An Essential Step in Living a Fulfilled and Purposeful Life
Values are an important part of who we are. They highlight what we stand for and what is important to us. Values guide our behaviour and provide us with a personal code of conduct. But, how many of us can name our values, or name more than the 5 most basic?
The truth is many of us don’t give much consideration to or take the time to reflect on our values. We assume we know what’s important to us but when asked, can only name a few things.
One way to tap into your values is to ask yourself, what qualities do I look for in family and friends? These qualities are usually our own values and landmarks we use to guide ourselves.
Here’s the tricky part, values are often assigned by other people, tradition, education or media-driven ideas. The values we assume at a young age are often a result of external pressures of who we should be and what we should do; they are often based on the opinions, the expectations and the obligations of others. Our values are formed from the voices of our parents, teachers and social norms.
How can we recognize who we are and what is important to us?
When we filter out the noise and clear distractions, we create space to become aware and to hear our own voice. We tune in by becoming curious and asking questions about our formative years.
When did we receive praise?
What did our parents, teachers and other influential adults tell us was most important?
How did they expect us to behave?
Reflect and take an audit, did you absorb these ideas? If so, to what extent?
Let go of values that are not your values. I know! As humans we like to attach, letting go can be an uncomfortable step! However, when we let go, we make space for the new. In this case, we make space for what is important to us as defined by us.
Our everyday choices are driven by our values. When things work out well for us, our values are in line with our actions. It’s when things don’t work out well for us that our values are out of line with our actions.
Let’s take a look at Mary’s situation to better understand this concept.
Mary had recently been given the lead role on a project she was very excited about; it was challenging and promised to redirect her career path into a new, more desirable direction. Mary enjoys making a difference, adding value and contributing to others. This project was right up her ally as it provided the opportunity for her to work on the things most important to her.
A short time after Mary was assigned the project of her dreams, her manager asked if she would volunteer to organize the annual social event. The person normally assigned had been off on a leave and as it turns out, wasn’t returning when expected. It was last minute notice, but Mary’s manager felt if anyone could pull it off, it was Mary because she was viewed as the person in the office who was highly organized, highly self-motivated and immensely dedicated. Mary agreed to do it.
Later on, that evening, Mary sat in her living room and cried. She was left feeling exhausted at the very thought of the event. She wondered to herself, why did I agree to that? Why did I get sucked in? She was left feeling overwhelmed, resentful and even angry. The more she thought about it, the more she started to have feelings about her feelings and shame quickly crept in. Mary wasn’t sure how she had gotten herself into this mess and now she was left feeling defeated and unmotivated to tackle the event as well as the project she was so passionate about.
What was going on here?
Can you identify Mary’s values in relation to work and the project she was excited about?
Can you identify the values assigned to Mary by her manager?
Have you ever made a decision and afterwards regretted it?
What were the values behind the choice?
Another way to bring more awareness to what’s truly important to you, consider where you are spending your time and your money. Perhaps this week you might pause to consider the value behind the decision? Be curious about what is important to you that is driving you to make this choice?
Shetty, J. (2020). Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day. Simon & Schuster.