When we live our lives without any reflective quality our lives can start to feel somewhat valueless. Whether something makes me happy or sad may not be the greatest determinant for what one should do in life. When we are attuned to our values and what we really care about we have a better way to determine who we are and what we want out of life.
Walking Your Why
In her book, “Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive In Work And Life,” Susan David, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School, encourages her readers to be in touch with their values. She calls this “walking your why.” In a culture that is constantly feeding us with advertising and images that attempt to define our values and compare us to each other it is quite easy to lose ourselves in mindless decision making.
Thoughtless decisions are ones that are not made with any kind of reflective nature. Davis points out that we are much more influenced by the people around us than we think. In one study she cites people are thirty percent more likely to buy something on a plane if their seat mate buys something. This type of outside influence can lead to a lot of poor decisions.
Using Our Values
According to David the way to make better decisions is to constantly be in touch with what truly matters to us. The things we find valuable in our lives (relationships, career, being healthy) should be the sign posts that help us make good decisions.
To make decisions that match up with the way you hope to live going forward, you have to be in touch with the things that matter to you so you can use them as signposts. If you’ve never taken the time to sort out your values, you’re always winging it, which is how we wind up frittering away our time— surfing the Internet, forwarding pointless email chain letters, cycling through hours of reality TV— and feeling unfulfilled. You see this lack of clear intention played out in people’s choices (or lack thereof) in everything from romantic partners to vacations (David, 2016).
How Do We Live Our Values?
Sounds simple. Live by your values. However how do we do this?
First you have to define what you value. Taking the time to sit down and spend time analyzing the things in your life that are important to you is a big part of living your values.
David offers some helpful questions to do this.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to start identifying your values:
Deep down, what matters to me?
What relationships do I want to build?
What do I want my life to be about?
How do I feel most of the time?
What kinds of situations make me feel most vital?
What would my life look like, and what new things would I pursueIf a miracle occurred and all the anxiety and stress in my life were suddenly gone? (David, 2016).
By answering these and other questions you can begin to get clear about the things you want to put your energy towards. It also can help you to stop putting energy towards things you don’t care about.
My Personal Values
In my own life I have developed a clear sense of the things that I value in life. My wife and two young boys are the most important people. My friends and extended family are also people I continually reach out to and prioritize.
As I go through my life it is easy to get distracted in outside relationships or other activities that don’t matter to me. In order to really make my life have meaning I continually come back to what I value.
One thing that is really important to me is protecting our planet. I am always looking at ways that I can have less of an impact on our planetary resources. This means that I ride my bike to work, I drive an electric car and I have reduced the amount of meat I consume. This value helps me to make decisions that are more satisfying for me because when I make them they are connected to what I care about.
Things I Value As A Counselor
Another important value in my life is my work as a counselor. I love this work and, although it is difficult, I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping my clients. With this value in my mind I continually work to prioritize things that help market by work (writing this newsletter for example). And, I also take new trainings to improve my skills and I read books to help me be a better counselor. Instead of watching mindless Netflix shows (admittedly I do this on occasion) I prioritize reading at night after spending time with my wife and young boys.
By connecting to my values I have found an easier time sifting through the many distractions that come up in our technological culture. It isn’t always easy. I want to work as a counselor and I want to be home with my family. These are difficult decisions and when I choose one the other one is denied. I think there will always be a feeling of loss on both sides. It will never be simple. In the end it is about living my life more consciously.
As David says:
By knowing who you are and what you stand for, you come to life’s choices with the most powerful tool of all: your full self (David, 2016).
Wishing You The Day You Need To Have!
Photo by, Riccardo Annandale – Unsplash
If you’ve been struggling to find what values are important to you, contact me at