The importance of knowing your values
As a life coach, I often work with people who feel a bit stuck and unfulfilled. They view their current life situation as just “okay”. Not bad, but not great. On a scale of one to 10 most areas of tend to fall between four to six. They have gotten used to just getting by and staying in that grey area of fleeting contentment. They often say, “life isn’t so bad, and I just don’t even know where to start to make a change.” That is what keeps them stuck year after year.
When faced with someone experiencing unfulfillment, the first thing I ask is “are you living your life in line with your values?” This is often met with a blank expression where they realise they haven’t considered their values. Maybe they did at one point and lost touch along the way or maybe they never knew their values. Either way, it is important to know your values in order to live your best life.
When we feel stuck and unfulfilled it is often because we aren’t living our lives in line with our values.
You may wonder what is even meant by values, it seems a vague term and often associated with principles on how one (a person or a business) behaves ethically. The values I am describing is broader than that. It is simply what is most important to you at this point in your life. It is who you are, what you believe, and what motivates you. It starts with a (not so simple) question:
What is most important in my life?
A lot of people do not take the time to think about this question, and when they do, it can be daunting to answer. There are many exercises on the internet to help you identify your values. One way to start is to brainstorm all the things in life you desire (eg. financial security, family, travel, fun, fitness). The list may start off long (which is fine) as many of us would like many things in life.
The part that is crucial is to narrow down the list to your top values. To help narrow it down think of what is on the list that you need to be happy versus what is a nice to have. If you aren’t sure if one value is more important than another try putting it into actual situations, eg. if I got a promotion at work but it meant less time with my family how would that impact me? If it is a deal breaker, then family may be more important than career success.
For some, the exercise of reviewing a list of values and trying to narrow it down is just too overwhelming. If this is you, try this alternative. Think of who in your life you envy (yes, we all have experienced envy at one point or another!). Once you think of a person or people you envy, make a list of the reasons you envy that person. The reasons for the envy can be very revealing as it may be a glimpse into something you desire that you do not currently have in your life.
Once you have clarity on your core values, check in with yourself to see if these values are showing up in your day-to-day life. Chances are if you are stuck and unfulfilled you will find that you are not consistently living your values. For example, if you are someone who values learning, growth and adventure but has not changed your job and your living environment in 20 years, you may feel out of alignment with what you desire. It can signal that it is clearly time for a change.
Knowing your values will act as a compass guiding you when making decisions.
Think of all the times you were unsure about what direction to move in your life. Maybe you made a decision that you felt was right at the time or maybe you were unable to make any decision. By knowing what is most important to you in life, will allow you to make informed and rational decisions based on who you are and what you need.
By periodically checking in with your values (as they do change over time), you will start to feel that life is flowing naturally, and you have a sense of inner peace.
In the words of the Dalia Lama “open your arms to change but don’t let go of your values.”