“Don’t let your special character and values, the secret that you know and no one else does, the truth – don’t let that get swallowed up by the great chewing complacency.”
Values are important
Values. We all hear the term bandied about at work, and in our politics. Most of us have probably sat through at least one meeting about values where we tear our hair out because we should be doing something productive with our time instead.
We know that values are important, but they usually seem like a peripheral piece of the puzzle, one which doesn’t require much effort. How often do we identify what our personal values are though? Have we checked in on those since we wrote them down for that high school or college assignment?
What if values were the pivotal piece
Values are what lay between our hearts and our brains
You are navigating a very complex world and environment. We all are. We have to balance our jobs, our families, our social structures, our joys, our sorrows. As we all work to achieve that balancing act, oftentimes it can seem so difficult to identify what the right answer is in any given situation. So we guess, we throw a hail mary and hope for the best. This will always move us down the road, but that road might be pointing in the wrong direction. The further we go in the wrong direction the less happy and fulfilled we are.
However, when we identify our values they help us to quickly identify which paths will best serve our deeper needs and desires. The way that I visualize it is that we all know at a very deep level in our hearts what we want, but for most of us it takes a considerable amount of energy to dive in and identify what those things are. Having to do that dive on a regular basis is exhausting. Values though, allow us to create a cheat sheet of what is in our hearts, which our brain can easily reference when it comes to making day to day decisions. This leads us to make decisions which better suit our true selves, while keeping us from feeling overwhelmed in the process. It almost makes it easy.
How do I find my values?
There are two approaches I recommend, and which one works best depends on the person.
The first way is to think about who you want to be. Imagine yourself a year from now, five years from now, a decade from now. Describe that person. As you describe them, ask yourself what some of the values that they hold most dear are that allow them to be who they are.
The second way is for those who struggle to imagine their future selves. For these folks, I recommend looking at your past selves. When were you most proud of yourself? When were you fulfilled? When did it feel like everything was ‘just right’? Now look for what values were present during those times. If you were super proud of yourself for helping an old person cross the street, which value were you living into at that moment? Etc.
You can see what values your own brain comes up with, or you can use a list like this one. Write down all the values that seem to match.
Maybe you ended up with a LOT of values, or maybe you ended up with only a few. Our next step is to winnow your list down to the top 3 or 4 values. Then prioritize them. For example, if I’ve got a big ‘
Okay…. now what?
Now you’ve got your values list, but what do you do with it? Write it down in your journal and leave it in a desk drawer so you can look at it again in 20 years? NO! You put it in front of yourself, and you use the crap out of it.
Print these out and post them on your wall (or your dream board if you rock one of those). Print it on a business card and laminate it. Set a reminder on your phone to remind you of them 5 times a day. Doing this re-wires your brain to live into these values, because it sees them all the time.
Any time you have to make a decision, bring out the values card. This will take some practice, but after a surprisingly short time
It can be something simple too. Two people invite me out to lunch at the same time. Which one will engage me more in my top value of exploration? That’s who I go to lunch with.
Practice practice practice.
One important note: Values can and should change as you grow and evolve, so this exercise is worth doing at least once or twice a year (more often if you are undergoing significant change in your life). It’s important not to judge your prioritized values, or how they change. Accept that you are growing and that your values should always be helping you grow.