Values as a Compass
As the school year dawns on an autumn still brimming with the uncertainty of life in a COVID world, we are expected to figure out a myriad of decisions every day that are made even more complicated by the many dynamics and roles that have seeped together as boundaries blur between family, work, relationships, and health during this pandemic. In trying to make decisions during these uncharted times, I have found it helpful to first identify my values. They then become my compass as I align my commitments with my priorities.
The Latin word for “passion” means “to suffer”. Our values so inspire us to action that we are willing to pursue them even when this requires sacrifice. For example, someone who values health might go for a run even when it’s raining, sacrificing their comfort for the benefits that will result from their workout. What is so important to you that you will sacrifice or suffer to do it?
Knowing what we value provides purpose and structure for our life; it acts as our guide to show us which way to go. Making decisions based on our values yields fulfillment as we align our day-to-day actions with what is important to us. Living our values doesn’t promise an easy life; instead, it provides the motivation to keep going when the going gets tough. In contrast, we experience inner conflict when our life isn’t aligned with our values. How does your calendar reflect your current priorities?
There are two categories of values: topic values, and process values. The topic value is the general category (e.g. “family,” “spirituality,” “equality,” etc.). The process value is the quality that is the most meaningful to us in the experience (e.g. “that moment when my loneliness evaporates as I connect at a soul level with a kindred spirit”). It’s easier to remember our values and actually use them to make decisions when they have a distinctive (fun/unusual/weird) name. Search your topic and process values for what makes them distinctive to you (like your fingerprint!), and then trademark your unique value by giving it a short, specific name (e.g. “Soul Connection”). What are your “trademarked” values?
Create a detailed, meaningful description for each trademarked value. Rank the importance of each trademarked value. Knowing the definition and priority of each trademarked value makes it easier to figure out when and how to apply the value as you make decisions. What’s your most important trademarked value?
Here are some additional questions to ask as you think through your trademarked values:
What brings you joy?
What gives you strength?
What, if it was taken away, would make you less of yourself?
What is your “yes” saying “no” to?
How has figuring out your values provided clarity in decision making this fall? Email your wins to “firstname.lastname@example.org”!