Foundational Values
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 The principles and values instilled in each Marine are the building blocks for making the right decisions at the right time, both on the battlefield and off. In the chaos of war and in the daily tasks of life, character matters.  The Marine Corps’ core values of honor, courage, and commitment define how all Marines are to think, act and fight.  However, at the end of the day Marines make personal choices as to which values and ideals they will truly adopt and live by.  Therefore, an essential element of spiritual fitness is guiding Marines to intentionally adopt the values that will produce choices and actions that build character and resiliency.  To properly exercise this element of spiritual fitness, Marines need to articulate the foundational values that guide them.  Additionally, they should look at the influences within self and beyond themselves that are the sources of those values and ideals.   



Imagine that you were lost in some wilderness area with no idea of where you are.  How would you determine which way you would go?  An effective strategy would be to try to get a view of the land so that you can make a mental map of the terrain.  That way you aren’t just making direction decisions based on the limited view in front of you each moment.  By getting a bird’s eye view you would be able to identify important terrain features that you want to follow, such as rivers and valleys, as well as terrain that you would like to avoid, such as dangerous cliffs, impassable vegetation, or disorienting forests.  You must look at your surroundings, decide where you want to go, and then make a plan to get there which properly utilizes the terrain.  Marines understand the importance of these land navigation skills and are trained to use maps and plan detailed routes through difficult terrain in order to arrive at objectives efficiently. 

The same navigational principles apply to life.  Many people just wander through life without any particular destination.  They make daily choices based on what they see in front of them at that moment.  The result in life is often much like it would be if they were lost in the wilderness…they end up going in circles, running into dead ends, or taking much longer to get anywhere than they need to.  In order to avoid this, identifying life’s meaning and values is important. Meaning addresses questions such as “What is the purpose of life?” and “How do I live a good life, even in the face of hardship?”  Meaning provides a bird’s eye view of life…a “life map” that identifies terrain (values) and objectives (goals).  Having personal meaning and values mapped out provides motivation to pursue goals and strength to endure hardship. 

In order to navigate a course to where you want to go, you will first need to identify landmarks and terrain features that you can use in your journey.  You might want to identify those areas that are particularly dangerous or that might slow you down in order to avoid them.  You will also want to utilize features that can help you get to your objective, such as valleys, sources of water and food, and locations that provide shelter.  Similarly, once you have identified your goals and purpose in life, it can be extremely helpful to identify values that can help you become the kind of person you want to be.  Values serve as life's landmarks, marking the way to your destination.  Beware of pitfalls and other hazards that will slow your progress or make you more lost.  You can avoid such traps by identifying them beforehand so you don't have to make decisions in the heat of the moment.  In navigation, planning in advance makes all the difference.  In life as well, taking the time to think through what you value, what behaviors and characteristics you want to avoid, and how you want to live your life can make all the difference.  Below is a list of some values to get you thinking.  Ask yourself, "When I am at the end of my life looking back, what do I want to be able to say was the most important to me?"  What do you want people to say appears to be most important to you?

Having a detailed life map is especially important for Marines in combat, as the conditions of war can distort perceptions of right and wrong and can challenge a person’s worldview. It is important that marines regularly reaffirm commitment to and personal understanding of Marine Corps values of honor, courage and commitment, as well as other personal foundational values.  Take the time to write down what is important to you.  What is the meaning and purpose of your life?  What values do you want to live by?  What do you want to avoid in life?  What motto do you want to use to help keep yourself focused on your goal?

Here are a couple of famous quotes that show the author's personal life map.  You may find them useful as you create your own map.

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