even overwhelming in view of its unquestioned validity. It can effectively overrule one’s prior decision to adhere to values. </li></ul>
<ul><li>A review of one’s cultural values is thus a review of one’s philosophy of life. Relatively few people do this deliberately. </li></ul><ul><li>It requires a broadness of knowledge about life and human affairs. </li></ul>
Personal Values <ul><li>Personal values are those which are worthwhile to a particular individual and will differ from person to person. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, one may value art more than earning money, and thus spend more time painting even if there is little income. Another may value money more than art, and thus spend more time buying and selling paintings than doing the painting himself. </li></ul><ul><li>Personal values are largely subjective and are neither ethical nor unethical except when they go against one of the universal values. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus whether one prefers chocolate or vanilla is a subjective preference. But whether one eats the flesh of a mammal can be an ethical issue because it now touches on the pain and suffering caused in the slaughtering of animal for food. </li></ul><ul><li>It is important to point out that inner peace will not be possible when the personal values contradict one or more of the universal values. Thus, true inner fulfillment will elude us. </li></ul>
Are Universal Values Practical? <ul><li>In the lectures that we give, we ask the audience (such as school teachers) who among them believe that “honesty is the best policy.” </li></ul><ul><li>Perhaps half of them or less would raise their hands. When asked how many of them consider that honesty is practical, usually there would be one or two or none at all raising his or her hand. </li></ul><ul><li>We are facing here a fundamental contradiction between our avowed principles and our daily reality. It seems impractical to be honest or to be truly principled. </li></ul><ul><li>People believe that one cannot rise in one’s career if one is honest, or does not compromise with the demands of the environment that compels one to lie. Or he cannot win an election if he is too honest. Or become a successful salesman unless he exaggerates or misrepresent. </li></ul><ul><li>How true is this widespread impression? </li></ul>
<ul><li>If I do an injustice to someone while trying to earn money, I will not have inner peace. I will feel insecurity. </li></ul><ul><li>More important, we intuitively know that it is a wrong thing to do. This sense of unethical action is not on account of cultural values, but due to an inner sense of right and wrong that is perceived regardless of our culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus it is important to explore a way of life, where the universal values are in harmony with our personal values. </li></ul>
Are Universal Values Practical? <ul><li>In the lectures that we give, we ask the audience (such as school teachers) who among them believe that “honesty is the best policy.” Perhaps half of them or less would raise their hands. When asked how many of them consider that honesty is practical, usually there would be one or two or none at all raising his or her hand. </li></ul><ul><li>We are facing here a fundamental contradiction between our avowed principles and our daily reality. It seems impractical to be honest or to be truly principled. </li></ul><ul><li>People believe that one cannot rise in one’s career if one is honest, or does not compromise with the demands of the environment that compels one to lie. Or he cannot win an election if he is too honest. Or become a successful salesman unless he exaggerates or misrepresent. </li></ul><ul><li>How true is this widespread impression? </li></ul>
Principles and Achievement <ul><li>Many years ago I read an autobiographical book of Joe Girard, who was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Top Salesman in the World for at least seven consecutive years. </li></ul><ul><li>Girard was a car and truck salesman. There are times when a customer would come to him to buy a special kind of vehicle that his manufacturer does not produce. He would tell the customer that his company does not have that vehicle, but that it is available from another manufacturer (a competitor), and Girard would even refer him to the dealer of the competitor. But he would tell the customer that if in the future the customer needs anything that they have, then he can call Girard, and he would give the customer his card. </li></ul><ul><li>The goodwill generated by this honesty has an effect on potential customers. People from across the continent would call Girard if he can supply them what they need, and if Girard has it, he stood a good chance of getting the order, because he had been honest with the customer. Girard did not rise to the top through insincerity and manipulative tactics. </li></ul>
<ul><li>A lady entrepreneur that I knew was one of the material vendors of a huge public works project in the Philippines. </li></ul><ul><li>The buyer discovered that among their suppliers, this lady was apparently the only one who did not overprice or connive with other suppliers to pad their quoted prices. </li></ul><ul><li>In time, the buyer developed so high a trust in this lady, that they would ask her to help them check the prices of items being bought by them. Needless to say, this lady is receiving a large percentage of the purchases for this public work project. Simply because she was honest and trustworthy. </li></ul>
<ul><li>One young public official whom I know very well took the road less traveled and was determined not to succumb to corruption when he was elected Mayor of a city in the Philippines. </li></ul><ul><li>Group after group came to him offering regular amounts of money if he will just agree to look the other way. Time and again he politely declined until the syndicates found that they were facing a Mayor who was dead earnest about his principles. Unlike other politicians, he did not include journalists and media people in his payroll just to ensure that they say good things about him, or to be silent about anything that they observe wrong. </li></ul><ul><li>It did not take long for the people to realize that they have in their midst a truly honest official. They gave him their trust. He won by landslide in every reelection, with little campaign funds to sustain him. In one election he ran unopposed. Three years after he stepped down as Mayor, he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service, the only local official ever given such a recognition. The Magsaysay Award is considered as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Asia. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Example after example can be cited about people who, when they are clear about their values, and have developed mature skills in management and interpersonal relationships, tend to excel in their respective fields – much farther than those who employ deception and insincerity. </li></ul><ul><li>Such people are able to reach levels that are unattainable by the latter. There are millions of politicians, but only those who are principled earn the name “statesman.” </li></ul><ul><li>There are many so-called religious people, but only a small percentage are called spiritual. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Stephen Covey, in his best-selling Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, has noted that the truly successful individuals are those who are character-ethic oriented rather than the personality-ethic oriented. </li></ul><ul><li>The former are those whose lives are guided by principles rather than by conveniences, by what is just and compassionate rather than what is selfish. </li></ul><ul><li>The personality oriented individuals may bribe or be insincere in order to achieve a certain goal, but his success will be blocked by walls that can only be surmounted by adherence to universal principles. He may soon discover that he has paid for his short-sighted “success” with a high price. </li></ul>
Values in Daily Life <ul><li>The test of the practicality of universal values lies in our daily life applications, which we will presently explore. </li></ul><ul><li>Most parents lie to their children, and many do so habitually. Why is dishonesty necessary with one’s own children? Why can’t we even be truthful with the people closest to us? </li></ul><ul><li>Many parents justify their dishonesty by saying that they are white lies – for the good of their children. But I wonder what is good about having parents who cannot be trusted? </li></ul><ul><li>A young son approaches his mother and asks for money to buy something from the store. The mother feels that such a purchase is not necessary, and she says that she has no money. The boy felt disappointed. When he was about to leave the living room he heard his father ask for money from his mother, and the mother replied “Just get it from my brown bag.” </li></ul>
<ul><li>If you were the son, what would you feel? How will you take your mother’s words in the future? Do you think that the white lie of the mother was worth the potential resentment and distrust felt by the son? </li></ul><ul><li>Part of the problem is that the mother did not realize that it was possible for her to say “no” to her son and to state her sincere reasons, without necessarily creating resentment in her son. This option would have been less harmful than lying, even if the boy felt disappointed with her “no.” </li></ul><ul><li>To be able to be sincere requires the capacity to communicate assertively and sincerely. One must also have developed the self-awareness to be able to face discomfort in one’s feelings. </li></ul><ul><li>Your friend comes grinning and proudly shows you her new hairstyle. She asks you, “What do you think of my hair?” You happen to think that it did not look good at all. In fact you think she looked ugly with it. What will say? </li></ul><ul><li>In many cultures, it is proper to say, “It looks OK” or “It looks nice,” even if it is a blatant lie. </li></ul><ul><li>By learning how to communicate assertively, we can have a better idea of how to give feedback without being judgmental, to speak truthfully without unnecessarily hurting the other person. </li></ul>
Taking Bite-Size Efforts <ul><li>In the quest for self-transformation, we need to experiment with daily opportunities for the integration of universal values in our life. Do it at a comfortable pace. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, try bite-size honesty. Using assertive communication skills, take risks in being truthful in small daily things. With these modest victories, we will gradually find it easier to be truthful in many things in daily life – with our children, spouse, friends, peers, office mates, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Experiment with bite-size justice and fairness. When we forego an unfair advantage, we may find that we can take the apparent sacrifice. It also feels good deep inside. Again with such small victories, we will find it no longer difficult to be just when it comes to large matters. </li></ul><ul><li>Do bite-size kindnesses every day. Say “thank you” to people whom you do not usually thank for small favors, like passing the salt. It gradually becomes a habit. We no longer even think of it. The “thank you” just automatically comes out of our lips whenever anybody does any small thing for us. </li></ul>
Clarifying Personal Values <ul><li>To integrate universal values into our lives, we must do another necessary task: clarify our own personal values. </li></ul><ul><li>Many people go through life not knowing that their personal values are not really their own. They are just reflections of the demands of their surroundings: their parents, friends, society, what people will say, etc. They begin to wonder why they are not happy in their careers; why they easily get angry when they are performing their work. </li></ul><ul><li>Winnie worked as a legal researcher in one of the best law centers in the country for about twenty years. When I met her, she said that she was due to retire in two years. Seeing that she was still young, I asked her what she planned to do after her retirement, thinking that she will set up her own law practice. She said, “I will open up a dress shop.” I was caught by surprise, and I could not say anything for a few moments. Then I asked why? She said, “Ever since I was young, I had always wanted to design dresses and make them. Now that I am about to retire, this is the thing that I really want to do.” </li></ul>
<ul><li>“ Then why did you become a lawyer?” I asked. </li></ul><ul><li>“ When I was entering college, my uncle would not finance my studies unless I take up law. So I did.” </li></ul><ul><li>It has been more than ten years since that evening, and I have not met Winnie again. I have often wondered what she felt throughout the twenty years when she was doing legal work. I have always wondered what she is doing now. I wish that she is happy in her new career, doing creative designs. </li></ul><ul><li>Would you and I be willing to devote more than twenty years of our lives for something that we do not really love to do? Lack of clarity of our personal values can condemn us to a life that we do not cherish, to a work that we do not find fulfilling. </li></ul><ul><li>It is essential for each one of us to clarify the things that are truly meaningful in our lives – things that we would like to live and even die for. </li></ul>
<ul><li>To help us attain such clarity, there are two questions that we must try to answer. For some, It may be difficult to answer, but nevertheless write down your best replies. You can always review them later and change them. </li></ul><ul><li>It is suggested that you write down your answers, not just think about them in your head. It will force you to be specific and to see your present hierarchy of personal values. The first question is: </li></ul><ul><li>What are three things that you would like to do or achieve or become before you die? </li></ul>
<ul><li>Write down these three things in the order of their importance. </li></ul><ul><li>The second question: </li></ul><ul><li>What are three things that you would like to do or accomplish within the next three years? </li></ul><ul><li>In trying to answer the first question, you are really searching for an answer that does not come from your logical mind or emotion. It comes from somewhere deeper within. When your logical mind or emotions answer, you may tend to reply according to the values of society, and which may not resonate with your innermost self. </li></ul><ul><li>For this reason, it is important to review the list after a week, a month or a year. See whether your answers are still the same. If at different times, your reply is the same, you may be reasonably sure that you are hearing the answer of your deep self. If it keeps on changing, then it means that you are listening to your outer self. </li></ul><ul><li>Your answer to the second question will help you determine whether you will be spending your coming years meaningfully. If what you will do for the next three years has got nothing to do with your lifetime list, then double-check whether you are doing the right things for the next three years, or whether your lifetime list needs review. </li></ul><ul><li>Check also whether these personal values are in harmony with universal values or not. If not, it will be worthwhile to review them and see whether deep within yourself, it is really what you want in life. </li></ul>
Internalization of Values <ul><li>The above discussion and exercises constitute the first, but necessary, stage in the integration of values and behavior. </li></ul><ul><li>The second stage is the internalization of these values. Two things are required to internalize values: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Clarity of universal and personal values – one must be convinced that universal values are valid and truly worth pursuing, and also that the personal values are clear and strongly felt. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Contrary conditionings are neutralized. </li></ul></ul>
The conditionings to be neutralized are of two kinds: <ul><ul><li>Physico-emotional conditionings – those involving habits and emotional reactions, such as fears, resentments, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mental conditionings – those molded by cultural values, such as the measurement of success and failure, philosophy of life, etc. They create preferences for lifestyles, modes of action, etc. </li></ul></ul>When true clarity is achieved, and conditionings are comprehensively reviewed, then values can be fully integrated into one’s life with minimal difficulty.
THANK YOU <ul><li>The Process of Self-Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Vicente Hao Chin Jr. </li></ul>