Values that stand the test of time

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
It's time to put values to work in the interests of the future, writes life coach Jan Aitken. 

Jan Aitken
Jan Aitken
Happy new year, welcome to the first column of 2020. A new decade.

The 1920s were known as the Roaring ’20’s. Between World War 1 and the Great Depression it was a time of freedom and frivolity, of daringly testing and breaking previous social taboos.

I wonder what the ’20s of the new millennium will be known for? What will future generations say about our ’20s, about us, about the planet? What would we want them to say?

Perhaps that’s the better place to start, at the end.

It’s like all good goal setting, "begin with the end in mind", that way you know where you want to end up, it becomes your "vision".

When you’re clear on your vision you can plan your actions to work towards the desired outcome.

A step by step plan gives you something to check against and make sure you’re on track. It allows you to make adjustments and to change course if needed.

It’s a more satisfying way to live than to just drift about being blown around by other people’s actions and whims. Other people’s actions and whims may not match your standards and values or get you to the outcome that you want.

It’s like being in a rudderless boat on a lake — you have no control about where you end up. You’ll just end up wherever the dominant wind blows you.

So, I’ve been thinking about what I’d want future generations to say about the 2020s.

It’s become important as I watch my beautiful new great-niece begin to grow up. What sort of world do I want her to grow up in? What sort of world do I want her to inherit? Will she have a world worth inheriting?

These are really big questions and ones we could all be asking ourselves.

When we know those answers (that’s our end point or vision) then we can start to hone our standards, values, behaviours and actions on the things that will direct us there.

The key word here is "actions": we can talk about all sorts of stuff, we can pontificate until the methane producing cows come home (no offense intended to cows or cattle farmers). However, all the talking in the world won’t change anything.

We have to "do", we have to believe and have the courage of our convictions, we have to understand that small actions make a difference in helping create the lives we want.

If we want something different then we have to do something differently. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

So what do you want for this next decade? What do you want future generations to say about us and about what we did?

I’d like them to say it was the decade that our ancestors cared about the people and the planet they lived on and the actions they took made the world and society a better place. It was the decade when gratitude, compassion and kindness, courageousness and action pulled the planet back from the brink of irreversible climate change and societal fall out.

Why those things I hear you ask?


Well, gratitude because it’s so easy to forget that most of us are relatively well off in New Zealand but not all of us. If we can be grateful for what we have maybe we’ll realise we don’t need more and we could do something for others. (Altruism is great for triggering the "upward spiral" of feel good neurotransmitters. It’s good for the giver and of course, great for those who are helped, win: win).


Compassion and kindness (towards ourselves and others) promote connection and as humans we are wired to connect. Connection and a shared sense of humanity help us to understand that when one person or group hurts/is disadvantaged or discriminated against then we are all hurt, disadvantaged and discriminated against. An unfair society is not a healthy society.


Courageousness because we will need courage to stand up and make the changes that shift our thinking from how we live now to how we can live in a more sustainable and equitable way.

It will mean some personal sacrifices from how we live and what we consume in order to ensure the following generations have a safe and comfortable planet to live on.


Action, because without action anything we talk about is hollow and different outcomes will be impossible. This is where the rubber meets the road, this is where all of the gratitude, compassion, kindness and courageousness in the world mean nothing if we don’t do something different.

2020, for me, is about actions, it’s about doing things differently. 2020 is about changing how I do things personally and on a more global scale.

This year I want to set a challenge to take a different action each month. I invite you to join me, through the first column of each month, to take up a challenge to do things differently.

The column will throw around some of the ideas and current thinking and incorporate a week-long challenge with ideas and tips to help us along the way. I don’t know how we’ll go, but together I do know we can make a difference.

I want to be able to face my little niece and say, "Lucy, we did it, we made the changes and you have a safe, beautiful world to grow up in".



Values encompass Moral Compass. This is not Puritanism, but is labelled 'Conservative' by those snippy about questions of Right & Wrong.

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