How do you make difficult decisions? Whether to accept a job offer, invest in a new hobby, where to live, which course to study, who to spend time with... We are all faced with decisions every day that might make us question ourselves and our ability to make the ‘right’ decisions.
Perhaps you talk to friends for their opinion, or weigh up the options, write a pros and cons list... you might even just use your ‘gut’ feeling as to whether something feels like the right choice.
How about using your values to help guide you when you make decisions?
Do you even know what your values are?
It struck me recently whilst mulling over a big change at work that was being pushed in my direction; I like my job, I love working with my team. But asking me to commit for another year with some changes to my contract didn’t feel quite right.
I started to analyse why this was and around the same time someone posed the question to me:
“What are your values?”
Values are markers or guides, they are things that are important to you and how you live your life. Being conscious of your values means you can use them to help you shape your life. When confronted with something at work which made me feel uneasy, I was able to identify that this proposed change was incongruent with my values, which is why it didn’t ‘feel right’ to me. When actions and decisions are aligned with your values, life feels good, we feel happy, content and confident.
Being asked ‘what are your values?’ is a powerful question. I knew what I stood for and lived by but being asked to say the words out aloud was liberating. I quickly filled a page of A4 paper with scribbles of words that felt true to me. I read back the words to myself – some resonated more than others, which made me question what had I written. Were these my values all my own or had I ‘borrowed’ some from other people? Had I been true to myself or have I been living by other people’s values?
I went through the list again and highlighted those that resonated with me, core values that I knew instinctively were the most important to me. I crossed out the others. They weren’t bad values – but they weren’t mine. Living our lives by others’ values means we are not being true to ourselves. And how can we be truly happy and fulfilled if we are living by what is important to other people?
These are my core values, the ones that are most important to me and want to consciously live my life by:
Respect – acknowledging appreciation, being non-judgemental, celebrating diversity and striving for equality
Freedom – to choose, to make decisions based upon my values and being content with those decisions. Allowing myself time, space, reflection to feel free and fulfilled
Honesty – being honest with myself and with others. Being authentic and talking from the heart to allow deep connections with people
Family – being grounded and present. Loving unconditionally. Listening
Connection – embracing connection with others, encouraging connection and cultivating it
Compassion – demonstrating care for others and for myself. Self-care is important if we are to care for others
What can you do to live a happier, more fulfilled life?
Identify your values. You may come up with lots. Take time to read your words, read them out aloud. Do they resonate with you when you speak them? Do they feel true to you? It is very easy for us to think our values belong to us but so often they are passed to us from family members, parents, teachers and friends which makes it hard for us to live authentically
Own your values! Be true to yourself. What is really important to you? What will you not compromise on in life?
Use your values to help you decide how to live your life. Once you identify your values and start to live by them, you will find it easier to make decisions and will feel more satisfaction in what you decide. This will lead to more confidence in, and being conscious of, what you want out of life and how to achieve it.
Consciously living according to your values will change your life! Being able to determine whether something is in accordance with your core values will enable you to make decisions based upon what will make you truly happy. Living by others’ values or doing things in life than don’t serve you will not bring you true happiness. You will find that just by identifying your values and aligning your life to them will bring a shift in how you approach your life. This is when the magic happens and you will be able to live the best life you can possibly live, and feel happy and fulfilled.