How to live a better life by honouring values

Values are like fingerprints

A few weeks ago, I spoke to Tamsin Caine on the Smart Divorce podcast about techniques and routines that we can use to lead a better life. You can listen to it here). During our chat, we spoke about why, when we achieve our goals, we can often feel deflated and unfulfilled. 

Tamsin used the example of Jonny Wilkinson. Despite winning the Rugby Union world cup, he was quoted as saying, “I will never truly be satisfied.” After winning a flippin’ world cup!!!

Never satisfied

Why is this? 

Perhaps Wilkinson doesn’t value winning as much as he does the effort, camaraderie and courage it takes to win. Perhaps he valued the journey more than the destination.

We find the most fulfillment when we are living our values. The great psychologist and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl described an encounter with a dying woman. She valued courage so much that she saw her death, and dying with bravery, as the greatest achievement of her life.

But what are values? 

Values can easily be confused with principles, or morals. How we think, or have been conditioned to think, we and others should act or behave. But values are more important than that at a personal level. 

There is no right or wrong in personal values. In short, there is no should, just an ‘is’.

If someone values wealth, then they will not be fulfilled while they are poor. Another person, though, may value charity, and gain more fulfillment by giving their wealth away. The two people may disagree with one another on a moral level. In terms of personal values, though, neither person is right or wrong.

To find the fulfilment in our lives through our values, firstly we need to understand what our values actually are.

better life

Values are linked with our strengths – what we are good at (or would like to be better at) that gives us energy. 

I value music, for example, and can get into heated arguments about what makes good music. Music gives me energy, and is important to me. It is a value that I need to honour to feel fulfilled. Finding time to sit down and listen to music is a key component to my happiness. 

Other people who don’t care about music may find this strange, or even trivial, but it’s not their value to judge. There is no right or wrong here.

When values are not being honoured is where internal conflict occurs. 

Let’s use an example of a single working parent, whose top values are creativity, elegance and intimacy. They are working a 40-hour week to just about put food on the table and clear the bills, then coming home and dealing with the kids, the housework, the dinners. They have no time to find a new partner, or be with friends. No time to go to the salon, or even to sit down and draw, paint or write.

Yes, they are living up to their responsibilities, but they will pay a psychological price for not living true to their values, to what is truly important to them.

feeling unfulfilled

So, how do YOU know if you are living true to your values?

I’ve worked with a number of clients in narrowing down the top ten values that honouring will mean a life of greater fulfillment. 

But that’s just the first step. We then need to ascertain whether those values are being fulfilled and, if not, what’s in the way of honouring them (and can those obstacles be moved, or navigated around?).

Only then does it make sense to set goals – the first of which is often to remove the obstacles to living to our values, and then to put systems in place and goals to aim for that will make sure we are living a long-term life of fulfillment.

Often, like Wilkinson, we set goals without really understanding why we want to achieve them. 

Once a person understands their values, they can be used as a ‘filter’ for decision making and goal-setting. 

Which value would a particular decision be honouring, or not honouring? Even if the action decided is the tougher option, it will be more rewarding in the longer term the more of your values it fulfills.

If you’d like to work with me to find your values, and set goals to honour them, contact me here

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