What are your Values?

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Around the holiday season, we’re all in a kind, giving, and hopefully more compassionate frame of mind. Or, at least, we strive to be. I fall in this same boat as well. And while many of us maintain a charitable and good-natured attitude throughout the year, this isn’t always the case.

The hard truth of the matter is that what we THINK we value and what we ACTUALLY value are often very different. That’s because we actually value is dictated by how much time and attention we spend. We’re all guilty of this. Including me. We may say we value family but how often do we call or visit? (No, I’m not trying to be like your mom trying to guilt you to spend two hours at a time on the phone talking about who-knows-what.) I value compassion and service but I can’t even tell you the last time I personally volunteered.

I’m not coming from a place of judgment, but rather a place of personal reflection. I believe that this is an important question we need to raise and ponder for ourselves, not just at the end of the year, but at regular intervals. Are we living in alignment with our values?

This is something that is so easy to lose sight of. The small, trivial things in our lives -- social media, our smartphones, toxic friendships, destructive thought patterns-- all of these are like a deceptive snowball that pile together and grows bigger and bigger until it’s pushing the more important relationships, habits, and passions into your proverbial rear-view mirror. This is similar to a concept popularized by Stephen Covey. A good illustration of this is a video I will link for you here.

But this isn’t just picking health, family, or your career to value. While that’s one way to look at it, you should really delve much deeper than that. What do you want others to say about you when you’re not around? What affirmations or quotes inspire you, that you seek to live by? How do you want to feel in your life?

This is a great freewriting exercise and/or you can also meditate on this. In fact, I will give you a quick guided imagery exercise (in no way am I an expert on mindfulness- this is something that gave me a lot of clarity on what to focus on in the coming year). So, as you close your eyes, let your mind drift to you in the future. Let’s say six months or a year from now. What are your surroundings? How do you feel? Who are you with? What are you devoting your time to? If you can allow yourself to go there in a focused way, there may be some things that are glaringly different than your current situation.

And that’s perfectly okay. In fact, it’s expected. That’s why we do the exercise. I write and speak to people all the time about living their ‘best life,’ and sometimes that concept can be confusing. We all want to be there more for our family and SO, be healthier, get more things done, and on top of it all have time for ourselves.

But let’s take a step back - what does that look like? The details of how to get there don’t usually come into the picture, but they really should. We live day-to-day, and any intentions or values we set need to be integrated in our daily lives. Go back to your visualization exercise: are you more relaxed due to having journaled for 20 min? Do you read every night before bed? Is your self care time on your calendar and people respect it? Are you saying no to more obligations to pursue hobbies or avenues that you’re truly passionate about? Let this be your guide, but do not seek to try to be someone you are not. You may want to be a person who has written a book, but do you love to write? Does it give you joy?

And even more importantly, what does this mean? Why are these values significant to you personally? What will they allow you to do? Or how does it impact others and how you interact with your world? These things might very well be things you believe you should be valuing or doing. This is why the more you journal, reflect, and meditate the deeper you will dive into your own needs and values. Not ones imposed upon you.

I know for a lot of people this probably sounds too “woo-woo” for them, and I totally get that. The important thing here is to look at what you’re devoting the most time to in your life and re-evaluate if that’s you think is important. It’s fine if it’s not. But we do need to recognize that before we can adjust and pivot to what we truly prioritize in our lives.

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