One of the most common regrets that people have when they are on their deathbeds is that they wish they had lived their lives in accordance with their own inclination. In other words, as these people are dying, they confess that it wasn’t worth it to let other forces (society, spouses, employers, etc.) to dictate how they lived their lives. They wish they had lived life in the way THEY wanted.
This is what Dr. John Demartini calls living a purpose-driven life in his book The Values Factor. In the discussion below, we will shed some light on values and share some recommendations on how you can live by your true values in order to live the life you want.
What Are Values?
Values are the things, principles or ideals that are important to you as a person regardless of what others think. These values are unique for each individual, just as no two people can have the same fingerprints. Our values define who we really are and they shape how we interact with the rest of the world.
For example, one person may feel strongly about fulfilling what they promise. When such a person is confronted by a situation in which it hard for them to deliver what they promised, they proactively try to remedy the situation while another person who doesn’t have this value will be unbothered when they don’t deliver on a promise.
It is important to draw a distinction between your values and what society expects of you. If you find yourself saying that you should be fair to others, then that isn’t your value. Instead, you should be saying that you “love to,” or “would be happy to” and so many other such expressions that show that you are looking within to determine which way to go.
You need to know that even if two or more people may have the same value, the way they express it will differ. For example, someone who loves investing may spend time mobilizing money to buy stocks while another person who also loves investing may spend every waking moment trying to come up with software that can help investors to make better decisions. Same value, different manifestation!
It is also vital to note that values may change over time as your experiences in life evolve. For example, financial independence may be a very strong value earlier on in your life. However, once you reach a certain level of financial independence, then the degree of importance attached to this value may reduce while the importance of another replaces it.
So, expect some of your values to evolve or change over the years while some may endure and define you throughout your life.
Values Aren’t Goals
While your attention often goes to what you value, there is a distinction to be made between your values and your goals.
As you may know, a goal is a measurable, specific and time-bound target that you set for yourself, such as doubling your income in 12 months. So, what happens once you attain that goal? Some people (and hopefully you are one of them) immediately set bigger goals and get to work to achieve them. Other people relax and bask in the glory of the goals that they have achieved, and that in effect, means that they are no longer growing.
In contrast, a value is like a guiding light that will be with you throughout your life, if that value doesn’t change. A value is therefore a constant element of who you are, and you can find numerous ways to express that value.
Put another way, values are lived every moment of every day while goals can be attained or not attained. So, your values may influence what goals you set for yourself, and in this respect, the two may be slightly related.
Values Aren’t Rules or Commandments
We all belong to different social groups, such as religious groups, professional groups and tribal/ethnic groups. Each of those groups has norms or standards that the members of the group are expected to abide by, but those standards or rules or commandments aren’t values since they aren’t chosen by YOU, the individual.
Haven’t you heard of people who belong to groups that uphold certain “core values” and some individuals in those groups are caught doing what is against the very principles they publicly espouse?
Those contradictions highlight the fact that while that person may have chosen to belong to that group, some of the standards they expect of him or her aren’t of their own choosing, so they will inevitably act in contravention of the set standards.
This goes to show that rules, commandments and other such societal norms aren’t values since they don’t come from within each individual.
Why Don’t People Live According to Their Values?
In our view, there are two critical reasons why people aren’t living the life they want, a life that is true to their real values.
The first reason is that most individuals haven’t taken the time to define what their most important values are. You can’t hit a target you don’t see, can you? If you don’t know what your values are, then it would be unfair to expect you to live a life guided by those values.
Secondly, the lack of mindfulness or awareness may prevent people from living the life they want, a life driven by their highest values. Mindfulness allows you to run every decision that you make, every action that you take and everything else through the sieve of your values.
For example, if you are a product developer, would you ignore a flaw that could put consumers at risk if you value making other people’s lives better?
Lack of awareness makes us easy targets for being directed by the values and expectations of others since we don’t have an inner compass to guide us through life.
If you want to live the life you want, define what your highest values are and live mindfully so that everything you do is in perfect alignment with those values.
4 Ways Identify Your Highest Values
1. Analyze 3-6 Role Models.
One way to identify what your highest values are is by selecting 3-6 people that you admire and then finding out why you are attracted to those people. For example, people who abhor violence may admire Mahatma Gandhi while those who prefer violent ways to getting their way may despise the “cowardly methods” that Gandhi preferred. When you list down the qualities that your heroes or heroines embody, you will be a step closer to knowing what your values are.
2. Observe Yourself and Learn.
You can also zero down on what your highest values are by keenly observing yourself and noting down the underlying factors behind the decisions you make. For example, what choices do you repeatedly make? What is non-negotiable to you? What would you easily give up? All this will teach you what is important to you.
3. Analyze Your Peaks and Lows.
What are some of the biggest achievements that you have registered in your life? For example, you may have started a community group and helped it to grow to national prominence. In there may lie one of your highest values. Similarly, what are some of your lowest moments and what makes them some of your most miserable experiences? The things that made those experiences miserable for you may hold the key to your highest values. For example, a bad business decision may have led you to lose a close friend, and the loss of that friend pained you a lot more than the money you lost. This may indicate that you value relationships a lot (perhaps more than money?).
4. What are Your Voids?
The things we lack often point to what we value most. For example, if you hate your job because it keeps you isolated from workmates, then you may value relationships and the void created by your job highlights what you are missing. By experiencing what you don’t want, you end up getting clarity on what you want, need and desire.
You can do many other things to discover what your highest values are, and then start rearranging your life to conform to those values. When you do this, you will soon notice that your life becomes more meaningful and blissful because everything you do springs naturally from inside you. Only those who have reached that level can truly say that they are living the life they want. It is a journey, and it is a journey worth undertaking because the rewards are worth a lot more than what goes into the process. So, peel back the falsehoods (society’s expectations, your upbringing, etc.) and reveal your authentic self!
To Your Success,
Jairek Robbins + Team PCU
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