Live by Your Values and Everything Else Will Fall into Place

Smiling Woman

“Until you make peace with who you are, you will never be content with what you have.” ~Doris Mortman

As I sit here writing this, I am still in the middle of a huge shift in my life, a shift that has seen me move from living by other people’s values and expectations to identifying and living by my own.

The catalyst for change was a health scare when, on my thirtieth birthday, my doctor told me that I may have cervical cancer. Luckily, I got the all clear, but something had shifted and I realized how dissatisfied with my life I was. I felt like I was swimming against the tide; everything was a struggle.

At the time I was well on my way to achieving what I wanted: money, a high-status job, and the ability to buy lots of stuff.

I owned my own house and a car and I was out of the house twelve to thirteen hours a day working. For me, that was success. However, my ambition just seemed to disappear overnight and I went into freefall.

I felt exhausted, I was ill all the time, drinking and eating too much, and it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed in the morning to go to work. (I was doing a daily four-hour commute.) To quote Julie Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love, “You know what I felt this morning? Nothing. No passion, no spark, no faith, no heat, no nothing!”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but as soon as I started to question my life, I subconsciously communicated to the universe that I wanted—needed—to change things.

I started taking on freelance work to see if I could reignite my passion for my career. I found that people wanted my services, which increased my confidence and made me realize just how low I felt after working for years in a macho and competitive environment that was never going to nourish me.

I suddenly thought, I can earn money as a freelancer, I should start my own business. I decided to keep going at my current job for another six months and build the business in what little spare time I had.

An hour after making that decision, I had yet another confrontational email from a colleague based on a lie told by another. I resigned that day. I already felt lighter.

I went into business for myself and I hated it. Now I know that it was because I wasn’t ready, plus I went into business as a marketing consultant, which I wasn’t passionate about.

Working on my own at home didn’t suit me, and the income instability meant I hit rock bottom. There were panic attacks, more illness, and I am certain I was fast heading to the stage where I would be needing antidepressants.

As I hit rock bottom, I had an epiphany and realized that two of the main things I need in life are:

1. Human interaction on an almost daily basis

2. A certain level of security—that’s why I was so keen to buy a house, when most twenty-five-year-olds are renting and moving around. I am a homebody to my core.

If a base level of security and being alone all the time are my life ‘deal breakers,' then why had I been trying to build a life that didn’t incorporate them? I needed to get in touch with my real values.

I began reading books and articles, anything I could get my hands on, about personal values and how to identify them.

I identified the values I had been living by for the past thirty years, the values that had been the basis of every major life decision I had ever made. I have listed the top ten below:

Status achieved through career

  • Money and wealth
  • Advancement — This is great for me if advancement is personal or spiritual, but in this case it was centered on career and money.
  • Affluence
  • Ambition
  • Recognition
  • Leadership
  • Materialism
  • Perfection
  • Achievement — I still want to achieve and I still have goals, but it’s different when it is a goal you have set based on your core values.

The values that I had been living by were not mine but a close family member’s. They are not bad values, but they are not my values; they are not the things that are most important to me and how I live my life.

So who was I? What were my values? I had no idea.

At this point I had been trying to carry on with my business to earn money to pay the bills while ‘finding myself’ and interviewing for jobs. I got the first role I applied for as the marketing manager for a lifestyle business and a much more suitable environment for me as a person. It has allowed me to carry on with my voyage of self-discovery.

My ten core values, the values that I now live by, are:

  • Security
  • Positive/fulfilling relationships with friends and family
  • Contentment — I love the simple things; they make me feel at my most content.
  • Peace — I can’t handle confrontation, drama, loud environments, or unnecessary competition; that’s why my previous job in a busy and noisy city for a company with a loud and competitive environment didn’t suit me.
  • Fun  — Since I started living by my values, life has become so much more fun.
  • Laughter — I love a good laugh; my friends, family, a lighter outlook on life, and the odd funny film or stand-up comedy routine provide this for me.
  • Loyalty — I am loyal to my family, friends, colleagues, and community.
  • Financial freedom — This doesn’t mean earning lots of money to me, but actually keeping life simple and living within my means.
  • Passion — Since writing this article I have moved forward and decided that my true passion lies in writing, so I have recently set up as a freelance copywriter and blogger. This will mean a lot of changes and new challenges, but I am very excited about the future.
  • Simplicity — This for me goes hand in hand with most of the other nine values; a simple life suits me.

So what wisdom can I pass on after my journey?

1. Your core values play a huge part in how you decide to live your life.

If you are unhappy with parts of your life—if you are suffering from stress, illnesses, and feel generally uneasy in the living of everyday life—then it might be time to go inside yourself and answer honestly the questions “What is important to me?” and “How do I want to live my life?”

You need to spend time identifying your values; it’s well worth the effort.

2. Don’t live by someone else’s values.

This makes life hard because you are never being true to yourself. It is so easy to do this because so many people, parents, family members, and teachers have a say in how we should be living our lives, and this can mean that we develop their values and not our own.

3. Once you start living by your values, life shifts in the most beautiful of ways.

You don’t hold on to the things that no longer serve you because you have everything you need within yourself. For example, I realized that although I was a good marketing manager, it wasn’t my passion.

I’ve taken the leap and decided to try writing full time. This may mean many more life changes and it’s scary, but I need to follow my heart.

Photo by Elade Manu

About Claire Hodgson

Claire is a former people pleaser and marketer, turned business and life coach. She is the founder of Burn the Corset and Authentic Marketing – Start your love affair with marketing & grow your business. Claire works with women and female business owners, guiding them toward success through their authentic selves. Follow Claire on Twitter @Grow_Thrive_Biz and on Facebook.

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
  • Lee

    Thanks Claire for this inspiring article. I sometimes get caught in the values of others and what they think of me to the point it becomes stressful. When I sat down one day and thought about all the things that make me happy and what I value my life began to become more satisfying.

  • Couldn’t agree more!
    My life became much more fulfilling since i started moving towards my values…
    And this has be be done on daily basis. On the days I don’t move towards my values, i feel a sense of unease.
    This feeling of unease was a normal thing before, but now I have much more clarity about why I am feeling the way i do. Everyday I feel exuberant and filled with joy when i wake up. cause I know i am going to spend whole day doing something which will make me extremely happy.
    I would suggest to all that find your values, and live by them daily. There is no greater joy.

  • Noctu Sova

    Not being able to move on, developing Stockholm syndrome, thinking other people know what’s best for me.
    I’m trying to be brave enough to put all of it in the waste bin.

    I may even be giving up college.
    I just want to develop the nerdy, hippy self I am.
    I want to do volunteer work, especially if it involves helping children show artistic expression.
    I want to ditch the Mr.Spock act and act silly and say what’s on my mind.
    I want quadratic equations to just be something that happens to someone else :3

  • Leah

    Thank you for sharing this article. I am going through a similar situation in my life right now, and I do believe that figuring out my values will lead me to the right path. It’s so easy to get influenced by the people that surround us.

  • This is the BEST thing I’ve read today and I’ll be spreading it to my tribe. Thanks

  • Brandi Leath

    That is such an awesome article and exactly what I needed today. I could not agree more!!!! Thank you!

  • Thank you all so much for your lovely comments. It’s not easy to navigate our lives in the way that we want to so to everyone making changes – you are amazing!!! xx

  • Go for it, figuring out my values has changed everything for me and there’s more to come i’m sure of it! Good luck!

  • The problem I’ve always had is that, like you, I want to try so many different things but I have gone down the route of selecting one path because that’s what we are told to do. Not any more, we need to explore life and go for our dreams no matter how varied!

  • Happiness is what we should be aiming for, sounds like you are on the right path 🙂

  • You’re very welcome Lee! I still have to catch myself sometimes, it’s so easy to fall back into old patterns. I always try to take time out to think about my life and if it’s really the way I want it to be.

  • heatherms2k

    Thank you so very much for this, I needed it today. I have also been on a search to find my passion, as well as many other things in my life the past year. I am in a job that I know others would like, but I hate. I am alone in my office 75% of the time and it is driving me crazy. I know where my passion lies, but finding a job that meets that has been difficult. I have not given up and know that there is something out there that is meant to be. My patience has been tested a lot in the past year; however, there has been a lot of change in other areas that have made me much more at peace and happier, the job is the last thing and I am anxious to get there. So thank you for sharing your story and giving me more hope that it will come.

  • Talya Price

    This was great. I needed to read this because I am thinking of making more changes in my life. But i trust myself and The Universe, and I know I am heading in the right direction. Thank you for this.

  • sarah niman

    Great lessons here! Also, can I please point out that when you quote Julia Roberts speaking in Eat, Pray, Love, you are actually quoting the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, the book’s author whom Roberts plays!

  • Tam

    Absolutely spot on perfect timing. I really, truly needed this – I’ve been feeling a little lost and insecure recently and am trying so hard to be true to myself. I think I need to identify what is really important to me and then go out there and make things happen. Thank You.

  • Emily

    What a great perspective to have, and to share. Thank you- I needed this today 🙂

  • Sandy

    I am speechless as I requested a sign & voilà! For the last 10yrs, I have shined, succeeded & excelled in the media/sales/marketing industry. In 2011, I was affected by many health issues, was tired and totally burnt out. I was forced to a 10 months recovery and returned to work with something new, called, limits! Back then, I totally forgot about my value system that led me quickly to old patterns. One of them was and still is; “I am not good enough”. Back then, being good enough ment = a 6 figure salary, a title, recognition, material lifestyle, perfection and performance. How could I achieve those goals with limits!?! Actually, this was physically challenging! As I would strive and push myself, I would get sick, anxious, stressed and out of energy! Absurd, right!?! Well, this past December I made a leap of faith, quit my job and left the industry. I went home with no job in view and no money aside, something was wrong and I couldn’t fake it anymore. Ever since… I am confident but scared, calm but insecure, happy but financially overwhelmed with depts. A rollercoaster of emotions that I somewhat manage with trust and peace. From being the financial family pillar, I soon became the family wandering soul. What’s wrong with me? Reading your article touched my heart, every word resonates with a profound meaning. I now understand better, that my perceptions are wrong as they nourish my patterns. Clearly, I have changed. It’s must time to revisit those values… Did I mentioned that I was speechless? In fact, I received a sign! I am grateful for this article. Where do I start? 😉 xxx

  • Patrick

    Hi Claire;
    I read your blog this morning on tiny Buddha and thought I
    would drop you a line to let you know how much I liked it. I recently
    retired from a hectic career in real estate in Vancouver and have moved with my
    wife to the beautiful Sunshine Coast of BC. Our lives have become a lot
    simpler and it’s amazing how many of the things you wrote about are coming into
    our way of life. We are lucky to be able to make this move and shift in
    direction; many people cannot especially if there are other mouths to feed
    under the roof. The economy and pressures of today’s life make it very
    difficult for families to live in this age let alone thrive in a spiritual
    Thank you for your writing; I hope to see you on the blog

    Best Wishes from “Supernatural BC”

  • Malene Palaje

    Thank you for sharing this. I can relate on some parts of your story. I am glad to have read this and gain a new perspective

  • ben

    I find it interesting that our values are so similar, I think this will help me put some things in perspective when looking for a career in the future as I am reaching the end of my college career. Thank you for sharing this

  • krutika

    sometimes simplicity is also a key its good. 🙂

  • Good for you for taking the leap. I’m not quite there yet, but have reduced by hours at my corporate job in order to pursue another job that better reflects my values, and certainly my strengths. My corporate job used to be good but it’s becoming clearer that I should be doing something else. And it seems that when I’m on the right path the universe provides.