Examine your thoughts to know your values and live a fulfilling lifeMar 10, 2021
Have you ever looked at your life, wondered why you felt so stuck and powerless, and wished you could just run away from it all? Maybe you felt like an ungrateful jerk because of the tremendous privileges and accomplishments you’ve acquired, and you know there are millions of people who would love to have your life and your resources.
Perhaps you tried keeping a gratitude journal, or meditating. Or you fell into the toxic positivity trap of trying to banish your negative thoughts, hoping that would be the solution. You know, the ones we have every day, like:
- “My boss is way too demanding – I don’t get paid enough for this sh*t.”
- “I earned multiple six figures last year. Why doesn’t it feel good?”
- “My partner threw her dirty socks and underwear across the room and missed the hamper… AGAIN.”
- “I can’t wait for mom to start criticizing me about my parenting style at Thanksgiving dinner.”
- “I hope the police nail that a-hole with a $300 traffic ticket.”
- “I need a vacation in the mountains with no one else around.”
What if I told you that those thoughts that come to us when we’re frustrated, angry, sad, and exhausted are clues that point to our strongest core values, and that examining them can help you live a more fulfilling life?
That’s right. I’m not a coach who tells you to banish your “negative” thoughts and feelings. Because there is innate wisdom in them.
Wisdom that tells you what you value, how you want to live, and what you want your legacy to be.
So if you find yourself going from annoyed to angry with your upstairs neighbor because it sounds like they’re offering furniture rearranging classes, maybe it means that you value quiet and view your home as a place of peace and serenity, and your neighbor is violating those values.
If you’re upset when a housemate doesn’t take out the trash like they said they would, maybe follow-through and equitable division of labor are the values being stepped on.
What about when Karen from the office drops the hot-idea you shared with her, as her own, in the Friday team meeting? Perhaps you value respect, honesty, and not being a Karen.
Now, pan out and examine your whole life, as it is right now. Observe it without judgment, like an anthropologist.
What’s going well? What are you happy with that you wouldn’t change if given the opportunity?
When things are going well and you feel good, it’s likely because you’re living life in alignment with your values.
But when things feel wonky, exhausting, frustrating… when you feel stuck and powerless… there’s a good chance it’s because your values are being compromised.
None of us wake up and say, “I’m going to violate my own core values today!” No. We tend to walk into that cobweb without realizing it, because what we once thought we wanted isn’t serving us anymore or as we’d hoped. Or we didn’t trust ourselves to guide our own lives, and so we based our decisions on what others thought was right for us or expected of us. So we end up living lives that don’t truly feel like our own. We feel like we lost ourselves along the way.
Waking up to those realizations is such a gift, even if you do end up crying in the shower on the regular. Because those realizations and feelings tell us what needs to change in order to live a fulfilling life.
Fulfillment is about feeling fully alive. It’s showing up in the world as your most complete and authentic self. It’s wholeness and harmony. It’s the ease of making decisions faster and with more confidence, because your values direct your choices. It’s alignment in its purest form.
Naming and claiming your values is the ultimate permission slip to change your mind and find real joy in life.
11-minute Journaling Exercise
I invite you to find a quiet spot and journal for at least 11 minutes using the following prompts. When you get to your white-hot truth, underline that sucker.
Ready to start examining your values? Here you go:
- A Peak Experience: Identify and write about a special, peak *moment(s) when life was incredibly rewarding. *moment(s) = choose a very specific moment in time.
- Rage, Trigger, Anger, Frustration: Identify and write about moments when you feel sensations of rage, anger, frustration, as well as moments you feel triggered, traumatized, and retraumatized. Please take extreme care of yourself when working inside these sensations.
- Must-Haves: Beyond the physical requirements (food, water, shelter), what must you have in your life in order to be fulfilled? Must you have a form of creativity? Nature? Collaboration? What must you have or you feel as if part of you is dying?
- What do your responses to the above prompts tell you about your core values?
I know that you’ll find deep values work to be meaningful and helpful if you continue digging into it.
It’s been a game-changer for me, my clients, and my students.