Lately, I have been thinking about cultivating the courage to really place my actions into alignment with my values. This idea came to mind after receiving a newsletter from Roxy Manning, the Executive Director of Bay NVC, addressing the psychological phenomenon known as “The Fundamental Attribution Error.” Essentially this theory argues that when looking at a negative behavior of another, the tendency is to attribute these actions to be reflections of the person’s character. Whereas, if we were to exhibit the same behavior, under the Fundamental Attribution Error, we would explain our actions as externally motivated.
So for example, if I were to witness an adult yelling at a child for playing in a store, under the tendency would be to label the parent as being “impatient,” “lacking control/discipline,” or in some other way being inept. (We might also conclude that the child was “ill-behaved,” “hyper-active,” etc.) However, if we found ourselves in the same situation – either as the child or the parent – we might rationalize our behaviors as being due to stress, fatigue, feeling unheard, etc.
The interesting thing about the Fundamental Attribution Error, as pointed out by Manning, is that if we were to view our external behavior as reflections of our internal character, many of us, myself included, would find that too often we do things that do not align with our values. So although I believe in non-violence in thought, word, and action, the fact that I am constantly yelling at my youngest brother suggests, under the Fundamental Attribution Error, that I could be a very aggressive, mean, controlling, impatient, totalitarian, and domineering individual. None of which align with who I strive to be more fully, or even with who I consider myself to be right now in this moment.
So the question I have for you today, is: If you were to look at your own behavior as external reflections of your internal values, would you like what you saw? Would your external behavior be in alignment with your personal ethics or would your actions suggest you were of a lesser character?
These questions are particularly important for us to consider as we transition into a new year, if only because I believe they will allow us to determine how we would like to show up in the world. After all, how can we hope to create change if we aren’t first aware of what it is that we are doing that may necessitate change?
Let’s begin today’s practice, by taking a few rounds of breath and checking in with ourselves: How are you doing, really? How aligned are your actions, thoughts, and words with the beliefs you hold of yourself?
Gently close your eyes and bring your awareness to the movement of your breath.
As you continue thinking about your own actions, and the instances in which they may or may not align with your values, notice what sensations are going on in your body. Can you breathe love, compassion, and gratitude into this part of your body and the knowledge it is presenting you with?
Questions for further reflection:
How do you want to show up in the world?
How do you want to perceive your own actions?
What thoughts come up?
What are your true values and how do they interact with your actions?
What are your limits?
Can you extend them a bit longer?
Can we honor our personal values through our actions, even right here?
Can we have faith that we are strong enough to always serve our core truths?
What Fundamental Attribution Error could you be making right now?
How are you showing up right now?
Is this how you would ideally like to show up? If not, what changes in thought, word, or action can you make right now?