Many people lack a sense of direction or purpose in life. There are social and historical reasons for this, but those 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 gaining clear direction and purpose, and enacting it every day. As I have said elsewhere, one of your best means for doing that is your strengths and values. So you need to clarify and exercise these too. 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?
The values you live by give meaning to your life.
When you live by your values, and they are clear and good, you steer your life. When you fail to do this, when you are muddled or passive, 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.
To have good values, to be clear on them, and to actually live them, is a path to a rich life.
So find a quiet spot, pull out a pen and paper, and let’s begin getting clarity.
We’ll start with description. I have three questions for you. I am making these up on the spot, because there is an artistry to this rather than a rigid science, but these questions are the sort that lead to overarching clarity. 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 the work I do in private practice, but I gain fulfillment by knowing that I’m caring for people who need it. When I reflect on that statement, I see that care and compassion are important values of mine. You can see how I interpreted them from my description. 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. And you can only do that if you have clarity, including clarity about the points of confusion.
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 things 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.