(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

One day a civilian made the big decision to join the Army and be shaped into a Soldier. They were told to “Be this!” “Know this!” “Do this!” and handed a dog tag with the seven Army Values and told to live by them. But what exactly does it mean to live by a set of values? Values are abstract concepts and notions. Simply put, they are what a person deems important in their work or in their lives. The Army, through its seven values, has provided Soldiers the framework for what should be important to them. But it is not enough to just know these values are important. Values drive behaviors; therefore, we must show that these are not just words on a tag. No one respects an “all talk, no action” leader. It's important for Soldiers to reflect on this question. “Is your behavior genuinely reflecting your values?”

Unlike the abstract nature of values, behaviors are something concrete. They are the actions we take or how we choose to conduct ourselves. These decisions do not manifest from thin air. Your personal sense of right and wrong triggers a call to action within you. Your values are driving these decisions.

How you think and feel has been shaped by a life full of influential experiences and people. Perhaps it was Family, church or your community who taught you the "Golden Rule" to say “please” and “thank you,” or "Blood is thicker than water.” However, as you entered the Army you grew up and away from those immediate influences. Through UCMJ, regulations, policy letters, and other such sources, the Army has entered your circle of influence and has given you specific guidelines to refine your sense of right and wrong. Was there anything the Army told you that shook how you thought about or approached the world? Yes, maybe being a Soldier has developed your personal courage, but the idea of dignity and respect was never revolutionary. It is important to reflect on what values you have truly internalized, versus what has been placed upon you. These ideas drive how you conduct yourself daily.

So what actions are you taking on a day-to-day basis? Lying about being at an appointment? Escorting a battle buddy to the Chaplain? Rapidly clicking through online training? Pushing to do additional PT after a long day? Calling your Family? “Covering” for someone else?

What we often take for granted is that even with the smallest decisions, a transaction is being made. You are either feeding into your values or disconnecting and starving them.

Think about what values you truly aspire to live your life by. Perhaps they are dominated by the values you were raised with. Maybe the Army has given you some more to think about. Ideally, you should find your personal values falling under the umbrella of the Army’s, creating a hybrid. Once you have identified those values, spend the end of each day reflecting on the big and small decisions you have made. Have any of your decisions or actions fed what you value? Or did you starve yourself? If you are starving yourself, then your daily behavior is not genuinely reflecting your values. You need to reflect on how you are justifying those decisions and develop your plan of action to strengthen yourself to live as a genuine representation of your values. Put down the excuses, pick up your moral resolve, and walk the talk.