Below is an excerpt of my eBook New Year, New You. I hope you find it helpful!
In her fascinating book The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One, author Margaret Lobenstine writes: “People who aren’t fully committed to the values that their activities represent sputter through life, pulled in one direction by their commitments and in another by their spirits.”
A good portion of existential angst and internal conflict arises from misalignment between values and actions. We can say we value X, Y, Z—but if our actions show we actually value D, F and G…well, there’s disharmony.
Why do we make decisions and engage in behaviors that conflict with our core values? Two reasons:
1. We don’t even know our values
2. We’re (unconsciously) living someone else’s values (that we adopted as our own)
So how do we figure out our values—and know if they’re truly ours…or if they come from outside our core?
First, you must be brutally honest with yourself. What you really, truly value may very well conflict with what your family, religion, friends, teachers, community or society at large values. Here’s a list of things individuals value. There is no “right” or “wrong” value. And, even if you try to deem something “wrong”, or “useless” or “shallow” (often unconsciously), that doesn’t mean that you still don’t truly value it. This is why you must be honest about identifying your current values.
Note that I said “current”. This is because our values are not set in stone. What you value at age 20 won’t necessarily be what you value at age 40, 60 or 80.
Below is a list of over 50 values (many taken from Lobenstines’s book). If you can think of others, feel free to add to the list. Read over them, contemplate them and pick out at least five. You can compare this list against your feelings and preferences, as well as the results from the Writing and Collage exercises above to discern what you truly value. Also, compare this list against your answers from the Archetypes section and the personality types (if you’ve spotted yours).
Achievement. Affection. Appearance. Approval. Arts. Authority. Beauty. Career. Community. Creativity. Environment. Expertise. Fame. Family. Freedom (personal). Freedom (political). Generosity. Health (emotional). Health (physical). Home. Honesty. Integrity. Learning. Leisure. Love. Loyalty. Meaning. Money. Openness. Patriotism. Personal Growth. Pleasure. Progress. Popularity. Power. Privacy. Recognition. Relationships. Religion. Reputation. Respect. Risk-Taking. Security. Serenity. Social Acceptance. Socializing. Solitude. Spiritual Development. Status. Time. Winning. Wisdom.
If your decisions, goals and dreams are out of alignment with your core values, you will feel conflicted and unhappy. If you think about it, you can substitute the word “success” with “values”—because what you want (and need) to feel successful are directly connected to what you value.
Look at the five (or more) values you’ve selected. Ask yourself “What does that look like?”
What does “Community” look like to you? What about “Expertise”, “Family”, “Leisure”, “Risk-Taking”, “Solitude” and “Spiritual Development”—or whatever your personal values are?
Now, let’s try to determine if your activities—how you spend your time—are reflecting your values…or someone else’s.
Take a piece of paper and draw two lines to make three separate columns. At the top of the first column, write down Actions. At the top of the second column, write down Justification (it’s your reason for doing it). At the top of the third column, write Whose Values?.
List your hobbies, volunteer efforts, job tasks, commitments, errands, pursuits, daily habits and goals in the first column.
In the second column, write down your justification for each action. Why do you go to the gym every day, for example? Is it because it makes you feel strong and healthy? Or do you do it because you want to appear fit? Or because you like socializing with other exercisers? Or maybe it helps you get out of the house? Or perhaps because your mother is thin, and always remarks that “You’re looking chunky lately”?
You clean your house, top to bottom, every Saturday. Is your justification that you like (and need) a clean house? Or just that you’ve always done it, ever since you’ve been on your own? Or that you’re mother’s a clean freak—and gives your house the white glove test when she comes over?
In the third column, write down if the Action in column one reflects YOUR values—or THEIRS (external influence). You can write “Mine” if it’s yours—and “Theirs” if it’s from someone else.
Let’s say your justification for cleaning house every Saturday is “because that’s what I’ve always done”. Look deeper. Whose value is that? Is it because your Mom values a clean house? And may criticize you if it’s less than sparkling?
Then, it’s THEIRS (or HERS)—not yours.
Another example: You go to church twice every Sunday and once Wednesday night (Action). What’s your justification for attending church three times a week? Whose values does this attendance reflect?
Sometimes, the Whose Values? column may be BOTH (Mine and Theirs). And that’s fine.
But if you have actions, goals, decisions and dreams that aren’t reflecting YOUR values—then you’ve discovered why some endeavors feel boring, disempowering or useless. Consider what you’ll gain by eliminating them from your life. Time? Energy? Peace of mind? Harmony? Relief?