Is this truly my first post of 2022!? Time seems to be flying as of late!
I wanted to write about two words that have become common throughout social media and psychology texts and, really just about everywhere, it seems. I sort of scoffed at the idea of them at first but have been trying to apply them in my life and have really come to see how important they can be.
The first is values.
When I first heard about the importance of deciding on and defining your values, I thought it was silly. Don’t we all have the same values? Be kind, be honest, help others…basically be a good person. Additionally, as a Christian, choosing my own values felt almost like secularizing Biblical guidelines.
After further reading and discussions with my psychologist, however, I began to discover the value in…er, well…defining your values. I began to realize that not everyone has the same values that they hold dearest and define their lives by. Through reading Brene Brown’s most recent book, Atlas of the Heart, I began to discover the importance of defining and really understanding the words that we are using. This lead to intentional thinking about what is important in my life and what that means to me. Although Brene Brown’s research is specific to emotions, I’m confident we can apply the same principles in regards to values and other important words we use in our lives.
In reading writing by James Clear, I began to understand the importance of narrowing down the list of what is really important. The world, those around us, the things we believe all tell us what is important, but at some point I think we need to plant our feet and firmly decide what is important to us. What guides us? What inspires us? What do we want our lives to exemplify?
Additionally, I don’t think that defining these values has made me “less of” a Christian, but has instead provided tangible, more clarified ways for me to act on sometimes vague guidelines. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve realized how defining my values allows me to navigate the murky grey areas of life that will inevitably be encountered and that everyone struggles to make sense of from time to time.
This isn’t to say I’ve perfected living a value driven life. Far from it. However, when I focus on my values and ask how I can apply them to the situation I’m facing or the choice I’m making, I find I’m able to proceed with greater confidence and experience less regret.
Here’s some tips for narrowing down your list of core values:
- If you’re having trouble getting started, there are tons of lists of core values that can be found online. Scroll through some of these and write down the ones that really stand out. In my case, this was relatively easy and really helped me realize that different people do have different values!
- Search the definitions for the values you chose and make sure the words you chose define what you meant them to. In my case, this helped me gain clarity and narrow down my list. For example, I had both honor and integrity on my list, but after searching the meanings of both words, I realized that integrity was a better fit for me.
- Write out what each value means to you.
- Revisit your list from time to time and narrow it down if you need to or revise things that don’t apply anymore. These are for YOU, so edit as you see fit! Remember that too many values don’t make you a better person, just less focused.
Here is my current narrowed down list with the dictionary definitions and my definitions.
- Compassion : sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
- I care about others (human and animal) and try to help when and where I can. I am conscious of the intense suffering throughout the world but also aware of my limits and talents and choose to focus my time and energy where I can help most. Even if I’m not aware that someone is suffering, I know that they more than likely are in some way and therefore choose to respond to them with kindness.
- Peace : a state of tranquility or quiet.
- Within this chaotic world, there is not much that I can control, but I can create and maintain peace in my home and in my mind. I make decisions that contribute to, maintain and enhance this peace. I try to emanate peace and to be a peaceful rock for others in times of stress.
- Intentionality : done by intention (a determination to act in a certain way) or design.
- I make decisions and spend my time mindfully. I don’t waste time, money or energy and instead utilize it with intention to achieve my goals (including that of rest).
- Authenticity & Integrity : true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character and firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.
- I make an effort to discover who I am and what is important to me and to live accordingly. Although the world may pull me in different directions, I’m able to stand strong in my beliefs and values and create a life based on these.
- Curiosity : an eager desire to know or learn about something.
- I approach life with an interest in learning and an understanding that this learning will never end. I approach situations with curiosity instead of anxiety or anger and seek to understand rather than argue or judge.
I hope this post helps you to consider what values are important to you and how defining and applying them can improve your life! Have you ever sat down to consider your values? Do you have a list? I’d love to hear them if you’d like to share in the comments!
I’ll share about the second word in my next post – any guesses what it might be?