As Tom mentioned in the previous post, living by your values is essential to happiness. Some may find the concept of values to be esoteric in nature. After all, you can easily claim to value family and yet your family may repeatedly take a backseat to your career. To make values more practical, connecting your values to your behaviors can be a simple and effective exercise.
What does it look like when you’re truly living your values? For a family value, perhaps that means leaving your cellphone at home (or at least turning it off) on a family vacation so that you can truly enjoy the company of your family and make the most of the time you have together. It could be something as simple as a weekly call to a parent or grandparent. Take a look at your values and pick one or two that you feel you aren’t living as fully as you would like.
Then try to come up with a list of key behaviors that you would exhibit if you were fully living that value. What could you do every day to more fully live the value? What about every week? Then, take a look at that value from another lens. What behaviors should be red flags that tell you you’re going against this value? As always, it is essential not only to write it down, but also review it regularly. Set a five-minute daily appointment on your calendar, an alert on your phone or keep your list on your pillow to review before bed each night. Whatever it takes to consistently take a look at your list and reflect.
I recently read the book Change Anything, in which they highlighted the importance of connecting to your values when trying to make a change in your life:
“The words you use to describe what you’re doing profoundly affect your experience…for instance, when sticking to a lower-calorie diet, don’t undermine your own motivation by describing your choices as ‘starving’ or ‘going without.’ You’re doing far more than manipulating calories. You’re becoming healthy; you’re sticking to your promise; you’re sacrificing so that you’ll be mobile when playing with your grandkids. This difference in description may sound small, but words matter. They focus the brain on either the positive or negative aspects of what you’re doing.”
To illustrate that point, it went on to describe a psychology experiment conducted at Stanford in which subjects played a game where they could either cooperate or compete. Half of the subjects were told that the game was called the “Wall Street Game,” while the other half were told it was the “Community Game.” Those playing the Wall Street Game were far more likely to steal, lie and cheat, despite the fact that the rules (and payouts) of both games were identical.
Similarly, there was a story of Valter, a “picker” near Rio de Janeiro who talked excitedly about the work he and his colleagues were involved with. He trumpeted the fact that they were at the center of the green movement and that they do some of the most important work imaginable. You would never guess that he would then put on a pair of tattered gloves and head over to an enormous heap of trash to begin extracting recyclable material from one of the world’s largest dumps. If Valter can find pride and excitement in a day spent at a landfill by connecting with his most important values, imagine the power it could have to help you to change your mindset and find happiness by more fully living your own values.
As any good salesman will tell you, our purchases often have more to do with emotions than logic. The same holds true for many of the decisions we make every day. Therefore, one of the keys to help you live your values is to find words that light a fire inside you to help you to adopt those daily behaviors that exemplify your values. For me, one of those words is self-efficacy. I was recently reading an article in which they defined self-efficacy as “the sense that you can change the world and that you can do what you set out to do.” Immediately that word and definition resonated with me as I realized that was truly the overarching theme in both my values and passions, and it subsequently shot up to the top of my list of values. As is the case with many values, that sets a pretty lofty standard to live by, which can be a bit intimidating. To make it more manageable, its time to connect that value to the daily and weekly behaviors that will get me there…