Honoring your Values
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.
DISCREPANCIES 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
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.
ALIGNING YOURSELF 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 and fulfillment.
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
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.
For Further Reading