Values guide our lives, whether we realize it or not. We make choices based on a set of values, whether ours or others. When people don’t know their values, they take on other people’s values. Studies show that being in integrity with our values and embodying them leads to lasting fulfillment and satisfaction. Regardless of your life circumstances, you can create a routine that aligns with your values with some creativity. These four steps will help you start.
“The decisions you make are a choice of values that reflect your life in every way.”— Alice Waters
Every now and then, we come across people who seem to have it all together. They’ve created a lifestyle that meets their needs, and balance their priorities with ease and precision.
This idyllic life has nothing to do with financial standing, status, the pace of life, or how much free time they have (some people actually thrive on a busy schedule). It results from a keen awareness of where their focus and energy go and their care not to squander it. This inner compass guides them toward making choices that fulfill their needs.
If you want to be part of this club, you’ll have to take your values into account. Many studies show that being in integrity with your values leads to lasting fulfillment and satisfaction.
When you create your own value-based yardstick, you’ll make the best use of your most precious and limited resources: time, attention, energy, and willpower.
The source of values: understanding where values come from and their influence
Values are the fundamental beliefs that guide how we live, work, and connect with others. Values are subjective and personally defined through introspection and reflection.
Whether we realize it or not, we conduct ourselves and make choices based on a set of values. The question is whether those values are ours or if we’ve absorbed them from others.
As social creatures with a built-in need for acceptance and belonging, we’re easily swayed by the expectations of others. On top of that, we’re busier than ever in our fast-paced world.
Without the time and mental bandwidth, we live our lives by default and don’t devote the time and focus needed to assess our lives and be intentional about how we live our days.
Instead of plowing through our thoughts and feelings, we only take in our immediate surroundings — mostly materialistic values driven by the thirst for riches, fame, and success.
According to author and life coach, Martha Beck, despite these pervasive forces, at our deepest levels, we know what makes us happy and how to create the best life possible.
This knowledge is coded in our natures but collides with “culture,” which she defines as “a set of social standards that shape what we think and act.”
In her book, “The Way of Integrity,” Beck writes that every group, including families and institutions, has cultural rules and expectations that help them co-operate — some are explicit, like traffic laws, while others are implicit, like table manners.
Because of our enormous capacity to absorb and replicate the behavior of those around us, we rush to conform and ignore integral values.
“We abandon our true nature and become pawns of culture,” Beck writes. “You’re trying to act in ways that don’t feel right to you at the deepest level and when you do this, you feel out of integrity.”
There’s a heavy price to pay for living out of integrity:
- Emotionally, we feel sad, numb, bored, and irritable. We feel like we never have enough time to do the things that matter most
- Our immune systems and muscles weaken
- Our energy flattens
- We lose clarity, focus and drive
- We constantly feel challenged when attempting to reach our goals
If you identify with any of these symptoms, it’s time to take a closer look at the values that have been driving you thus far. Do away with any that aren’t serving you and replace them with those that do.
Aligning with our truth: breaking free from expectations to live our value
Values are the crucial foundation we need to live a life of purpose. If you don’t honor the values you live by, they’ll be chosen for you. For many people, it takes years before they finally realize that they’ve been living someone else’s values and not their own.
By clarifying our values and being assertive about living them out no matter what push-back we face from others, we can save ourselves from a life of regret.
History and fiction abound with role models who demonstrated the courage to walk away from imposed values and embrace their own. In the 2019 movie “Aladdin,” Princess Jasmine was determined to make herself heard and become a leader despite the rules of her culture.
Jafar, the royal vizier, noticed her fiery ambition and tried putting her in her place. He says to her, “Life will be kinder to you, Princess, once you accept these traditions… and understand it’s better for you to be seen and not heard.”
But Jasmine stood by her principles, rooted in her loyalty to the people in her kingdom and her family. She took charge of her destiny and pursued the path of a pioneer and not a doormat.
Jasmine demonstrated intentional living by scripting her personal values and consistently living in integrity. She was deliberate about every word she said and every move she made, gradually connecting her inside with her outside world.
While you won’t have to deal with a scheming wicked sorcerer, you’ll have to contend with other external influences that infringe on your values.
For instance, if you’re constantly being asked to work overtime, and one of your values is family time, you’ll have to set boundaries so that you can get the time you need with your loved ones.
Clarifying and embodying your values gives your life direction and meaning. Once you know them, you can commit to a routine and consciously choose your priorities. When the things you do match your values, life is good, and you’ll be satisfied with how things unfold on your journey.
Getting into integrity: how to create a routine that aligns with your values
Living your values is not a privilege but a birthright. With some creativity and flexibility, you can build a routine that aligns with your values no matter your circumstances.
Here are four steps to help you get there:
1. Identify your core values and make a list
Value clarification is a technique used to identify and understand your values. The process boils down to a simple question, “What matters most to me?”
Look back on your life and remember when you were the most happy, proud, and fulfilled. After that, ask yourself what made it significant and memorable.
For example, if one of your peak experiences was a trip to Hawaii as a teenager, you could list things like the sense of closeness you felt with your family or the sense of adventure you experienced while surfing. Based on this experience, you can tell that two of your values are relationships and adventure.
2. Evaluate your current lifestyle
Once you clarify your values, honestly evaluate the lifestyle you lead right now and how it matches up.
Your habits reflect who you are and who you’re becoming. When your daily actions align with your values, you’ll get closer to becoming the best version of yourself.
Let’s say that you wrote down health as a core value. You’ll need to track health-related habits. Are you indulging in late-night snacks instead of eating a healthy, nutritious dinner? Are you spending too much time scrolling Instagram instead of going to a yoga class?
This is a revealing exercise that can uncover the many ways our lifestyles can contradict what we believe in most. Be sure not to judge yourself too harshly and aim for compassion. We’re all works in progress.
3. Pay attention to negative feelings of being out of alignment
Check in with yourself to see the areas where you feel in flow and where you feel stuck. When you feel blocked, it’s most likely because you’re out of alignment with one of your values.
You’ll experience discomfort, boredom, guilt, or get overwhelmed when a situation feels wrong. Your body does not lie, and it always lets you know when you’re not being true to yourself.
Write down when you feel out of alignment with your values. What does it feel or look like for you when things seem off?
If one of your values is honesty, you’ll feel uncomfortable when you’re not truthful with others. Even white lies might feel wrong to you. Catch yourself every time you do it and identify the negative beliefs and patterns behind this so that you can work on it.
4. Create a value-oriented routine
This final step is the most exciting and challenging to execute. Initially, you’ll be motivated, but the enthusiasm may wear off after a couple of weeks.
Like any new habit, it can take a while before the new behavior feels natural and ingrained into your way of being. You need to stick with it until then.
Follow these steps to create a new routine based on your values:
1. Make a note of your current priorities: What is most important in your life right now that needs your attention? Are you in the early phase of building a business? Or are you a parent raising young kids who need your presence? Make a list of these priorities and the values that drive them.
2. Develop a plan to meet your priorities: Review your priorities and think about what you need to do to reach your goals. For instance, if your priorities center on being a parent, you could plan for more playtime with your children or take them to the movies on the weekend.
3. Spend less time on things that are not important: Look at your schedule and ask yourself which activities reflect your priorities and values? How can you spend less time on those that don’t or eliminate them entirely?
4. Make room for your priorities: After cleaning up your schedule, you can add the tasks that fulfill your values and priorities. Figure out if there’s a way to chunk tasks, streamline, or delegate them so that you get more done faster.
When Steve Jobs famously said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” he was cautioning us against living a life based on other people’s thinking. Knowing your values and acting on them ensures that you make the most out of every moment in your life.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Does your current routine align with your values? If not, what are some changes that you’re willing to make in the way you live and the choices you make?
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