— Francis the Talking Mule
“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”
— Bertrand Russell
“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want to they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, to have what you want.”
— Margaret Young
First, take a sheet of paper and write at the top “My Values.” Start by listing your top ten values. Ask yourself what kind of feeling, value, or personal meaning you would like in your life right now. What are your innermost convictions? What do your really value in life? What are you truly passionate about? What are your core desires?
They can be health, wealth, excitement, career, spirituality, integrity, happiness, peace of mind, love, appreciation, financial independence, prestige, etc. Most important, your values can and should also be the important people in your life. They can include your mother, your father, your spouse, your lover, your children, your friends, etc. Don’t look at what you want but at what’s important to you. Consider the ultimate benefit in the accomplishment of any goal.
Then, prioritize your values from one to 10 (or more), where one is the most important value you cherish and 10 is the least. Write beside each of your values the reasons why you’ve chosen this value as well as why you’ve prioritized it in its respective order.
For example, you can say, “I’ve chosen financial independence as a value number one because I do not want to ever go bankrupt again,” or, “I’ve chosen health as my number two value because I want to live my life to the fullest and, since heart-related problems run in my family, I refuse to be stricken with this kind of disease.”
A person to whom I taught this technique chose security as one of her values because of an experience she had after being robbed and losing everything she owned. She chose wealth as another value because, after losing everything she owned and lacking proper insurance, she was homeless for several months. She was repulsed by this kind of living and rebuilding her life was a priority. As you can see, values as well as their order of importance are strictly personal.
So let’s start the entire process by first listing your prioritized set of innermost values. You can take a new sheet of paper and rewrite them in proper order. These are your rock-solid values that live in every single cell and fiber of your being. They are what make you unique. They are your purposes in life. They are your priorities. They are the fuel that will propel you along your journey. They will help you determine your “guides” rather than your “goals.”
As time goes on, you may need to review and reset your values. We all change with time and growth is a normal and expected part of life. While some if not all goals may never change, your values or their new order of priority can, and this will conflict with your goals or cloud your perception of their importance.
For example, you are probably single and value career as a number one value and family as a number two value. Years from now, you may meet that special someone and start a family. More than likely, you will start to value your family first rather than your career.
If your goals are not reevaluated or realigned properly with your priorities, this will cause some distortion in your perception of the importance of your career goals. In addition, it can create some challenges along the road of achieving both career and family goals.
To remain consistent, you must therefore continually ensure your activities respect your personal set of priorities. Reviewing your values from time to time will cause you to reassess your goals, re-prioritize them, or realign them with your values. Don’t worry if this happens to you.
Remember that your values are your guides along the voyage of life. Nobody can change them but you. They govern your actions and will grant you the necessary determination, courage, and motivation you will need to be successful. In fact, as you break your goals down into smaller easier-to-digest activities, you will add value to what you do. Ultimately, why should you earn a living when you can design a life worth earning?