The prioritization of learning and leaning in to my values has been one of the most pivotal practices of my life thus far. Society has been structured in a way that prevents and almost demonizes the pursuit of knowing one’s self. We are conditioned to follow external rules and expectations as the formula for success and happiness at the cost of what success and happiness truly mean to us.
We are taught to listen to our parents, play by the rules, pass our tests, behave appropriately, learn from experts, and compare our experiences to those that are “doing it right”. Every institution that exists is responsible for a mass manipulation of sorts--repeating the same terrifying message: we are going to teach you the right way to experience your own unique life, and if you go astray, you fucked up.
It's a pretty powerful mechanism for limiting full human potential, don’t you think? Look at the numbers of lifestyle related diseases, mental illness, and overall dissatisfaction with life. It’s no coincidence that we’re collectively moving away from the beauty and joy that is our unique human experience, as we collectively follow the roadmap to fulfillment that has been laid out for us.
So, what do we do then?
We have to start from the basics. Getting to know ourselves and identifying what is most important in our lives without the lens of external expectations. Step one is identifying our core values.
Serious question, do you know what your core values are? The deep, unshakable, authentic kind of knowing. Stripped down from what we were taught to believe, how we are expected to behave, and what we are supposed to do. If you’re like most people, these might be extremely difficult to identify.
In the book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown suggests getting clear on just a couple of core values in order to fully lean in to them on a daily basis. I chose three, and let me tell you, it took a full year of intentional awareness and introspection to gain crystal clarity around what those three core values are, what they embody, and how I can align my life in a way that honors them.
So how do you begin to narrow down your values?
1. Begin with identifying 10-15 values that are most important to you. Not your family or your partner or your church….you. Write them down. Brene Brown created a great list to use as a starting point.
2. Next, notice any themes that occur and organize your list of values in groups. For example (my own example, that is), you might notice that you wrote down fun, optimism and humor. This particular group of values might be categorized under the value of joy. Keep in mind there is no right or wrong way to categorize your values. The important part of this process is to simply notice themes, and reflect on what core value might be at the root of some of your other values.
3. Finally, narrow it down to your top 2 or 3 values. This may be counter-intuitive, I know. Narrowing down our values can feel like a dismissal of all of our other values. We might also feel pressure from our conditioned subconscious mind to choose values that we were taught to believe in. I urge you to drop the judgment here and recognize that highlighting your core values does in no way take away the importance of your other values, or the values of others. My core values are joy, connection, and growth. This does not mean I don’t value honesty, family, or service to others. What it does mean, however, is if I do not prioritize my growth, joy, and connection with self and others, then I will be unable to operate as the best version of myself. Identifying my 3 core values has allowed me to create a concise roadmap for becoming the most bonafide version of myself, and for creating a life of integrity and alignment.
Not only am I passionate about creating a uniquely rich and fulfilling life for myself and helping others do the same, I am also passionate about disrupting the hell out of the status quo. Getting to know myself through the lens of my authentic values has been the greatest blessing that has satisfied both of the aforementioned passions. In a society that operates on the notion that the fulfillment we seek is only to be found through externally paved paths, I take great pleasure in moving forward with my own set of values, and my own unpaved and unruly path.
In your quest for a more fulfilling relationship, job, or life overall, I cannot stress enough how imperative and transformational identifying your values will be. Once identified and solidified in your mind and heart, operating in accordance with them becomes second nature. From there, from a place of alignment with your authentic self, you unlock the potential for your uniquely fulfilling life.