By Poonam Sharma,
There has been considerable talk about values during this election
year. All sides hold passionate opinions about which particular
values are important and accurately reflect our identity as Americans.
Various groups lobby to have their personal values influence the
decisions made in Washington D.C., rousing considerable controversy
in the process.
So why does all this talk about values stir people up so much?
Values are intimately connected with our core sense of self.
In many ways they define who we are as human beings. Our values
make choices clear, even in the face of increasing information overload
and personal stress.
Whether you are a country or an individual, a clear internal
compass, such as a solid personal value system, can help you more
easily navigate your course through life. If you have an interest
in gaining clarity on your personal values and how to use them more
effectively, read on.
BETWEEN VALUES AND ACTIONS
Can you name your top five values? When asked, most of us will
come up with a list such as: (1) health, (2) family, (3) career,
(4) spirituality, and (5) financial security. It is easy to make
a list of values, but much more difficult to align your life with
those values. Research shows that merely coming up with a list is
insufficient to bring about change. Instead, identifying your values
and then working on narrowing any distance that might exist between
your stated values and your actions is essential.
So what does your actual behavior reveal? If family is important
to you, do your actions over the past year make this fact obvious?
Was "maintaining good health" on your list of top five
values? If so, what did you do this year to take care of your body?
If you have a passion for learning, how did you further your knowledge
and nurture your curiosity?
When your behavior is out of line with your core values, you
are out of integrity, and this makes most people at least slightly
uncomfortable, confused, or frustrated. Rather than changing, many
of us tend to tolerate things that drain our energy and chip away
at our very souls. The hesitation to change makes it difficult to
experience the fulfillment and peace that are the rewards of honoring
your values (and yourself).
If your personal values and your behavior are mismatched, don't
worry. Most of us need work in this area.
WITH YOUR CORE VALUES
The following are some suggestions for bringing your life more
in line with your personal value system.
1. Clarify your personal values. Write down
a list of your top 5 values. Examples include: learning, connection
with others, financial security, wisdom, humor, and spirituality.
(If you need help coming up with your list of values, check out
the list of over 500 values at humanityquest.com.) Be sure to list
your values in order of their importance to you.
2. Determine if you are out of alignment. How
well are you honoring your values in your daily life? Really be
honest with yourself. Examine how you actually spend your time.
It might be interesting to look at your calendar for the past few
months and see how your time was allocated. Or, perhaps, ask a family
member or close friend to give you their impression about what it
looks like you value.
3. Allocate your time wisely. Your life can
be lived more closely in line with what you cherish, but you must
be willing to devote some time to those things. So, slowly work
on eliminating the time you spend on things you are tolerating and
make choices that bring you closer to what's important. Each
choice you make either moves you more into integrity or further
away from yourself.
4. Give the very best of yourself to the people
and things you value most. Many of us make the mistake of devoting
too much of ourselves to "thankless" people and activities
that fail to bring us satisfaction. Isn't life just too short
to "put up" with activities and people you don't even
care about? At the passing of another year, make a conscious decision
to direct your energy into that which brings you ultimate peace
5. Review your progress periodically. Most of
us get motivated to make changes around the end of the year, but
lose momentum with time. Make an appointment with yourself three
months from now to see if it's time for another alignment.
Remember, that when you honor your values, you honor yourself.
Ultimate fulfillment can be found by living your life in integrity,
with your actions revealing who you are to the world, no matter
what your values.
Poonam Sharma, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and life
coach in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Sharma helps people improve
their health, find balance in their lives, and achieve their
most important personal and professional goals. Poonam Sharma,
Ph.D. may be contacted at