What exactly do you want? About Valued Living
It’s All Choices
Do I hit the snooze button and sleep a little longer or get up and go to the gym?
Do I call my mother and try to have a real conversation or just send her a quick text and avoid conflict?
Do I approach my boss about working on project X where I might fail or I might be awesome or do I stick to project Y that is boring but a sure thing?
You may have these choices and a hundred more in a single day. Behind all of your chosen behaviors are thoughts and feelings and urges and memories. Some pleasant, some not so much. Much of the work I do with clients is around dealing with these. But why are you dealing with them in the first place?
Values Inform Choices
I think that knowing what you value for your life is so important and the best way to live. I often bring up the concept of values with my clients and I think it is a really important part of moving your life in the direction you want. It isn’t enough to become more mindful, learn how to access and be present to your often painful feelings, and be willing to have difficult thoughts. The point is to be willing because you are moving your life in your valued direction.
I will get up and go to the gym because I value a healthy body.
I will call my mother and have a real conversation because I value an authentic relationship with her.
I will talk to my boss about working on project X because I value work where I grow as a person and make a difference in the world.
Notice that in the above examples, I picked the action that matched my values, even though there were probably difficult and challenging feelings and thoughts that accompanied committing to these choices. I'm going to write more about the intersection of these in future posts.
Values vs. Goals
Knowing what you value is important. But what is a value? To me, it is the direction that your life is taking. An example might help:
Not a value:
“I want a job where I make six figures and I have a commute of less than 30 minutes and I work in project management.”
These are goals. They are concrete and measureable things. You can work hard and achieve all of these, and then what? Then how will you gauge your career? You’ll probably come up with some new goals.
“I value work where I am interacting with lots of people and feel that my creative side is put to good use. I value helping people improve themselves. I value work that makes things better in my community.”
Do you see how these are much broader directions than concrete measures? You could spend your entire life pursuing these values and you could pursue them in many ways. You could accomplish all of your goals, come up with new goals, and still be moving your life in a valued direction. In fact, you never really "arrive" at your value. It is like driving in a specific direction, rather than arriving at a specific destination.
Where do you want your life to go?
Coming up with your values isn’t hard but it does require some thought. Below is a list to get your thoughts going. I list some of the big realms that I think everyone wrestles with. You can always add others.
What do you envision for yourself regarding an intimate relationship with another? What kind of person would you be in this relationship? How do you want to show up to the other in this relationship?
What do you bring to the relationships you have with both your family of origin and your chosen family? What quality of relationships do you value? If you’re a parent, how do you show up as a parent and what do you value in that role?
friendships and social engagement:
What does this look like? What do you want to see when you think about engaging with others? What social experiences do you value?
What exactly do you value about your health?
What kind of person do you want to be in a career? How do you see yourself interacting with your career and the role it plays in your life? What does it look like when you show up and do your job?
Spirituality may be important to you, or maybe being politically active and making change in the world is important, or perhaps you have a vision for the kind of education and training you would like to see for yourself. These are all realms where you can determine your valued life direction.
One More Tip
If you do this work, write it down. You can always change it but writing it down will make it real for you. And you'll have something tangible to refer to later.