Maybe you are currently going through an upheaval in your job, relationship, family, or health. Sometimes you feel lost, frequently trapped by negative emotions, and have this deep ache within to overcome your situation, yet you’re not sure how.
Know that this is not permanent. You’re not alone, and you will not be in this state forever. You are going through a phase of growth and change, and you have what it takes to re-create a life you love.
There are many things you could do to find yourself again. One of the key things is to look within yourself for your values. Your values are the grounding principles that are important to you. Being aware of them gives you a clearer idea of who you are.
First, find out what your values are. Think about the most important events in your life, whether positive or negative. For each of them, describe what happened in that particular moment and list the values that the event fulfilled or contravened, and what made it so positive or negative.
To complete this list of values, also ask yourself these questions:
- What is important to me?
- What are the top ten things I want to teach my children?
- How do I like to be treated? How do I think people should be treated?
- List 3 people you admire. What qualities do they have?
There are no right or wrong values; everyone has a different set. Your values are yours because they mean something to you.
In the Hero’s Diary, that you can download for free, you will find a ready-made form for you to complete while doing this exercise.
Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.
– Elvis Presley
1. Your values determine your ideal self
Once you’ve listed out your most important values, use them to visualize your ideal self. Your ideal self is the person you want to be, the things you want to do, the habits you want to have, the behaviours and thoughts you want to express.
Know who you want to be, and then make decisions that point in that direction.
– Lysa Ter Keurst
This is different from the person you think others want you to be, or the work you think others want you to do. That refers to your ought self. Your ought self is based on the expectations of others, or who you think you should be. Your ideal self is based on who you want to be, the self that will give you the greatest satisfaction and enjoyment. Your ideal self is holistic and emerges from deep within yourself. It is not your ought self.
Scholars such as humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers generally agree that for you to achieve your fullest potential in your life, you want to bring your actual self as close to your ideal self as possible.
One way for you to do this is through support and guidance, from a trusted figure, mentor, coach, or friend. You might consider working with a coach that provides you a safe space for self-exploration, supports you in going from where you are now to where you want to be, and helps you find the answers you are looking for.
Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.
– Ayn Rand
2. Your values determine how you spend your time
When you know who you want to be, then everything you decide to do naturally leads in that direction, because those are what make you feel good about yourself.
Do you value:
- Fitness? You can choose to exercise or play sports.
- Friendship? You can choose to schedule meet-ups regularly with friends.
- Honesty? You can choose to be honest both to yourself and the people around you.
- Learning? You can choose to take a course on your interest – maybe a language, or dance, or programming, or business
- Family? You can choose to spend time with your family over get-togethers
- Gratitude? You can choose to appreciate things you are thankful for and express it to people around you.
It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.
– Roy Disney
Sometimes you might end up spending time doing things you don’t actually want to do, but because your friends asked you to. Maybe one of your values is friendship, and you don’t want to be seen as someone who ‘spoils the party’ by saying No. But what if the activity goes against what you believe, and you end up feeling drained and guilty at the end of the day?
Spending time in line with your values fuels you. Spending time in line with external demands drains you.
Keep in mind to balance your values. If your values include friendship and growth, you have the choice to spend more time with friends who help you grow as a person. You don’t have to say Yes all the time. Listen to yourself and your values. Maybe you can choose to spend time doing activities that develop you at the same time.
Begin each day with the blueprint of [your] deepest values firmly in mind then when challenges come, make decisions based on those values.
― Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
3. Your values determine how well others understand you
Psychological research published in Canada shows that when your behaviours align with your values, your well-being is so much higher. This is because who you are outside reflects who you truly are inside. Your personality is congruent.
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
– Mahatma Gandhi
Being well-adjusted this way has benefits for your well-being in leading a purposeful life and having satisfying relationships. You are better understood by others, whether they are close friends or new acquaintances. When others understand you, you start attracting similar energy and people who accept you for who you are.
Your relationships then become authentic. Instead of trying to fit into a mould others have created, you can be yourself fearlessly, and express your words and thoughts. Only when you understand yourself, can you be clearly understood by others.
Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; Mastering yourself is true power.
― Lao Tzu
Values are generally stable. Upheavals in life might lead to new values, or change old ones. Hold your values close as you chart your path in life and you won’t go wrong.