Personal Constitutions



Basic Manual Speech 6:
Work with Words

by Luke Setzer

How many people in this room would like to lead a rich, rewarding, satisfying life? Just about everyone. I want to take just a few minutes to share some very valuable information with you. This new knowledge, rightly applied, can assist you in living the kind of life you desire.

Let me begin by defining a term central to this speech: the value. What exactly is a "value"? In the context of this speech, I will define it as a "principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable." In certain respects, a value is a belief about how one should conduct oneself--an ethic.

Now, I want to emphasize to you this immutable law of nature: Unlike the animals, human beings need a clear, conscious, spelled-out code of ethics to live successfully on this earth.

Practically all religions and philosophies through the ages have advocated some code of ethics. The Chinese philosopher Confucius advocated a supreme ethic: "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you." Jesus' later restatement of this ethic became known as the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Rand, and many other notable writers throughout history have grappled with ethics and its proper role in human life.

Benjamin Franklin wrote of his decision as a young man to strive for his own "moral perfection." He developed a list of his own most precious values--his personal ethical code. He kept this list in his day planner to track his progress. Many years later, he determined that the exercise had made him a much better individual.

Benjamin Franklin's autobiography inspired FranklinCovey's world-famous Franklin Day Planner. FranklinCovey's entire time-management philosophy orients around the idea of living by a personal code of conduct. To motivate trainees to discover their most important values, FranklinCovey asks this thought-provoking question: "What is so important in your life that you would risk death to preserve it?" For most people, cherished principles and loved ones immediately come to mind. Each trainee privately writes down these "Governing Values" and prioritizes them in order of importance. This "Personal Constitution" has its own place in the Franklin Day Planner [show planner section] for instant reference during the user's "Weekly Organizing" time. The user refers to this values list when planning long-range goals and daily tasks.

Anthony Robbins expands on this notion further in his Personal Power audiotape series. He identifies "ends values" as the mental or emotional states to which a person links pleasure, and "means values" as the actions, people, or resources necessary to achieve those states.

In her work on ethics, Ayn Rand made a similar distinction. She maintained that a value is simply anything that a human being seeks to gain or to keep. She used the term "virtues" to describe the actions required to achieve those values. Rand and Robbins share a common idea of how a to structure a code of values. First, list and describe the ends values, or desired states. Some examples include reason, purpose, self-esteem, love, vitality, and passion. Second, rank those states in order of importance. Finally, list beneath each state the virtues or means values required to achieve those ends values.

Do the uncomfortable feelings of unprodutiveness and worthlessness ever afflict you? If so, then it is high time for you to record in writing your most important values and what you need to do to achieve them. You can then lay out a plan for living in accordance with these values--your "personal constitution"--so you can experience a rich, rewarding, satisfying life every single day.


Objectivism 101
Objectivism 101