“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.” ~Ayn Rand
For too many years, I played the part of the perfect little southern girl: I kept my mouth shut and my opinions to myself. I dressed properly, including panty hose, slips, and girdles. I didn’t laugh too loudly in public. I did what I was told.
You see, I learned at an early age that I had to do this in order to always be seen as a “good little girl” (and avoid getting punished). I continued the same behavior after I got married, doing what my husband expected of me and keeping up the appearances of a perfect life behind a white picket fence.
I was a mental and emotional chameleon, changing my viewpoints and values to match first those of my parents and then those of my husband. Secretly, inside myself, I had my own dreams and opinions, ideas, and desires. Eventually I realized that in order to be happy, I needed to learn to live outside the box of my upbringing.
When I began to explore my heart’s desires, to find myself through travel, and to see what felt right and wrong to my heart and soul, my life blossomed. I had finally begun creating a life that I loved on my own terms.
Last fall, one of my mentors asked me, “What are your values?” I have to confess that I was stumped. Those on-the-surface questions are really much deeper than they first seem. I’m a coach. I’m a writer. I’m a thinker. It should be easy to answer.
From experience, I knew that if my first response to a question was “I don’t know,” then I was telling myself a little white lie. Somewhere within my heart was the answer, but I hadn’t really explored it.
What Are Values?
We all have them—they are as ingrained within us as our blood types or preference for sweet or salty foods. But have you actually defined them? I’m not talking about morals, which are defined by society.
Values are who you are, not who you think you should be in order to fit in.
How Do You Claim Your Values?
I’ve learned from experience that when we get still and listen to the small voice of our heart, the answers we are seeking will come to us. To claim your values, it’s helpful to have a list to work from.
Brainstorm a list of common (and uncommon) values like abundance, compassion, courage, health, and honor. Set them aside. (You can also do an Internet search for “list of values” or “values clarification exercise.”)
After you have a list of values to choose from, set a timer for three minutes. Read through the list of values and circle every one that your gut says fits you. When the timer goes off, copy all the circled words down into a shiny new list.
This list will be the perfect place to really dig into what your heart tells you about which values are truly yours and cross out any of the values that feel like they belong to others. What a gift of clarity!
Why is Naming Your Values Important?
Values are the backbone of life. They are the beacons on our path—in personal life and in business. When you identify your values and get clear with them, something magical happens: They come alive in ways you haven’t even imagined and illuminate and nurture your entire life from the inside out.
If we don’t know what’s important to us, we spend a lot of time wandering and wondering what we should be doing. There is tremendous power in discovering and living according to our highest values, and experiencing inner peace as the natural consequence.
When actions and values are aligned, life feels content, in harmony with your purpose; you have peace of mind, even in challenging times.
Because, if you aren’t clear on your personal values, then how can you figure out what you really want? And how can you be sure that your actions are congruent with who you are at your core?
I know it seems easier to just go with the flow and see where the current takes us. But going through the process to get clear about your values will allow you to walk the path of your true choosing and help guide you toward a satisfying, happy, and fulfilling life.
Time is a limited resource. Once we spend a day, it's gone forever. If we waste that day by investing our time in ways that don't set our soul on fire, then that loss is permanent. I get it. I often get distracted and fall into the trap of differing priorities.
Getting Clear on My Values Enhanced Every Day Living
When I took the time to get clear about what my personal values truly were, I had this incredible yardstick at hand to measure the congruency of my goals.
Passion is a driving force in every area of my world. If I am not passionate about my life, my projects, and each and every client I work with, then I am of no service to others or myself.
Love is a clearly a top value for me. I moved 1,000 miles from the place I used to call home to create a life with my partner in Ohio.
Because I value connection, I keep my client list small. And to blend both love and connection, I work from home and travel often with my partner so that we are together more often.
Clarity around my personal values also has assisted me in making decisions more quickly, and better yet, I’ve found a greater satisfaction around the decisions I make.
This has created a domino effect of goodness in my world. The values that led me to better decision making and satisfaction around those decisions led me along the path to greater confidence in myself, and an overall feeling of happiness around my day-to-day life.
As far as I’m concerned, happiness is not about perfect big events in life, but about the culmination of those small moments of every day living.
It also allowed me to see the insanity of trying to be the “good little girl” who pleases everyone. Because, what’s the sense in pleasing everyone if you sacrifice yourself in the pursuit?
What Will You Gain by Developing a List of Your Personal Values?
Values serve as a compass so that, day after day, we're moving closer and closer to our definition of the “best” life we could possibly live.
Once we’ve named our personal values, it’s easier to identify what’s not helping us achieve a life that we are in love with.
Your values are the building blocks of the type of life you truly want. They will serve as the light that illuminates your path in life. And by having that light, you will discover your way to happiness.
Photo by slalit