One of the kindest people I have ever known is a friend of my sister’s, her name is Renee, and she once asked me the hardest question I had ever been asked.
I like to consider myself a somewhat self-aware person. We were having a conversation about dating and her gentle and direct question “what do you have to offer in a relationship” just about put me in a seizure. My response “I don’t know”. Of course, I knew, all the answers were there in my head, I just didn’t know how to say it.
It is the same for values. We all have them, but when faced each day with situations that call for us to respond to our values, we are stuck, uncertain what to do.
Values inform our thoughts, words and actions. The decisions we make are a reflection of our values and beliefs. The world sees who we are based on the values we use to make our choices. Had I been clear on my values, that answer may have been more natural. Answers in job interviews, at the parties, dating, elevator conversations, they are all easier when we know without question what our values are.
How to figure it out:
- What sets your teeth on edge on social media?
- What makes your heart soar in life? What gets you excited?
- What matters most to you?
- When you are feeling the most satisfied, what is going on around you?
- Write out as many values that you can as they come to you when the list is finished number them in importance 1-5.
Now, get creative and have fun. Perculate on these ideas for a while. Our brain forgets the mundane and dull. Remember that two-hour date you had with the monotone speaker that lasted 1 hour 58 minutes longer than it should have? Of course, you don’t. You can thank cognitive thinking for that, we don’t hang onto these moments. After walking away from the list, what still feels like a five for you is what calls you, only fives will do. Flesh out these simple words and give them purpose and meaning in your life. Go deep, use words that trigger something in you, and then go deeper. Remember your strengths and how these simple words can have meaning for you.
I will help you by showing you one of mine. Empathy is one of my values, and it is the hardest value for me. I jump to conclusions and solutions which is not very empathetic. So I had to flesh this out in a way that wasn’t all flowers and sunshine, or I wouldn’t be able to follow through.
“I honour the people I encounter by hearing them and putting aside my own experience and examine my attitude towards what they are experiencing. I am aware that their experience is separate from my own”
First, make the statement on the value then put it to work the best way you chose.
You can also use your values as tangible goals. For example, if learning is a value you have chosen, add an actionable plan to your new moon calendar. Pick up a new book on a topic you want to understand more, or you can order an Udemy course.
Do your best to think of your values in moments of stress but also in moments of joy.