Many people lack a sense of direction or purpose in life. There are social and historical reasons for this, but they are out of your hands. What is in your hands is your own life. You can stop drifting and take control of your life through clearer direction and purpose. And to do that you need to clarify your strengths and values. Today we will focus on values.
What kind of person are you? What kind of friend, partner, parent, sibling? What do others admire in you - or what do you wish they admired in you? What gives purpose and meaning to life are values. This is often misunderstood so let me make clear what I mean: to have good, clear values, and to actually live them.
When you live by your values, and they are clear and good, you steer your life. When you fail to do this, life steers you. You don't know who you are, you go along with the crowd, you feel depressed or anxious. And before you know it, you wake up and life has passed you by.
I have qualified things by referring to clear and good values. Of course there are bad ones. Narcissism is a set of values and they’re mostly bad. But I find that the majority of people choose good values when they actually reflect and get clear. So let’s get to work on clarity. Because to have good values, to be clear on them, and to actually live them, leads to greater happiness, confidence, success, and makes you a better person for others.
So find a quiet spot, pull out a pen and paper, and let’s begin.
We’ll start with description. I have three questions for you. Write them down, reflect, and then write down your answers.
Your answers to questions like these tell you about your values. Maybe they’re right there on the page, or maybe you have to read between the lines and interpret. I’ll give an example. I am “proud” of the counselling I’ve done with bereaved people. The work has been really hard at times it’s low paid compared to my private work, but I know that I’m caring for people who need it. When I think on this I see that care and compassion are important values of mine. You can see how I interpreted care and compassion from my description, but that they are obviously there. Take you time with this reflection, and list all the obvious values you see.
Now, we’re going to get to your core values. How do we do that? Simple: you only get to keep five. Look at your list and delete different values until you get to the five that you cannot give up for the sake of other options. Go with your gut, with what resonates most, find five that you simply cannot sacrifice.
These are your core values.
Now rank them in order of most important.
You can get various insights out of this list. For example, see if they all fit together or whether some contradict; if they do clash, then this will be why some decisions are so hard. That's okay, however - life has contradictions written through it, and the important thing is to be lucid and act nonetheless.
Now you have a list of your core values. There are all sorts of things you can do to build your life around them, but for this week I want to keep it simple. Write the list down on a piece of paper or on your phone, and reflect on them. Get the list in your head. Know your core values.
Remember: to have good values, to be clear on them, and to actually live them, leads to greater happiness, confidence, success, and makes you a better person for others. Such clarity is the beginning of how you find direction and purpose in life.