About a year ago now, I sat with human behavioural specialist John Demartini for a good couple of hours in the executive lounge of an inner city hotel. I remember looking down on Sydney’s streets below as people scurried around like ants.
We talked about many things that day, but one that stuck in my mind was his flagrant disregard for positive thinking. What?!
“Positive thinking can, at times, be self defeating,” he says. “Some people get addicted to it, but relentless positive thinking encourages people to hold a public facade of always being ‘up’, while their private life can be the polar opposite,” he says.
Ooo, I just love a man who is willing to tell it how it is.
“If you talk yourself into believing a fantasy goal you’ve created because you need to be positive about something, it won’t be important enough for you to do whatever it takes to get there, and so you’ll fail.”
Instead, Demartini subscribes to the advice of ancient philosopher Socrates – “know thyself” – and says self-awareness is a far superior strategy for success than positive thinking will ever be.
“To know thyself you must figure out what your personal values are – not those of your parents, partner or friends – and set goals that are congruent with them,” he says. By aligning your life goals with your values, you will get genuinely inspired to make them happen.
Figuring out Your Highest Values
After 40 years of cross-disciplinary research, Demartini developed a system that helps people determine their values in order to “know thyself” at a deeper level. At the heart of it is a simple list of questions you can ask yourself.
If you’re interested in determining yours, he recommends writing down your top three responses to the questions below.
1) How do you fill your space? Important things are held closely, usually on display in your house, worn or carried around with you.
2) How do you spend your time? You make time for things that are important and run out of time for things that aren’t.
3) Where do you always have energy for something? What energises you when you do it?
4) Where do you spend your money? Would you get behind on your rent to buy a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes? Then that says something about what you value.
5) Where are you most organised? Things that come up repeatedly represent your highest values.
Demartini says the real source of affirmative living is doing things that are congruent with what’s truly important to you. “When you set a goal that is congruent with your highest values, you’ll endure pain and pleasure in pursuit of your goals, you’ll have more long-term vision, more patience and persistence, you’ll believe in yourself, and your internal experience of your life becomes ‘I can, I know and I do’.”