Dogs are known for being unconditionally loyal to their owners. We humans have loyalties too. What are yours? Are you loyal to your family? Your faith? A cause? A sports team? A brand? Your employer? A political party?
The big question is - are your loyalties well-placed? It’s worth exploring because loyalty drives where you spend your time and energy - your most valuable resources.
Loyalty is defined as a strong feeling of commitment, support and faithfulness. Loyalty to a person or group is a survival instinct - there is safety in numbers. You support and protect people you are loyal to, and they do the same for you.
Loyalty also conserves energy. You don’t have to think. I always buy the same brand of athletic shoes. I tried various brands over the years and this was the one I found worked best for me. Now I don’t have to embark on a major research project every time I need new shoes.
But loyalty does not have to be long-term or unconditional. You probably want to remain loyal to your family through thick and thin, but most loyalties can and should be conditional.
How to tell if your loyalties are misplaced
Misplaced or misguided loyalty is loyalty that is not acknowledged, is not respected, is betrayed, or is taken advantage of. It can also mean loyalty to a cause that does not (or no longer does) align with your values.
When examining your loyalties, ask yourself these questions:
- When and why did I develop this loyalty?
- Was the loyalty intentional or did it just happen over time?
- Is that reason still valid?
- Does this loyalty reflect my values?
- Is the object of my loyalty able to be loyal to me?
Example: sports team loyalty
I recently decided to give up loyalty to sports teams. I had felt an emotional investment in my favorite teams but decided that those loyalties were misplaced - specifically when it comes to revenue-driven sports (professional and revenue-generating college sports).
My loyalty to a team made me feel like I had to watch every game, and I felt bad when they lost and good when they won. Did I really want the performance of athletes I didn't personally know determine my happiness? I also found that for me personally, the moments of misery loomed larger than the moments of triumph.
Money sports certainly have value - they provide great entertainment and exciting drama.
But I realized that the teams and leagues are not loyal to their fans but rather to their own highest priority - the money the fans deliver. I don’t have a problem with that, except for the pretense that they are loyal to me.
Sports team loyalty did not align with my core values. Giving control over my emotions to others who don’t even know me seemed irrational. It decreased my happiness and consumed a lot of my precious time. So I decided to drop it. I am not recommending everyone to do that, but it was the best decision for me.
Self-awareness and reflection
Two things to keep in mind about loyalty:
1) Loyalty is not binary - there are various levels of feeling and commitment.
2) It is not a character flaw to be conditionally loyal. If a person or organization betrays your trust, it is okay to forgo that loyalty. Even dogs will drop their loyalty if treated poorly.
Re-examine your loyalties.
Discover which ones are worth your time and energy and promote mutual loyalty. Be loyal to friends and family and colleagues who can be loyal back, and determine which of your loyalties may no longer be the best fit for you.
Think well to be well.
- Steve Haffner
Mind performance strategist
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