What are your values? Do you know? Do you live your life paying attention to what makes you feel healthy and strong, or do you make your choices to keep other people from being upset with you or to not rock the boat and blend in with the background? Our lives looks VERY different depending on what we use to guide our decisions. When we are clear on our values, we can use them as guide or compass when making our decisions in life, but when they are not clear to us, we just react, often making decisions that cause us the least distress in the short term.
For example, if my friends invited me for a hike and I am very afraid of spiders, I might refuse the invitation because it seems pretty likely I’d have to deal with spiders! If, on the other hand, I was clear about my values, i.e., I value close interpersonal relationships, a connection with nature, and healthy living, I would be more likely to accept my friends’ invitation despite that fear.
A value is what is important to us in life, how we want to live. It reflects the way we want to “be” in the world. It is different from a goal because it is not something we can really say “check! Done that”, it is why the goal is important in the first place.
Without thinking about it too much, make a list of 10 things you would like to be different in your life. One way to help us clarify our values is think of a few things you want to do (goals), like exercise more, call my friends more, play music, have a better relationship etc.and write down why it is important for each of these to change. For example, if we take :
“I want to exercise more”– why do I want to this? Because I don’t like feeling tired all the time and I have no energy ->Why does that matter? Because my dad had a heart attack at 53 yo and I don’t want that to happen to me- why? Because I want to be around for my kids and grand kids -> So the values this goal connects with are Family and Health, it is because you want to be present and able to engage with you family as you age.
Wanting to belong : Humans are pack animals and we need safe and honest relationships with other humans to be well. When we don’t have that, when others dismiss, invalidate, ignore or hurt us emotionally or otherwise, we feel this is threatened and we get distressed. This value often gets connected to worries we will be rejected- like being late, disappointing people, saying no to others, needing work or friends and family relationships.
Wanting safety: we need to feel emotionally and physically safe and have a sense that this will continue. This value often gets connected to belonging, because since we are pack animals, we need to feel we have a tribe who will protect us and who we can count on. It also gets connected to money and work, because in our world, these are direct links to being able to maintain shelter, food etc.
Wanting purpose and meaning: We all need to feel we are making some sort of meaningful contribution. Whether we are paid for it or it is something we do on our own time, when people don’t feel they have purpose or meaning, they become unwell and distressed. This tends to connect to wanting to create and protect our legacy (whatever we are leaving behind in this world, this could be art, how we impacted others and they paid it forward, and most concretely- our children). This value often gets connected to work, religion, and the need/ desire to create.
Wanting health: we are programmed to be well and for our strong and healthy self to guide us towards what is healthy for us and what is not. Unfortunately the only way that strong and healthy self has to guide us that we are off track is through negative feedback – making us uncomfortable, causing us pain and distress. This connects to belonging, work, purpose and meaning and often gets connected to things like eating habits, sleep habits, exercise, balance etc
Now as you go through list of things you want to change and you track why those goals are important, what were the values that became clearer for you? Just being more aware of our values makes it more uncomfortable to ignore them.
Hope you all have a great week!