As part of my Spiritual renewal I made the decision that I needed to sit down and think about what values are most important to me and whether I am actually living by them. A value to me is defined as something which is important to me in the way that I live and work. It is something which is a priority to me and let’s me measure whether or not my life is turning out in the way that I want it to. In general when we live according to our values we feel happy and content. When we do not live by our values this is where something in your life can seem not quite right and is generally accompanied by a sense of unhappiness. This is why sitting down to identify your values is very important.
Knowing our values can help us identify the right path to choose in life and help us to make difficult decisions. Knowing your values is almost like having an internal compass pointing us in the right direction. When you don’t live by your values you can get that ‘lost’ feeling or the sense of never knowing where to start or how to solve our issues. We are out there in the mountains without knowing which direction we should go. It can feel pretty scary.
It’s important to always be aware of what your values are because as time goes by they can often change. Many people’s values change yet they carry on living their life the same way they always did and come across problems. My own example of this is when I was in my twenties I was a people pleaser, I had become the person that I thought other people wanted me to be. As time went on I had no sense of identity and knew nothing about how to be independent or have my own thoughts. This ended up with me being in a difficult relationship with a baby on the way. When baby came along I was all of a sudden responsible for this little life with little help from my partner and there was so little left of my identity that I ended up with post natel depression. As awful as this was it actually helped me pull myself out of a rut (eventually) and I learnt to be strong and find my identity again, even outside of being a mother. I’m a firm believer that life will throw at you the experiences and situations you need in order to evolve as a person.
So, how do we begin to identify our values. I found this easiest by looking at each of the roles in my life. You can also get ideas from thinking about a time in your life when you felt really happy – What we’re you doing? Were you with other people? If so, who? What other factors contributed to your happiness?
You can identify a time when you felt really proud. Why were you proud? Did other people share your pride? Who? What other factors contributed to your feeling of pride?
You can identify a time when you were the most fulfilled or satisfied. What need or desire was fulfilled? How and why did the experience give your life meaning? What other factors contributed to your feeling of fulfillment.
The first area I looked at was being a parent. In this area values which are important to me are family orientedness, calmness, compassion, altruism, empathy, enjoyment, love and openness.
In the area of relationships (with my partner) the values which are important to me are accountability, fidelity, freedom, honesty, love and openness.
in my work the values which are important to me are creativity, effectiveness, hard work, making a difference and service.
As an individual my values include altruism, balance, compassion, continuous improvement, creativity, effectiveness, family orientedness, freedom, making a difference, service, thankfulness and vision.
Looking at my list it seems like quite a lot of values to keep up with. Some can be perhaps bundled into one category. So I decided to prioritise my top five to concentrate on (subject to change!)
- Family orientedness
- Altruism (this also encompasses compassion, empathy, love and service)
- Honesty (also encompassing fidelity, freedom and openness)
- Continuous improvement (also encompassing effectiveness, vision, accountability and balance)
Am I living my life according to these values? I try as hard as I can but I know there is room for improvement in every area. At least now I have my starting place to set myself some goals and to keep me pointed in the right direction.