What defines our values in life and makes us who we are?

Is it possible to understand the mindset of someone who has such different values to our own?

How do we manage our own Mindset amid such devastation happening in the world today?

When deciding what to write about for my next article, my thoughts keep moving to the unthinkable situation we are all experiencing in the world today. 

A war in Europe, a war which analysts admit could escalate into something far beyond what we all previously thought possible in the 21st century.

Seemingly created from the mind of one man, Vladimir Putin.

I have always had an interest in human psychology and mindset, but I seriously struggle to try to comprehend the mindset of this man and what makes him believe that this was the right thing to do for himself, Russia, and Ukraine. What gives him the power to control the minds of the Russian people, and what stops him from having any empathy or conscience for the people whose lives he is destroying

Psychologists explain Mindset as a set of attitudes, values and beliefs held by an individual, which can sometimes be described as a Fixed or Growth Mindset. 

A person with a fixed mindset does not want to change or grow and has fixed beliefs and attitudes that determine how they view everything in life. 

A person with a growth mindset is open to learning and change and sees life as an opportunity. Even when life is tough, the person sees how they can turn the challenges into possibilities to grow. 

It is essentially how we view life. The most interesting thing is that Psychologists and Neuroscientists are working together, proving the connection between the mind and the body and explaining that we can learn how to choose our thoughts, which ultimately control our state and our wellbeing!

Putin seemingly has a fixed mindset. He seems to value power, and he leads through fear, using lies and corruption to increase his influence. 

What has shaped his psychology, values, and mindset in his life, which has ultimately led the world to this terrible situation?

Anyone who has lived and travelled around the world will have faced different cultures, religions, and political views. Generally, travel makes you more accepting of different ways of living and allows you to be more tolerant of differing views, attitudes, and ways of life, even if these do not match your own values.

I had lived in Russia during Perestroika in the late 1980s when there was a political movement for reformation under Mikhail Gorbachev, and his glasnost policy reform (glasnost meaning openness). It was a very interesting period when the Russian people were allowed to openly discuss opinions and politics that they had never previously had the freedom to do.

I recall working with an In Tourist Guide (In Tourist was the state-owned tourist organization), who told me while in conversation that the company that I worked for had over-reacted to the Chernobyl Nuclear Incident, as they had withdrawn their planes from Russia at the time.

In his mind and from his perspective, the Chernobyl accident in 1986 was not a problem. 

While the rest of the world panicked about the nuclear fallout dangers, he was blissfully unaware of the problem that accident presented to the world due to what he was exposed to in the Russian media.

We had an office that overlooked Red Square and whenever there was any official ceremony happening there, a Russian police guard based themselves in our office to ensure we were not spying or a threat to any Russian official in the square.

I recall the black market, which was widespread in Moscow. The official exchange rate was 1 Pound to 1 Rubel, and the black market was 10 to 1. You could only get a taxi if you paid foreign currency, as they did not want their own currency, and if you ordered anything in your hotel room, you could for sure be offered to exchange something, even if you just wanted an extra pillow!

It was certainly an interesting exposure to culture, politics, and way of life so different from my own.

It leads me to question how our own mindsets and values are formed. If I had been born in Russia, India or Africa, would my opinions and values be different from what they are now?

Well, of course, I think they would be! 

But then it makes us realise we are all influenced by our history, where we grew up, the family we have, the people we meet, the education we are given, the books we read and of course, majorly by the media we watch and the news we listen to. It is from there we evolve our views of the world.

The Russian people are being shown one view of the world by their media and in the Western world, we are being shown another.

We obviously think we are right, we are the truth, we are the goodies, but probably they do too!

How much do our upbringing and surroundings influence our values and who we are? Of course, this is an impossible question to answer, but I would guess it is a high percentage. It is the old Nature and Nurture debate, which influences us more?

It should allow us to question, however, our own mindset. We need to understand that what we surround ourselves with – the people, the news, and our experiences- make up part of who we are and what we think. It can open our minds or close them down. It can allow us to expand our opinions and views or keep them small

I am a strong believer in mindset and mindfulness – an awareness of our own thoughts and how it influences our state and being. 

I believe we can generally control our own mindset, but can we ever fully understand the mindset of others, as we have never walked in their shoes, we have not lived their life or experienced what they have experienced.

We are all individuals, and one of my core values is learning how to accept each other and our differing views and opinions. I think we should celebrate our differences and agree that it adds colour to the world.

However, I draw the line on tolerating a mindset bent on destruction and bringing pain to others. I draw the line on accepting those values that are too against my core beliefs.

The values of freedom, honesty, respect for human life, empathy, and kindness must remain in my mind as values that are non-negotiable in my relationships and in my life!

Have you ever asked yourself what values are non-negotiable in your life, and does the life you live and the relationships you have to enable you to live by those values?

Putin’s Mindset, I can honestly say, I struggle to comprehend, and I do not want to understand or tolerate why he is what he is and why he does what he does.

My hope is that the Russian people have the capability to open their minds to the world, that they too have strong values, even though we come from different backgrounds and decide enough is enough and that they find their power to say, “No” to Vladimir Putin and “No” to War!

Pamela O'Donnell
Professional Certified Leadership and Wellbeing Coach
Pamela is English, however she has been extremely fortunate to have lived and worked around the globe during her career in the Travel Industry. This included working and living in Italy, France, Switzerland, Greece, Russia, North Africa, the Far East, North America, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean. Her wide travel experience has allowed her to develop a global awareness of different cultures and perspectives. She can speak Italian, French and German to various levels and is learning Spanish! She spends her time living both in the UK and on the beautiful Island of Menorca in Spain.

Pamela has worked as a Global Leader, with 30+ years’ experience of managing teams around the world. Her last position was as Director, Global Customer Resolution, leading a large team, based in 15 countries in North America, Europe, and Asia.

She decided to step out of Leadership and into Professional Leadership and Wellbeing Coaching after being made redundant, and as Covid-19 hit the world devastating the Travel Industry.

It was time to share her knowledge and experience by helping others to develop. She is interested in using her extensive leadership experience and combine it with her passion for Wellbeing to help others to maximize their potential.

Pamela is also a Yoga teacher, is passionate about learning and development, and has a particularly keen interest in Human Behavioural Psychology. This led her to study Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Psychology, which helps in her coaching practice.

She loves to swim most days even in the winter, enjoying the wonderful health benefits this brings to the mind and the body. She enjoys walking in nature, cycles, and teaches and practices yoga by the sea when she can. She is passionate about the positive effects movement and nature has on mental wellbeing.

Pamela does, however, admit to having a weakness for red wine and chocolate!
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