Are you living your life with purpose and direction? Do you have a clear sense of where you are going and what things you would like to do or achieve? Are you doing the things you love? If you answer yes to these questions then you are almost certainly living by your values. What was that? You didn’t answer yes to all those questions? Hmm… then you probably aren’t living by your values. Maybe you aren’t even clear about what your values are. Or maybe you ARE clear about your values, but for some reason what is actually showing up in your life is different. If either of those applies to you then you should read on…
What are values anyway?
Values are standards or ideals that we have about life, about the way we should behave, and about what is most important to us. They represent our highest tendencies. They embody all that we believe to be worthwhile, and can act as a guide towards expressing our most noble and fulfilling aspirations.
With the flow or against it?
If we consider that our values embody all that is most important for us, then it follows that if we are living in harmony with them we will be close to leading a fulfilling and meaningful life. Conversely, if our lives are out of sync with what we value then we are going to struggle and flounder our way through life.
Whilst some lucky people somehow manage to naturally follow the life of their dreams, many of us find ourselves trapped in mediocre lives. As we struggle to make a living and provide for our family in a competitive society, we often feel we are forced to make choices that deep down inside we’d rather not. Without a clear vision of our values we bumble along as we try to react to the unpredictable challenges that life throws at us. Once in a while we may look at some famous person in the media spotlight who seems to be leading a successful and focused life, achieving their dreams. Occasionally we see these inspiring figures on TV talking of their mission and the power that drives them, purpose and vitality beaming from their animated faces. For a brief moment we catch a glimpse of what could be possible for us, as we watch from the sofa where we collapse every evening trying to distract ourselves from the nagging feelings of dissatisfaction and unfulfilled longings.
But we don’t have to be condemned to forever wishing that life could be better. If you study the lives of those inspirational persons who have achieved their dreams, you will see that they are very clear about their values. They have gone through life making choices in accordance with those values, and in doing so have more or less created the life they want. Using your values as a compass you can navigate your way through the storms and uncharted seas of this life. Instead of being a victim of external circumstances you can create your own reality and mold the life you want.
Know your values, live your values; in 4 steps
1. The first step to living the life you really want is to get clear about your values. A great exercise you can do for this is to envision the life you are aiming for. Set aside some time when you won’t be disturbed, say for about 10 or 20 minutes, and sit down with a pen and paper. Close your eyes and start to visualize your ideal life. Imagine what it would be like to be living just the life you would love to have. Don’t worry about the limitations of money and skills… just let your imagination go wild! Imagine where you would be living, the physical environment, your house, the climate. Imagine what your job would be like… or maybe you would have your own business. Where would you be working? Would you have other colleagues around you? What would they be like? Now imagine how your personal relationships would be, romantic, family, friends, pets. Then imagine other aspects of your life… health, leisure activities, travel, spirituality. With this exercise go into as much detail as possible and try to visualize it clearly. When you are ready open your eyes again and write everything down in detail. You may want to write them down under separate headings for different categories.
2. The next step is to extract the most important values that this detailed vision represents. For each category identify what values are being expressed and compose a list with around 10 or 12 values.
3. The third step is to distill this list down and reduce it to your top 3 or 5 values. You’ll probably find that several from the first list can be combined under the umbrella of just a few values. You may also want to take more time for this step… sometimes it helps to come back to the list after a few days.
4. The final step is to manifest your top values in your life. This can be the most tricky step as often the values we profess to have may not be the same as what is actually showing up in our life. This can be as a result of our underlying beliefs which unconsciously guide our behavior as we try to meet our needs. As humans we all have basic needs that we try to meet in our everyday lives. Whether consciously or unconsciously we will try to fulfill the needs which are most important to us. However, our quality of life can be affected by how we choose to do that. We can try to fulfill our needs either in a negative and harmful way, or in a positive and empowering way. If the way we try to meet those needs is not in line with our values then we will experience conflict and discontent. When we are able to align our needs with our highest values then we will feel more complete and fulfilled. To be able to do this we need to identify and work through the underlying beliefs that hold us back. Going back to your top values, ask yourself if you are truly living by those values. If not, then what is actually showing up in your life? What do you think are the limiting underlying beliefs in that part of your life? What needs to happen in order to move away from those limiting beliefs and align with your values?
Give yourself a week to experiment with this value-finding exercise and by the end of the seven days you will have a clear idea of your values. You can then use that as your compass to help you make the right decisions and choose which way to go towards creating the life of your dreams.
Want to see a different perspective on this topic?
This post is part of a blog hop series sponsored by a group of Coaches from different coaching specialities. After commenting on my post below feel free to hop on over to their posts and see what else you can learn about Living By Your Values: