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What if this new year, instead of coming up with goals or resolutions, we focused on our values?
What are your values, and are you living consistently with those values? When pondering that question, this quote by Mahatma Gandhi comes to mind:
How do you know if you’re living your values?
A life lived congruently with values is typically one that feels fulfilled and purposeful. In contrast, living out of alignment with values often results in unhappiness, discontent, and depression.
Think of a time you weren’t being true to your values, how did you feel? How did you feel about yourself?
What are values?
Values are the things that matter most to us, they’re what make our lives meaningful. In other words, values are the heart’s deepest desire for how you want to behave as a human being.
These principles are different for everyone, although some of us share similar values and are attracted to those with similar standards. Values are a collection of guiding principles, what you feel is important and desirable in your life. Often values refer to personal conduct, what’s okay and what’s important. There is no right or wrong.
What values are not
Values are different form goals, morals, and ethics:
- Goals are things you do or want to do, an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envision, plan, and commit to achieve.
- Morals are a person’s standards of behavior or personal principles concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do
- Ethics also refer to “right and wrong” conduct or behaviors, but typically come from an external source,
Examples of values
Work/Education – career, workplace
Relationships – family, friends, partner
Personal Growth/health – spirituality, emotional, and physical well-being
Leisure – travel, hobbies, interests
And within values are values-congruent behaviors.
For example, if you value health; think about the actions that you might stop or start doing if you engaged in more health promoting behaviors. How would you treat your body differently if you behaved like the sort of person that values health?
For the start of the new year, instead of setting resolutions, do a values check and ask yourself the following questions:
What are the qualities that are most important to YOU?
Am I living by my values? Are my actions and behaviors consistent with the person I want to be?
If the answer is yes, BRAVO for the areas that you’re feeling good about and keep going!
If the answer if no, what’s getting in the way and what can you change?
Our emotions are a valuable compass, often informing us what we value in our life, and what is working or not working for us. If we can allow ourselves to be quiet and still, and really connect with our feelings, we can begin to clarify not only true to ourselves, but our best selves.
Barriers to a values-congruent life
Sometimes negative thoughts or avoidance can keep us from behaving like the best version of ourselves. Other times, we may be afraid to let go of some values-incongruent behaviors.
When you’re not living your life consistently with your values, it often reinforces the problematic behaviors, and may result in depression, anxiety, and isolation. Further, your world may get very small and you may experience a deep sense of not being true to yourself and questioning aspects of your identity.
Too often, folks over identify with goal setting and resolutions. We often hear of people setting an emotional goal (e.g., “I want to feel confident”) or an outcome goal (e.g., “I want to lose 20 pounds”) both of which are problematic because neither are actionable, easily attained or controlled.
This year, instead of making resolutions similar to those above, consider how you can live your life consistent with the values that are most important to you. Identify the behaviors that support the type of human being you want to be. You may be surprised by the impact that has on your sense of self and how living a life congruent with your values also impacts other areas of your life.
Sometimes it’s difficult to identify what is genuinely important to you, or you may feel ashamed for acting in a way inconsistent with your values. If the thought of taking the first step of behaving like your best self feels daunting, you may benefit from working with a professional who can guide and support you through the process. Remember, working with a therapist is normal and okay! Reach out to me if I can be of help.
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