As with every year I’ve looked at my goals, decided on which of them I would focus and made plans insuring each goal is specific, measurable and deadline driven. I used the same strategy that I used last year. You can see that here. This year, after I put together my goals, I ran across an article about core values. The article suggested that one’s core values should align with what one actually does and how one lives. I never thought about whether my values were aligned with my life. But it made perfect sense, so I sat down and looked at my life from this new vantage point.
While in theory, I am of the mind that values are important; before I could see if my life and values aligned, I wanted to make sure that I actually knew what my personal values were. Ideally, my personal values should determine my priorities in life. I should have real measures to see if they are working. It would be logical to imagine that I’d find myself satisfied and content. On the other hand, when my actions don’t align with my personal values, that’s when I’d expect things to feel, well, wrong. This can, could and would be a real source of unhappiness and suffering. So in practice, it would also seemed logical that if in practice things I do and the way I behave match my values, life should usually good.
And I know from personal experience that giving —situations, circumstances, partners, jobs or anything external to myself— responsibility for my happiness has gotten me nowhere. Moreover, the times when I have been most unhappy have without exception been when not only have my life and values been indeed wildly out of whack, but I’ve given responsibility for maintaining my peace of mind to something or someone else. The sad truth was that what was bugging me was the fact that I was neither living in-line with my values and nor doing anything to realign my life with them. So I’ve come to believe that the cure has always been somewhere inside of myself. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
While I thought I knew what personal values were, I decided that if I was going to do this exercise that it would be a good idea to not assume anything, so I looked it up. I found several definitions, but Infoprenuer, Myrko Thumi provided the one I found most succinct and clear. He says personal values are “general expression of what is most important for you. A value expresses the worth of something, and in this case what you categorical like and dislike. So they are like categories for all your preferences in life. … Personal values are generally operating in the background.” Because our values are often running unconsciously it’s easy to not align our lives with them and therefore it’s really helpful to get to intimately know our values. This is why making a conscious effort to identify my values was so important.
“Perhaps the most significant thing a person can know about [herself] is to understand [her] own system of values. Almost every thing we do is a reflection of our own personal value system. What do we mean by values? Our values are what we want out of life. No one is born with a set of values. Except for our basic physiological needs such as air, water, and food, most of our values are acquired after birth.”
To get to what really matters to me I pondered a few questions. What kind of things should be on my list? Which values are already at play? Using those questions as a starting point here are the words that resonated with me:
Of course this isn’t exhaustive list of all the possible values, but you can start with it. Or better yet, you can do a search of your own and see what you come up with. I actually encourage you to do your own search because getting into the habit of taking the time to make little efforts to help yourself is a form of self care and one of the best routine you can develop to stay close to you and dreams. To that end, Looking at my list I asked myself a few more questions to acquaint myself with my values:
- And are there values on my list that up until now have been unconsciously driving me?
- Am I living with in alignment with my values right now?
- What are the easiest things I can do to further align my life with them?
In my list, I now have a general expression of what is most important to me and what I categorical like. And as per Thumi’s definition there were a few surprises. I actually hesitated as I wrote a few of the words. Did I really want Beauty and Fitness on my list? Could I really be that superficial? Knowing I was going to share this with you, did I really want the world to know that I care about these kinds things? But the truth is that they do matter to me. And I quickly realized they matter for different reason than they might seems at first. Having just had surgery on my knee, I know what it means not to be free to move, go and do what I want. So Beauty, Fitness and Health are all linked to Freedom. Plus this exercises only works if I’m willing to accept me for how I am. So in the spirit of honesty, loving-kindness and acceptance I’m open to insight about who I am, what’s important to me and why I care without judgment. Once I’ve digested the information I can decide if my personal values continue to be inline with what I want to embrace going forward or not and adjusts them as is appropriate in the point and time in my life.
“Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.”
Let’s face it; a life is built one choice at time. We lay one brick on another. But unlike brink and mortar, our lives aren’t cemented in place. We always have the option to rethink, revise, replace and realign as we find what is just right for right now. With a variety of tools at my disposal I feel that much better prepared to answer the next question that presents itself. And in the process practice being flexible and making adjustments as is appropriate in the present moment.