Catch up on this core values series here:
Is figuring out our core values really worth it? I’d have to say a resounding, “Yes!” I know when I finally started discovering what my values really are it was such an aha moment.
After striving for so many years towards the things I thought were supposed to be important to me, I finally understood why my accomplishments still felt so empty. They just weren’t in alignment with what actually mattered to me. Sometimes I even shut out my true values to get where I thought I was supposed to be.
For me, discovering my core values was a huge relief. I was finally starting to understand who I am…and believing it’s ok to be who I am. It’s still not easy to go against what I think is expected of me, but knowing what my own priorities are helps guide me in the direction where I can be most satisfied and make the biggest difference.
But is knowing our values enough? How do we make them real in our lives?
There isn’t a one-and-done answer to this question. It’s a process…especially for those of us who have spent years trying to live by someone else’s values. But the great thing is that every day you’re still living is another day you can add more of what’s most important to you into your life.
First, take a few minutes and think about what your life looks like one year, five years, or even ten years in the future if you’re living as your best, truest self. Not the ideal life others would imagine for you, but what you truly want. Think about all the aspects of life—family, career, environment, hobbies, leisure time, finances, personal growth, etc.
Now think about how the each of the values you’ve chosen as yours will guide you toward making your ideal future your reality. If you’re still struggling to narrow down your values, thinking about which values seem most important in getting you where you want to go might help.
All that might still feel rather broad and nebulous. So let’s focus in and think about how to make our values actionable parts of our lives today. For each of your values make a list of actions you can take this week to bring more of that value into your life. They don’t have to be big actions. The point is not to make drastic changes all at once. Instead look for ways you can live in alignment with your values a little bit more each day.
For example, one of my values is helpfulness. If I just try to come up with the biggest, grandest helpful gesture I can think of, I freeze under the pressure. Instead I can be on the lookout for little ways to help people every day. I can even brainstorm a list of ways I can help others. I can watch a friend’s kids while she grocery shops, listen to my husband talk through a problem at work, take someone a meal, brush the snow off my neighbor’s car, stay a few extra minutes to clean up after an event, or even just offer a smile to someone I meet.
I feel more fulfilled if I am living out my value of helpfulness. By looking for small ways I can help someone each day I’m also growing a habit of noticing opportunities to help. I am building one of my core values into a vibrant, active part of my everyday life. When I’m living in alignment with my values in the small everyday things, it’s easier to use them as guides for the big decisions in life. As I add my values more and more into my everyday life, I live more and more as who I really am.
So now it’s your turn. What is an action you’re going to take this week to start living more in alignment with one of your values?