Think You Know Your Values? Think Again, and Again.

What is truly important to you in life? You’re probably staring at a list of concrete tasks that you ALREADY know won’t get finished today and thinking, “This question is not going to get me anywhere. It’s not worth my time”

What you don’t yet realize is that becoming aware of your values and continually committing to build them into your life, could change the way you look at that to-do list, forever.

Knowing and living into your values allows you to:

  • Clearly recognize the unimportant and excess tasks that can come off your list right now.

  • Be more confident in the efforts you choose to prioritize.

  • Have clarity and purpose in the overarching goals you’re working toward.

  • Trade your reliance on others’ approval and expectations for the freedom of knowing what you want.

Sounds great, right?

But you think you already know your values! They’re what you were raised with, after all, right?

With that, we would disagree. We’ve spent the last two years undoing our preconceptions about our values that were based on what our families and peers have done for generations. We realized that our beliefs, priorities, and circumstances no longer lined up with the domestic life we had built for ourselves, so we reassessed our values and re-created a lifestyle that brings us joy.

Values change over time. Acknowledging and living into that constant evolution allows for greatest personal growth and self-transcendence.

The “way you’ve always done things” may not be serving you anymore, and basing your priorities on values you no longer hold may be the source of your feeling unfulfilled in life.

For example, maybe a former version of yourself valued the excitement that comes with working for a startup company, but now you find yourself wanting more security in your career. Maybe the opposite experience resonates with you - that you once valued the status that comes with climbing the corporate ladder, but now have the desire for the flexibility of starting your own business. It is OK to feel and to respond to this shift in values, that many people ignore out of fear of shaking up the status quo.

Here are two exercises you can do to evaluate your values and align your lifestyle to them:

  1. CHECK IN ON YOUR VALUES EVERY YEAR

    A lot happens in 365 days. Set up a time for reflection each year, where you can examine your values and check in to make sure they’re still bringing you fulfillment in life. You can do this exercise during your self-check-in:

    • Make a list of activities and moments that were particularly enjoyable or fulfilling for you, that happened in the past 2-3 months.

    • Identify the themes across each activity and moment. Can you pick out what was important to you about those things? Consider what was important as your values.

    • Review your list of values from the previous year (or before doing this exercise for the first time, write down your current understanding of what your values are). Ask yourself, “Do these newly-identified values match up with what was true in the past?”

    • Repeat those same three steps to identify activities that leave you feeling drained and unfulfilled. What was motivating you to do those activities? Are those values worth cutting out of your life?

    Using your updated values, you can set up priorities for the next year.

  2. DEVELOP AN AWARENESS OF YOUR DEEPEST COMMITMENTS.

    Becoming more self-aware is a sure way to be able to notice when you’re continuing to do an activity that doesn’t match up with your values - when something just doesn’t feel right. When you realize that your actions are based on what others expect of you, and not what YOU really want.

    This awareness extends to knowing the difference between momentary discomfort, and a true shift in values.

    Values change, but not as frequently as other things like interests, favorite tv shows, and fashion trends. We think you should absolutely buck tradition when it doesn’t match your values anymore, but make sure you know that’s what is happening.

    To grow in self-awareness, we always recommend practicing mindfulness meditation, and journaling can be a good approach for recognizing and processing your thoughts as well. Then use this exercise to decide if it’s time for change:

    • For 2-3 weeks, track your level of fulfillment with your current circumstances. Use a journal to log how you’re feeling each day, and what you perceive is causing you to feel that way.

    • Then, evaluate the data. Are there many weeks in a row with no feeling of fulfillment? It’s time for a change. Are there a few days that got you down, but overall you’re feeling good? Then you may just need to change up some of the other factors at play.

    When you’re able to be aware of your reactions to your daily activities and notice any shifts in your fulfillment, you can re-evaluate and adjust along the way. This process doesn’t have to wait to happen just once a year!

 

We invite you to make this an intentional year, all about creating the life you want. You probably discovered a lot if you went through the suggested exercises.

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