Whether it is a retirement, divorce, marriage or recovery, while transitions come with great rewards they can also leave us with many questions. Transitions or other major life changes often involve adopting a new role. We become parents, spouses, single people, survivors. As I work with clients navigating major life changes, a question I often hear is, “So, who am I now?” This question is impossible to answer in a single setting, because we are always becoming. We are ever evolving, taking in new information, and opening ourselves to new possibilities. But how do we know how to make sense of this new world of possibility? We can rely on our values to guide us. But what are your personal core values? Buckle up for this next part. Most of us lie about our values. Yep. We are big fat liars. But, we lie out of an aspirational sense of who we are, so it isn’t all bad. By taking a closer look at what our true values are, we can gain more satisfaction out of life by living in accordance with them.
Our values come from all kinds of places! Our values tend to align with our health, families, social self, work self, spirituality, and even our future selves. A value is something really personal, and isn’t right or wrong. Your authentic values can be chosen from among many options. They will be prized and cherished, publicly affirmed, and acted upon as part of a pattern that is a repeated action. As we can see from this, having aspirational values that we can’t live up to could leave us feeling like a disappointment to ourselves! Defining our values will require some exploration and reflection.
A couple exercises to get you started:
Divide a piece of paper into four squares. Label each: Favorites, People, Places, Me. In the Favorites square, list your favorite song, food and way to spend your night off. In the People square, list the three most nourishing people in your life, the most toxic person in your life, and a person from whom you need more validation. In the Places square, list you favorite warmest room when you were 7 years old, favorite warmest room in your house now, and your current favorite vacation place. Now, in the Me square, list three qualities you like about yourself, one new thing you have done in the past year to make your life better, and one thing you can do in the next 6 months to enrich your life.
On the other side of the paper, list 5 things in our life that you consider your big positive, moments. Next to each of those, write two words for each experience. These words should reflect the importance of those events. There may be repetition, that is okay. Now list five events that you hold in low regard, however you define it. And list two words that are reflective of those times. Reflect on this work. If you’d like to journal about it, or sleep on it, go ahead and do that before proceeding.
Now, the fun part. Develop a list of 20 core value words. You may want to look online for suggestions. You will easily find lists ranging from 20 to 500 words online-so you will have lots of options! Do that, then continue. From those 20, write 10 down on scraps of paper. Now, lay out those 10, left to right in order of personal importance. Now, discard the five on the right. These are your five core values. As you move through your next few days, ask yourself if what you do is in alignment with your values. If not, you may need to realign your behavior, or your values!