Thursday, January 9, 2014

Understanding Motivations, Values, and Coherence

As of the 9th day of the year, I have completed 46.6 miles and am somewhere around Taneytown on my virtual pilgrimage to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  I have actually written to two email addresses associated with the church to try to find out something about the church as the church does not appear to have an extensive website.  The church’s history.  Parishioner’s demographics.  What their third graders in religious education are doing.  So far, I do not have a response.  If I do get one, I think it will help very much to make my third graders understand what it means to set a goal, to persevere, to look forward to something that takes a while with great anticipation, and to explore our faith in ways that focus on taking one step at a time and appreciating all of God’s creation along the way.

The other day, on a social media site, there was a question about what was learned in 2013.  I wrote that I learned that “The more I place my relationship with God first, the more at peace I am with myself.  (Doesn’t guarantee I’m at peace with everyone else, but it makes it easier to work with others.)” 

That statement was written quickly.  But it is the kind of thought I could spend a long time during my 2000 miles pondering—at least on days when I am running alone.  This morning I was fortunate enough to run only 0.4 miles on my own.  After that, I met up with a number of other runners (there ended up being a total of around nine on the track this morning and I knew nearly every one of them).  We ran an 800 warm up and an 800 cool down with an excellent 4x4x400 in between.  I wanted to do something to celebrate my 44th birthday (tomorrow) and convinced those I was running with (5 of the 9 for various bits and pieces) to run this.  The rests were 200 meter jogs between each of the 400s in the set of 4 and 200 meter jogs after each set of 400.  It was a nice workout and except for one 400 closer to 1:35, I was in the low 1:30’s throughout.  It felt great in the upper 20’s (temperature-wise).

In any case, what does it mean to be more at peace with myself when I place my relationship with God first and is there a secular equivalent to the statement?  I think that it means that it is important to ask myself why I do what I do, is what I am doing consistent with my values, and if not how can I improve the situation.  In a religious sense that may be labeled as putting my relationship with God first.  In the sense that my motivations come from my relationship with God.  They are driven by my faith.  They are driven by my belief system.  And the more I focus on really making sure I understand my beliefs, I understand my values, I question whether they need to be changed, and I focus on making sure that I lead a life of meaning and consistency with my values, the more I am at ease. 

I think that could be translated into a secular framework pretty easily.  Not everyone needs “God” to give them values.  Not everyone needs “God” to have a moral compass.  Not everyone needs “God” to have a sense of right and wrong.  For some me, the notion of God gives me something to build values and morals around.  But that is not necessary for everyone.

So, I think that my statement could be made by many people regardless of their religion or regardless of any religion.  For me, as someone who takes the time to ponder the source of my values and my sense of self, the more life has a coherence that reflects the sense of self and values in everything I do or say, the more life “makes sense” and the more I can be at east with myself.  Once I am there, it makes it much easier to work with others and to figure out what to get stressed about and what not to bother getting stressed about in others’ behavior and in how I relate to it.

With an excellent year of running (with a few months mostly alone) behind me and an excellent year of running, hopefully, ahead of me, I know that has made my life more coherent.  With nearly a year of a job change behind me, I am feeling better about where my career is headed.  And while family life has not always been perfect under the stress and strain of running and the job change, I think I am generally doing at least okay and have a sense of how the part I play in our family life can help to make things better for all concerned moving ahead.

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