Knowing & Living Your Values – Part 1

Finding your values

Why do I think it’s important to know your values? When you know them, you will feel grounded in your life and clear on where you want to put your energy and on how you want to show up.Your values become a check by which you can ensure all areas of your life are aligned.

It becomes an automatic habit over time to run through a quick value-check before purchasing a new item, sharing a new piece of content, or to reflect on how I showed up that day or week.

How do you figure them out?

I think it’s important for your values to come from within, so I’d recommend starting with just you and a blank piece of paper. It’d be a good idea to breathe and try to clear your mind for a couple of minutes, too, before going into the following questions.

  1. Ask yourself what’s most important to you in life. Spend a couple of minutes (keep it short!) writing down point-form whatever comes to mind, without judging. If you find this to be too big a question, you can also ask yourself these high/low questions:
    (High) When did I feel totally amazing? What was I doing? Who was I with?
    (Low) When was I really angry, defeated, or upset? What was going on at these times to cause these feelings? You can take these ‘low’ answers and flip them to see if they point you to what you DO value and want in your life.
  2. Now, look over what you wrote… Can things be grouped together and/or put into a higher-level theme such as “family” or “adventure”? Create a list of your top 10-12 values.
  3. Next, look over your list and see if you can narrow it down further to your core values.
  4. Finally, consider each word itself. Brainstorm or check a thesaurus for related words and choose the one that feels most empowering for you – and is easy to remember and use!

How many should you have?

I started with three and, over time, added two more for a total of five. I think any number that works for you is fine. The important part is that you choose them with care and that you can remember them. Keep the wording simple and straightforward – and don’t have so many that you get confused trying to remember them all.

Keep them useful

When I first started out, I had fancy-sounding words, but I found I kept asking myself, “What did I mean by that again?” I eventually kept their meanings but chose simpler words that represented the same ideas to me. Once you begin using your values, they may shift or you may realize that one is missing. That’s ok. They are meant to help you and be a tool to help you. They’re not set in stone.

Putting them in to practice

Once you come up with your list, it will take some time to internalize them. I recommend writing them in the front of a notebook or journal that you tend to carry with you, or keeping them on your computer desktop, posted by your desk, or on your phone. Wherever you will see them often.

Your values are meant to help guide you in your life. They are a check by which you can ensure the various areas of your life are aligned with what is most important to you. It can be so easy to get caught up in the bustle of life and not realize until much later that something has gone off-track.

Often, if you find yourself feeling off-balance, you’ll find that you’re living out of alignment with one or more of your values. It’s ok. It happens to everyone. The good news is, once you know and understand your values, you will spot this more quickly and be able to adjust.

Be gentle with yourself: Knowing what you stand for and how you want to show up – and seeing when you don’t quite meet those expectations is a huge feat. It means you are awake, in tune with your life, and committed to living as fully as you possibly can.

Do they really make a difference?

I think so. It’s possible that uncovering your values will lead to a bigger change and more all-encompassing change. It doesn’t have to mean a dramatic change, though. Below is just one little and one big change that happened in my life from knowing my values:

A little change – A while ago, I realized that I never paint with black or neutral grey and yet much of my wardrobe was those two colours. No wonder I felt ‘off’ when I got dressed in the morning! Since I realized this, I’ve been slowly adding and replacing my wardrobe with warm rich colours, like the ones I favour in my artwork – and I’ve been feeling much more ‘me’ since.

A big change – I used to spend my days working as a web designer and developer – a job I found immensely draining – sitting at a desk, on a computer. All day. Every day. Now, I spend the majority of my time in a printmaking studio, working with my hands. I have dramatically cut down the amount of my life spent on a screen, and I have realized how energized and focussed this enables me to be. I’m still uncovering just how important working with my hands is to my sense of well-being, but it’s surprisingly core to how I learn, think, and understand.

Living in alignment with your values

You can apply your values day-to-day within your life as it is now. Consider your monthly or weekly calendar. Are your values reflected there? For example, if ‘family’ is one of your values but you’re always running from one thing to the next, perhaps this is something to think about. You could add in a family movie night, weekend breakfast, or other activity/ritual for meaningful connection.

Once your values have become ingrained in your mind, you will find that they create a little ‘check’ that you can run through quickly while on-the-go before committing to something, purchasing an item, or before that thing you’ll regret escapes your mouth.

I have learned from experience that living in alignment with your values as much as you possibly can makes an enormous difference to your sense of well-being. The key here, though, is as much as you can. It’s never perfect – sometimes you falter or ‘mess up’ or ‘revert’ to a past behaviour.

Be gentle with yourself.

Knowing what you stand for and how you want to show up – and seeing when you don’t quite meet those expectations is a huge feat. It means you are awake, in tune with your life, and committed to living as fully as you possibly can.

* * *

In the second part to this post, I share the values guiding my life and business. I talk more about what each value means to me and how they guide Painted Stories and my work.

For me, knowing and living your values goes hand-in-hand with being able to tune into my guiding energy. I explain what this is and how to find yours in my free PDF and in this post about Tuning Into Your Guiding Energy.

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