It seems almost silly to ask. You presume you know. Yet, if someone asked you to list your five most important values in life, could you? Most people can’t. And that they – and you – can’t probably contributes to half of life’s problems.
Think about it. If you look back on your life, you will probably find that, when you felt most frustrated, unhappy or lacking purpose, it was when you weren’t living your values.
Whether in a relationship, a job, or life-in-general, you have some innate sensibility that signals a lack of congruence. That is, you’re embracing a lifestyle or career or a relationship that doesn’t match who you really are. When that happens, almost every day, you’re doing things and pushing toward goals that don’t line up with your top values. Sometimes – too often in fact – it’s because you’re living by someone else’s values instead of your own.
Some would call it living an inauthentic life. And it’s painful to your SELF – to your soul.
If that sounds like you, you can change. You can regain control of your life – your SELF – by getting clear about what’s really important to you.
Once you know what your values are, look at what you are doing that make you feel unhappy. Chances are you’ll find that there is a mismatch between what you are doing and what’s important to you.
Here’s one example (from Victory by Design):
If you place more importance on being in an intimate relationship than having self-esteem or self-worth, you can easily choose the wrong mate – one who doesn’t treat you with respect. You may feel conflicted, but even when staying with that person further lowers your self-esteem, you are likely to continue in a relationship that doesn’t work for you and isn’t in your best interests.
Once you are fully aware of what you value, you can pay closer attention to what you are doing. If you value that intimate relationship but your relationship history tells you that you make mistakes that get you into trouble, you can create a series of “stop gap measures” or boundaries to help you. Things like:
- giving yourself a specific period of time before saying ‘yes’ to requests
- not becoming intimate for a given period of time
- recognizing the “first signs” of disrespect (not listening when you are speaking) or abuse (telling you what to do/wear) and making a commitment to leave the relationship
Those kinds of safeguards will help you stay true to your values and to who you really are.
Values seldom change. Values do shift in importance over time. Health might not have as high a ranking at age twenty as it at fifty. Values around sex and love can change in importance over time. Religion might be more important in old age than it was in mid-life. But if you didn’t value those things to begin with, they probably wouldn’t be important later on. Unless you have a significant emotional experience to make it different, your values are yours for a lifetime.
When you choose to take control of your life, your values are always your guiding light.