If your life were to turn out really well, what picture comes to mind? When positive psychologists study people who are extraordinarily successful and satisfied with their life, they discover that they’re people who’ve taken the time to determine what a valuable life will look like for them.
Authentically happy individuals orient their thinking around an internal set of values, and are far less influenced by external influences such as pessimistic co-workers.
By understanding what’s ultimately going to be most important to them, they’re able to make gratifying decisions how their values can play out in their daily life.
People who are languishing in their life, on the other hand, are like a boat drifting on the water with a broken rudder. The direction of their life is determined by outside forces, so they end up going wherever the wind blows them.
They have no idea of where to find a secure harbor. Nor do they have a rudder with which to steer themselves away from trouble. They frequently find themselves carried by the currents to some place they don’t want to be.
Have you ever taken the time to determine your top priorities? The hard part of creating a values-based vision is sorting out the many elements of life that are important.
To define who you are, what’s most meaningful to you, and what gives you passion and purpose, reflect on the high and low points you’ve experienced in life. To clarify what values were forged by those events, look over the following list and choose 10 that you feel are the most meaningful:
Acceptance, adventure, appreciation, authenticity, career, caring, charity, cheerfulness, cleanliness, courage, creativity, curiosity, dependability, empathy, family, fairness, faithfulness, fitness, forgiveness, freedom, friendship, gratitude, happiness, health, helping, honesty, hope, humility, humor, influence, integrity, innovation, intelligence, justice, kindness, leadership, learning, love, loyalty, mentoring, nurturing, optimism, patience, perseverance, perspective, pleasure, prudence, recognition, security, self-control, self-esteem, simplicity, stewardship, spirituality, success, thriftiness, trustworthiness, truthfulness, volunteering, wealth, wisdom, zest.
Feel free to add any additional values to your list that were not included above. After you’ve written down your list of those underlying values that are most important to you, pick 3 that represent your highest priorities in life.
Awareness of your values will help you to live by them. Envision the positive outcomes of a lifetime of putting your values into action. Imagine that you’ve reached your 80s. Living a values-based life that has brought you great satisfaction. What has your life looked like? How did you make a meaningful difference in the world?
Write down an intention for each of your top 3 values: “I’ve always valued ____. I can see that living by that value will enable me to….” For example, “I’ve always valued helping people. I can see that living by that value will enable me to help people have happier lives.”
Will you take the time to complete the 3 statements? If not, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity. You’ll get busy and you’ll start paying attention to what’s immediate rather than what’s important. You’ll slip back into drifting through life instead of directing your life.
Make a choice right now to finish reading this and write down what will make you a happier person. Then post your note somewhere that you’ll see it every day, perhaps by your computer or a corner of your mirror.
When you look at your statements about how your life can end up satisfying and successful, figure out a small step to take that day to propel yourself toward that outcome. Intention is the best predictor of future behavior, so tell yourself: “To live my value of ________, the step I’m going to take today is ______.”
That would sound something like this: “To live my value of helping people, the step I’m going to take today is to volunteer to tutor young people who are struggling in school.”
If you don’t feel energized to actually do what you’re telling yourself, rethink what you’re willing to commit to doing today. Living your values isn’t always easy, so you’ll need to be passionate about taking action in order to pursue the positive outcomes you desire.
It’s better to find a smaller step for which you have enthusiasm than picking a lofty goal that’s too big to take on that day.
You’ll experience challenges and setbacks every day. Don’t let them derail you. Avidly dedicate yourself to making your valuable vision of satisfaction and success a reality. Take charge of your destiny.